Does Empathy Stall Click-Throughs? COVID-19 Study Suggests It Does

Brands increased their email volume following President Trump’s European travel ban announcement on March 11. But that doesn’t mean consumers were converting, judging by research conducted by email service provider MessageGears. 

Many emails were comforting and lacked a clear call to acton.

Retail email volume went up dramatically after the ban, and travel and hospital messaging rose somewhat. But travel brands enjoyed a higher spike in open rates to bulk marketing campaigns, and retail a more modest increase.

However, click rates fell significantly for both sectors during this period.  

"There are many possible reasons for this drop, but we think it actually speaks well of the brands that were. sending the emails, writes Nick Ziech-Lopez, product owner of the cloud infrastructure team at MessageGears, in a blog post.



Ziech-Lopez adds: “Because those brands were focusing on providing content that was helpful, empathetic, and comforting, there was very little sense of including the usual clear calls-to-action that you’d expect in email communication.

That said, the travel field has been heavily affected during the COVID-19 crisis, with most trips being canceled.

As for retail, firms that sell groceries, pharmaceuticals and household products are enjoying a sales surge. But those that sell non-essential items at brick-and-mortar locations are struggling, Ziech-Lopez says.

Opens rose slightly in the “other” category, but click rates also declined.

Meanwhile, unsubscribes nearly doubled for the travel field -- possibly due to worries about international journeys -- but they fell slightly in retail and massively in the “other” category. 

Whether at home or at work, people relied more on their mobile devices to open emails after the travel ban and 20% less on their computers.

Which brings us to the big question: Should brands be sending emails during this crisis?

“Yes,” Ziech-Lopez says. “As brands respond to the crisis, consumers are opening and interacting to these messages at higher rates than before — a reminder that brand/consumer relationships are important even in times like these.” 

MessageGears analyzed delivery and engagement rates for email marketing sends in the week leading up to President Trump’s announcement of the travel ban and for the period afterwards. 

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