How the Covid-Related Spike in Volumes and Engagement has Changed Email Marketing Permanently

How the Covid-Related Spike in Volumes and Engagement has Changed Email Marketing Permanently

In 2020, real disruption occurred; disruption that was not instigated or claimed by the marketing community. The Covid-19 pandemic was an event beyond all our control that was to affect all areas of marketing, data and consumer behaviour. It is unsurprising then that email marketing has experienced a rollercoaster of a year; one which has seen enormous increases in volumes and challenges in the face of a more captive at-home audience.

A huge increase in send volumes, less focus on list quality, a shift in topics and keywords and an inevitable increase in Covid-related communications are among the key trends in corporate email behaviour identified in a new report, Disruption: How the 2020 Pandemic Changed Email, produced by Validity. Some companies used one or two of these strategies, others all of them, as email activity spiked in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic breaking.

The report also identifies key trends in email subscriber behaviour, as the consumer environment switched from the office to the home. Notably, there was an understandably increased propensity to open Covid-related emails, a clear tendency to read more Covid-related information at the weekend and a perhaps inevitable related increase in the number of complaints associated with the increased volume of opens.

The Collins English Dictionary recently announced that ‘lockdown’ was its 2020 word of the year, closely followed by other pandemic-related terms identified by its lexicographers, such as ‘furlough’, ‘key worker’, ‘self-isolate’, ‘social distancing’ and ‘coronavirus’. Inevitably, such terminologies translate into email key words in subject areas that were little known or unheard of just a year ago.

Subscribers quarantined at home actively sought both information and reassurance. Even companies that had not previously focused on email marketing suddenly poured resources into the medium, covering topics from new shopping hours to Covid-19 safety precautions.

The key actionable take-outs from the report appear to be that disruption leads to higher email engagement – but, with more companies investing in email, cutting through is harder. As the Covid-keyword surge subsides, a return to a less opportunistic, more content-driven strategy is required. There is also a worthwhile reminder that with so many senders flooding traps, best practices became best practices for a reason. Sticking with them will bring longer-term rewards.