Spending And Sending: How Brands Changed Their Email Strategies During COVID-19

Many brands have been sending more email and budgeting more for it during the pandemic. But few have adopted advanced personalization strategies, and significant numbers are sending less email, according to How The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Changed Emailing, a study by Pathwire.   

For starters, 49.7% changed their email strategy due to the pandemic, and 13.9% for other reasons. But 35.1% have stuck to their existing strategy.

In addition, 27.1% increased their email budgets, whereas 60.6% remained the same, while 12.4% decreased them.  

When it comes to volume, 55.5% have mailed more since the start of the pandemic, and 29.6% remained at their existing levels. But 14.9% have sent less than before.

Moreover, 49.1% send mail more frequently, but 36.7% have remained flat. And 14.7% have decreased their sending schedule. 

For instance, 40.2% now send monthly, down from 55.5% pre-pandemic. But 24.3% have increased the frequency to twice a month, versus 19.3% before the pandemic. 



In addition, 17% now send once a week, compared to 14.2% before. And 12% have moved to sending twice a week -- up from 6.1% -- while 6.5% have increased the frequency to daily, up from 4.8% prior to the COVID-19 onslaught.

Of those polled, 55.6% send marketing or announcement emails to customers once a month. 

Some of these increases could be attributed to “the need to maintain a strong relationship with consumers while offline communication was off the table,” the study states. 

These shifts have been accompanied by changes in content. Email marketers have: 

  • Increased focus on brand’s missions and values — 35.2%
  • Showcased internal initiatives — 23.5% 
  • Highlighted social and local initiatives — 25.6% 
  • Increased promotions and discounts — 25.3%
  • None of the above — 12.3%

What have they done to make their emails more relevant? They have adopted these strategies:

  • Customization of the email content through simple personalization, like first name — 24.1%
  • Segmentation based on email engagement (opens, clicks, etc.) — 19.4%
  • Segmentation based on your activity on your website/app — 18.9%
  • Segmentation based on location — 17.2% 
  • Complex personalization through dynamic content blocks or templating language — 8.8% 

But 13.2% have done none of the above, and 31.1%  report no change at all.

Lists are another challenge. Here is how marketers have maintained the health of their customer email lists during the pandemic: 

  • Regular cleaning of email list by removing my bounces and blocks — 40.2% 
  • Validating email addresses to ensure I’m only sending to real addresses — 31.4%
  • Running a reengagement campaign in an effort to win back my inactive contacts — 15.5%
  • Introducing sunset policies (removing subscribers from my list who have not opened my emails for an extended period of time) — 13%

Meanwhile, 13.8% of marketers have done none of the above things and 23% have experienced no change.  

What is the result of these changes? Email open rates have increased slightly for 37.4%, and significantly for 5.2%. (The study defines “slightly as 1% to 10%, and significantly as 10%or more). 

In contrast, 37.4% say their open rates have stayed the same, and 22% report decreases, 8.3% significant ones. (Slight declines are in the 1%-to-10% range, and significant ones 10% or more). 

As for click-through rates, they have increased slightly for 34.1% and significantly for 4.1%. But they have remained flat for 47.4% of marketers and have decreased for 19.4% -- 8% of them by margins of 10% or more. 

“Coming out of 2020, we know that people are more passionate, more dedicated to the causes they care about and more up front with their values and beliefs,” concludes Will Conway, CEO of Pathwire. “Therefore, consumers are making choices based on how a brand aligns with their personal beliefs over other traditional factors.”  

Conway adds: “We found it very encouraging to see that email senders are listening to consumers’ calls for more authenticity and ingenuity in their email strategy.” 



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