Email Marketing Performance Has Skyrocketed. How Should Strategies Evolve in a Pandemic?

With email revenue up 86%, brand messaging needs to consider customer mindsets and environments

Klaviyo reports an 86% year-over-year increase in email revenue and a 21.8% increase in open rates. Getty Images
Headshot of Ian Zelaya

Covid-19 has forced millions of Americans to spend a majority of their day-to-day routines at home and, naturally, online shopping has been booming since lockdowns began in the spring. In turn, email marketing performance has also exploded, and the numbers are staggering.

Klaviyo, an email marketing and SMS marketing platform that serves about 43,000 companies globally, reported the following year-over-year metrics:

  • Email revenue is up 86%.
  • Open rates are up 21.8% and clickthrough rates are up 22.5%.
  • Revenue per recipient is up 60.5%.

Ecommerce marketing automation platform Omnisend reported similar year-over-year open rate spikes after analyzing 2.5 billion promotional emails sent using its platform from Jan. 1-April 26, but a decrease in click rates:

  • Open rates before the pandemic (Jan. 1-March 15) were up 2.44%, while March 16-April 36 saw a 31.54% increase.
  • Click rates were down 17.01% before the pandemic and down 16.89% after.
  • Conversion rates were up 11.81% before the pandemic and 22.66% after.

The data, and the fact that in-store shopping won’t return to normal for the foreseeable future, demonstrate a need for brands to continue investing in email marketing programs and testing out new tactics to reach consumers.

Dan Oshinsky, who runs email consultancy Inbox Collective, said email advertising is holding consistently (and will continue to) in quarantine because brands have a guaranteed audience that’s more likely to engage with content that hits their inbox.

“Right now, brands want to make sure they’re advertising in channels where they know they will get results,” he said. “Email is one of those channels.”

Email messaging should be authentic and considerate

Jake Cohen, head of product marketing at Klaviyo, said no matter the product category, brands getting the results they want are those that offer honest, authentic messaging.

“At this time, the message of ‘things are crazy’ is not really resonating with consumers anymore,” Cohen said. “What’s resonating more is just being honest to the environment that people are in, and contextualizing their new environment with what the product can do to help them. It’s just basic good positioning, but that really works.”

Huron, a startup men’s personal grooming brand launched in 2019, has explored a variety of email marketing approaches targeting repeat and prospective customers. The brand reports it’s maintained a steady open rate since lockdowns began in March, but has evolved its inbox messages to cater to customers’ new lifestyle and mindset.

Huron's emails lean into helpful content marketing.

In the spring, Huron sent emails related to initiatives it launched to help healthcare workers and charities benefiting communities impacted Covid-19. If you were to receive an email from Huron now, you’d probably get an informative piece of content marketing about why body wash is important for your skin in quarantine, or how face wash can help fight breakouts caused by wearing a mask.

“As stay-at-home initiatives progressed, we wanted to make sure we were always in the mindset of the consumer,” said Jonathan Yu, director of strategy and ops at Huron. “It’s about anticipating a problem that might be related to these current events and providing useful content. We’re being very thoughtful on what everyone is going through, and making sure that no matter what email we send out, customers can take something away from it.”

Matt Mullenax, co-founder and CEO at Huron, added that along with putting more effort into helpful content marketing, through the rest of 2020 the brand will continue to test automated email flows to keep customers engaged.

“There are constantly ways we can be tweaking existing flows and layering in new flows,” Mullenax said. “If you buy our body wash, which runs out within eight weeks, we can test a replenishment email at week 6.5 to get out ahead of you running out of product. We’re always tinkering with things, and that mentality will get amplified over the next few months, but in a respectful manner.” Ian Zelaya is an Adweek reporter covering how brands engage with consumers in the modern world, ranging from experiential marketing and social media to email marketing and customer experience.