The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has given email marketing a boost in performance, according to an analysis of over six billion emails by Campaign Monitor.

Email open rates reached one-fifth (21.2%) in April 2020, an increase of 3.6 percentage points (pp) from 17.6% in the previous year. Both the click-through and click-to-open rates rose 0.6pp in April 2020 to 3.1% and 14.6% respectively. Despite more opens, the unsubscribe rate held steady at 0.14%.

However, fewer emails were opened in April than in March, with the open rate dipping by 0.5pp between the two months. This may suggest some level of consumer fatigue, particularly as some brands turned to generic "we're here for you" emails.

Despite the reduced open rate, emails sent in April were more effective than those sent in March. The average click-through rate rose 0.3pp while click-to-open rates grew 1.8pp.

Looking at click-through rates more specifically, government emails prove the most effective – 5.7% of those sent in April 2020 led to a click, an increase of 1.2pp year-on-year.

Although emails from food and beverage brands placed below average in April, at 2.8%, the industry saw the third largest year-on-year increase. Across the whole of 2019, the category's click-through rate was tied-last at just 1.2%. Greater demand is likely leading to more receptive consumers.

In contrast, automotive & aerospace saw its click-through rate halve in April 2020, down to 1.2%. This was the largest drop across all verticals, with real estate (-0.2pp to 3.2%), travel (-0.1pp to 1.3%), and advertising and marketing agencies (-0.1pp to 2.4%) the only other sectors to record a decline.

Email marketing may only get more important in the future given its lower cost, an appealing feature as marketers cut their advertising investment. Brands should be aware that consumers are least approving of satisfaction surveys and purchase reminders.

For brands seeing greater success with email, it's vital to translate this into longer-term engagement with customers. Marketers can do this by looking closely at new customer journeys and closing the gap between comms and commerce.

For brands seeing less email engagement, examining the 5 P's and focusing on creativity and inspiration will be most valuable.

Marketing in the COVID-19 crisis

This article is part of a special WARC Snapshot focused on enabling brand marketers to re-strategise amid the unprecedented disruption caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

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