COVID-19 Fatigue: Brand Emails Now More Seasonal In Approach

Use of COVID-19 content in emails -- so widespread only a month ago -- is declining, even as the death rates for the novel coronavirus have climbed.

Out of every 25 emails, only one now features COVID-19 content, compared to one in 15 two weeks ago, says Greg Kimball, senior director of product management firm Validity, speaking at a webinar on Wednesday. 

“The amount is dropping but at 4% it’s still impressive,” Kimball says in this update to Validity’s April 1 webinar.

One sign of the change is that the dominant keywords have changed from "virus" and "COVID-19" two weeks ago to “simple words like new and now,” Kimball continues.

This shows that brands may be paying attention to email metrics. Four weeks ago, consumers were 10% more likely to open COVID-19-themed emails. That dipped to -22% on March 28, although it is now trending back upwards and is now more than 30% the rate of non-COVID-19 messages.   
Why that dip in March? For one thing, there was “a huge flood of email” that month in contrast to a renormalization of volume in April, Kimball says.



For another, the end of March is also the end of a quarter, when “a lot of a lot of us tend to go back to inboxes and do a bit of a cleanup,” Kimball says. Finally, the content in that period lacks call-to-action content.

Meanwhile, the impending spike in complaints indicated in the trend line never materialized.

COVID-19 messages are 10% less likely than other emails to be marked as spam -- but that number goes up on weekends, when many people read unread emails.

“We’re seeing a high correlation between opens and complaints,” Kimball says. 

The industries most likely to send COVID-19-themed emails are government and education, real estate, media and entertainment and health in beauty. 

At the lower end are the software, financial, apparel and accessories and household verticals.

In another finding, Validity reports that inbox placement is 5% higher in the afternoon than in the morning, and that 70% of mail is sent within two minutes of the top of the hour, whatever it is. 

“It puts a huge burden on providers,” Kimball explains.

Laura Christensen, director of professional services for Validity, describes the email message progression as follows:

  • Week 1: Long form updates, acknowledgements GDPR-like outreach.
  • Week 2: Companies mobilized, ‘We’re in this together’ messages, tore hour reductions, temporary closures. 
  • Week 3—Striving for Continuity, value-added content, free shipping/offer extensions, safety & convenience adjustments.


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