Pandemic Reality Check: Business Leaders, Email Pros Disagree On Recovery, Success

Email remained a valuable tool in 2020 despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. But uncertainty prevails, with practitioners disagreeing with their bosses about where things stand, according to Email in 2021, a study by SparkPost. 

For instance, 88% of business leaders say their email teams have been successful this year. Only 64% of actual email practitioners agree.

And while 42% of leaders believe their marketing budgets and priorities will return to pre-COVID levels in 2121, a mere 19% of email professionals concur.

Among email practitioners, in fact, 38% feel it’s too hard to say whether things will return to normal. And 30% feel COVID-triggered changes are here to stay.

SparkPost polled 1,000 global marketing leaders and 200 email practitioners. 

On the positive side, 58% of leaders believe email marketing drives value and positive value for their business. And 59% of email practitioners feel that email is a main source of revenue. 

But as with other issues, there are differences in what the two cohorts think about workloads.

For example, 60% of leaders think their email team’s workloads increased in 2020, versus 72% of email practitioners.

On average, 75% of leaders say they have had to adjust or reallocate their budgets because of COVID-19. But 44% report they increased their email budget in 2020. And 61% of marketing teams have changed in size, with 49% increasing headcount. 

But email marketers face challenges going forward. Of those polled, 44% have no way to assess the value of an email address. And 50% simply say the accrued marketing cost of obtaining and nurturing an email address is a meaningful metric. 

Yet they’re watching performance — and 51% have changed the way they measure email marketing. For instance, 47% are looking at additional KPI beyond traditional ones like open rates, click-through rates and unsubscribe rates. 

In addition, 45% are examining increased goals an metrics to reflect their heavier reliance on digital and email marketing. 

But 44% do not measure any differently than they did prior to the pandemic. 

Sadly, there has been very small adoption of advanced email security tools — overall, only 8% have adopted DMARC(Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance). And a mere .03% have adopted BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification). However, that figure goes up to .17% strictly among enterprise firms. 

Meanwhile, increasing global privacy rules are making things more difficult. To adhere to these laws, a brand must know the residency of subscribers. 

But global service providers -- including Gmail, Verizon Media Group, Apple and -- hide opens behind globalized proxy services. This also prevents firms from learning the browser and device type of users. 

The result is that between 30% and 60% of unique opens are hidden behind proxy opens.

“Marketers should no longer rely on the passive identification of recipients’ geos through opens -- instead they need to do affirmative collection,” the study concludes. 

In the end, things aren’t so bad: 83% in both groups claim they’re happy at work. So be happy.


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