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Email Marketing in 2020: What we've learnt

February 17 - 2021

Business Insight 5 min read

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I can remember sitting down at the start of January, writing about the trends we thought we'd see in email marketing last year. While we've seen a number of them come into fruition, we certainly couldn't have predicted how the year would unfold and the impact it would have on our industry.

It quickly became clear, once the dust settled after the first lockdown, that email marketing was an essential lifeline for many businesses and their customers.

Between February and May we saw, on average, an open rate increase of 16% industry wide with some of our clients seeing their open rate increase to more than double the industry average.

Email marketing was proving, yet again, that it remains the most effective and direct way for businesses to reach their customers. Rarely has it been as important to deliver the right message to the right people at the right time as it's been in 2020.

In a year like no other in our lifetimes, here's what we've learnt about email marketing:

1. Email is something people depend on

As our Client Success Manager, Hannah Vaughan, wrote last year: "Email has become the new way of reaching the outside world. It's bridging the gap between your living room and the shops, your garden and the garden centre, you and your loved ones."

Email campaigns were a buzz of excitement for customers, whether it was from the anticipation of an order being delivered or a direct line into the goings-on of their favourite brand. With physical experiences absent, we all turned to digital experiences as a replacement and email marketing played a huge role in this.

2. Adding value through email is always a winner

For the likes of shops, gyms, restaurants, and hotels, 2020 was the catalyst for them to evolve their messaging and to focus on adding value to their customers through their email marketing campaigns.

They were in a position where they couldn't push sales so their messaging had to evolve. Gyms started sending out home workout ideas, restaurants sent out recipes to cook at home, and hotels gave their subscribers tips for 'at-home' spa days.

What we learn here is - when you focus on serving the needs of the customers, enriching their lives through your content, and giving them value - you're tapping into their emotions and you're laying the groundwork for them becoming loyal customers and giving you repeat business. The irony is by not selling, you'll end up driving more revenue in the long term.

3. Nothing beats clear and consistent communication

The brands that weathered the storm the best in 2020 were those who kept up a clear, consistent flow of communication to their customers. They reacted and responded to the ever-changing situation quickly and calmly. They didn't panic and they were genuinely helpful. By being open, honest, and transparent they let their customers know exactly how they had been affected by the situation and how it would, in turn, impact them. There was an inbox bombardment from 'well meaning' CEOs the world over many of which essentially say the same thing. A lot of these emails weren't necessary. However, emails showing compassion and empathy, and with the human touch, always stood out.

4. The experience is everything

People return to buy again and again from places and brands who give them a good experience. It's true of restaurants, hotels, clothing outlets, and it's the same for email experience. A better email marketing experience leads to better relationships, more engagement, a higher click through rate, and better results. Over the past year, we've seen consumers crave more from their inbox. If they are going to invest their time into reading one of your email campaigns, they want it to be worth their while. As we mentioned earlier, digital experiences - including email marketing - took on a whole new importance last year and those who got it right benefitted the most from it.

What's strange is that, every year, we hear the same old stories from the mouths of experts, spelling out the end of email. That wasn't the case last year. 2020 has shown how crucial email marketing is for businesses of all sizes.

If you want to take your email marketing to the next level in 2021, we'd love to hear from you.

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