How is Email Marketing Weathering COVID-19?


If you're currently having to dig yourself out from under a mountain of Amazon boxes, you’re not alone.

Online consumerism in many industries has seen unprecedented, large-scale growth so far this year thanks to business' email communication  and marketing plans. March 2020 saw many states institute shelter-in-place orders across the US. This "new normal" has changed the way a large majority of people work and shop including the consumer — unable to physically visit businesses — and the business owners and their employees who had to rethink sales strategies and communication plans. 

While the country is currently starting to reopen, these shifts are hard to ignore. When many companies had to make their goods and services readily available, ecommerce and email marketing plans came into play. 

Sending, By the Numbers

According to multiple sources, COVID-19 took over the inboxes of many Americans during the first three weeks of March 2020. 

Validity, during its State of Email AMA, noted that during the week of March 22, 2020, COVID-19 emails peaked at 5% of total email sends. Since then COVID-19 communication has dropped off gradually. Similarly, MessageGears reported almost 100% more retail emails when comparing the week before and after a European travel ban announcement on March 11, 2020. 

MailerLite reported 18% more users sending mail in March compared to January 2020. With that, the company also reported that more than 46 million COVID-19 emails were sent from its platform in March, making up 5.3% of its overall sends. 

If you represent one of the businesses that is sending COVID-related content, be mindful that some of the subscription boost you see may taper off as COVID-19 content becomes less relevant. MailerLite noted that its average weekly signup per account grew by nearly 35% week over week since the beginning of February. 

Part of this increase in communication was an increase in subscriptions to brands that became pertinent under the shelter-in-place rules. Will these brands remain relevant as America reopens? Or will they become obsolete to these new subscribers after COVID-19 and start seeing increased complaints rates and non-engagement? Either way, it’s important to keep your list fresh as conditions change.

Spending, By the Numbers

Consumers are responding in kind. Ecommerce sales are notably higher in many platforms. MailerLite saw a 96.7% increase in e-commerce sales as a result of email marketing overall. Cardlytics reported an ecommerce sale increase during March of 146% for grocery stores, 93% for office supply stores and 106% for mass merchandisers.

ecomm-stats-covid19Source: Cardlytics State of Spend | May 2020

Engagement statistics during the month of March also show that consumers were focused on updates from essential businesses and companies that they identified with. CampaignMonitor reported that essential communication, like that of Government email lists, saw a 20% increase in sends and a 30% open rate increase when comparing March 2019 to March 2020. For businesses throughout CampaignMonitor’s platform, sends in March had 16% higher open rates than those sent in February indicating that readers are keyed into business announcements and communications during the pandemic.

Future Challenges

Email communications and e-commerce sales, according to many sources, will continue to dominate business plans during the next few months while many states still have shelter-in-place rules in effect.

With email marketing and communication leading the way for digital communication, it’s now apparent that list hygiene and good data practices can make a noticeable difference for many businesses. At Email Industries, we’ve seen a 23% increase in BlackBox usage, as email vendors work harder to maintain their email sending reputations.

The current climate in the US means that some companies are having to partially or completely modify their communication plans. The unprecedented closure of brick and mortar stores around the world to combat the virus means that consumers are turning to companies with a strong digital presence to meet their everyday needs. As the world has changed, communication has had to change as well.

What we’ve known for a while is coming to light through pandemic response statistics. That’s to say that good, clean email lists and thoughtful email communications can help many businesses pave the way for a successful digital future. We’ve only seen the up slope of events. Be on guard for the down slope, possible rebound and apply all your learning from past events.