Email Marketing in a Pandemic

Back in March 2020, we were scheduling our email news deliveries for 10 a.m., we were sending targeted campaigns using segments, had multiple automated email journeys on auto-pilot, and thought we had our email content calendar locked down for the next few months. Our lists were growing and everything was on track.

Don't panic

Then Covid-19 came along. And everything changed. Everything.

According to Statista, in 2019, the number of global email users amounted to 3.9 billion and is set to grow to 4.48 billion users in 2024. Add in mobile email users and it still proves to be the best way to communicate with each other and with customers.

One year on and has this changed and, more importantly, has our behaviour changed? Do we go about our everyday lives and behave the same way as we did pre-Covid? No, we now have to deal with physical- and social-distancing, working from home, mask-wearing, and looking for new ways to keep earning a crust.

How does email marketing now fit into this new world?

Looking Back… Briefly

A recent study of Covid-19 email benchmarks indicates that the amount of email hasn’t significantly increased this past year but open rates have while click rates remain the same.

“[People] want to know how the brands they follow are changing their business plans or responding to the crisis, and the increase in opens shows that email is still where consumers go to hear from brands.”

Stay-at-home orders around the world forced many businesses without a digital storefront to quickly create one. And people who’ve never shopped online before did so for the first time.

So email remained the best way for companies to communicate with their customers. As a result, email revenue is up pretty significantly, especially in ecommerce.


Making Email Marketing Work Better

So what can you do to make the same tool work better? Here are a number of techniques to consider.

Change the Delivery Time

Knowing that more people are now working from home, consider sending at 9 a.m. rather than 7 a.m. so your email arrives in their inboxes when they are more likely to open and be ready to engage.

Be Respectful of Inboxes

Sending more email will likely not get the reaction you are looking for. More likely is an unsubscribe or worse, your email is flagged as spam and your online reputation takes a nosedive. Look at your content with the highest engagement and focus on that.

Know your Audience

Past email benchmarks reports consistently show that there’s no clear winner for which day is the best to send. Brands should test and see what their audience acclimates to then continue with that pattern. In March 2020, we saw the highest engagement metrics on days other than Tuesday (highest volume for that month) and weekends (lowest volume).

If you have better open rates on a Saturday for a surfboard company, send on that day. For restaurants, it may be Thursday before the weekend.

A/B Testing and Other Cool Tools

AB testing

A great tool to use is the A/B subject line tester. Try out the best subject lines then send using the subject line more likely to trigger an open rate.

You may also like to use time zone optimization to have your email delivered at the same time across every time zone.

Timezone sending

Send time optimization will dive a little deeper and send an email when the subscriber is most likely to open based on their past behaviour.

Show Empathy, Don’t Keep Selling

A year is a long time to be in some sort of restriction and many people have suffered. You don’t know what is going on in other people’s lives so show some empathy for the global situation.

Tell a story about how you are helping people in your local community and working with local charities, or give your resources and contractors some exposure.

Lastly, mention that you have something to sell. Shift that focus down until you feel people are ready then shift it back up above the fold.

Review your Subscription Options

Soften the signup language, be transparent about what it will be about and how often you will send. Be honest then stick to a schedule.

An inconsistent schedule is one way to “go dark” and have your customers unsubscribe when you come back to life. Stay in front of customers, be consistent, be kind, be respectful.

In the long run, people will remember that you supported them and gave them what they signed up for in a gentle and respectful way.

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Photo by Tonik on Unsplash

Paul Mycroft

Having emigrated from south London, England, Paul has moved between cities in North America, building a loyal following since starting the business back in 2002. Many US and Canadian clients are with him today who were there from day one.