The new study Disruption – how the 2020 pandemic changed email shows the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on email marketing in the short and long term. In addition to the developments that have occurred due to the first wave of the pandemic, the study looks at long-term developments and also highlights opportunities and risks that arise for marketers as a result. In this blog post, we will summarize the most important findings for you.

What happened during the first wave?

  • Keywords have changed: Especially during the first weeks, many companies used other keywords in their emails. These were particularly often related to COVID and provided users with general information and, for example, referred to changes in business operations in the form of opening hours, accessibility, delivery times, etc. In addition, there was a particular focus on user well-being and empathy, which is why keywords such as “safe”, “community”, “love” or “together” were often used.
  • Shipping volumes increased: Due to the fact that people started to withdraw and stay at home, there was an increased effort of reaching them there via email.
  • Differentiation between different recipients decreased: Unlike usual, marketers relied less on segmentation during the first wave. There was also less testing and even inactive users were addressed.

Providers responded by changing regulations regarding the filtering and spam classification of e-mails. Often, such changes in dispatch behavior result in more e-mails ending up in the spam folder and the sender’s reputation suffering. Apparently, however, providers were reluctant to classify COVID-related mails as spam and therefore changed their filters.

Users opened Corona-related mails 30 percent more often than other campaigns. However, the number of complaints also increased with the volume.


What about longer-term trends?

The data here reveals several trends that have emerged since the beginning of the crisis and have since become more entrenched:

  • The volume of e-mails sent remains continuously high and even seems set to grow in the future. This could also be related to the prospect of more home offices, food ordering, etc.
  • E-mails relating to the pandemic constantly account for between 1 and 3 percent of the total e-mail volume.
  • Email dispatch is also now occurring increasingly around lunchtime. This now seems to be a time between meetings when people are sitting at their computers, waiting for video calls to start, etc. It is at this time that email marketers are now seeing very high engagement rates.

Many KPIs have now stabilized again and are roughly back at the level they were at before the crisis. It is worth noting, however, that many users now seem to filter their mail more carefully. Tolerance for pandemic-related mails is still high, but spam complaints are steadily increasing. Therefore, senders need to be more mindful and make an effort to avoid their mails being marked as spam.

What opportunities and risks do these findings bring for you?

The crisis led to higher engagement and it is likely that this will be the case again in future exceptional situations. For example, users specifically search their inboxes for emails that contain information about a disruptive event. For this reason, higher engagement also occurs during times of crisis.

Nevertheless, the flood of emails during this exceptional situation can make it difficult for the sender to be noticed. Since, on the one hand, a high volume of inboxes means that users are very intensively engaged with their inboxes. On the other hand however, it also means that marketers can expect a busier and more competitive inbox during a disruption. For this reason, you should tailor emails and subject lines to be topical, to capture the attention of target audiences, and to entice them to open them.