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The impact of COVID-19 on the email marketing industry

For the first time in the history of emails (and emails have been for a “while”), the email marketing industry is dealing with a situation that ha...

For the first time in the history of emails (and emails have been for a “while”), the email marketing industry is dealing with a situation that has never occurred before. As the whole world fights the Coronavirus outbreak together, irrespective of the economic crisis, many industries have taken their marketing strategy to the digital arena. Since the lockdown, Email marketing and social media are being used as the prime mode of communication and engagement with the audience.

Although the situation has caught the industry off guard, emails have made quite an impressive evolution in terms of dealing with the crisis for some industries, be it evolving in terms of design, content or conversions, about which we’ll be discussing as you read on. Not just those, spams have also evolved as we mentioned in our previous blog.

Let’s see how emails have adapted to the crisis, what are the current trends, what impact it has on various industries.

Email marketing trends

A research conducted by Message gears in the last two weeks of March 2020, shows a clear trend of how brands are interacting with consumers and their respective response from the audience. The survey was conducted among the mailings across the users of Message gear’s marketing service.

The results show that the volume in email marketing remains high for most industries other than travel and hospitality, where the situation continues to remain grim since the travel ban. Let us take a look at the numbers.

Mail volume

As evident in the graph shown here, the beginning of the shelter in place becoming mandatory, the graph shows a drastic increase in emails in all industries including Travel and Hospitality, Retail and others being education, health care, and politics. This was the period when brands were asking people to remain safe and maintain respiratory hygiene and so on.

During the second week, the emails that were sent, described how organizations are handling their work process and dealing with the crisis. Subtle empathy and publicity about all the acts of goodwill was the bottom line of emails during this time.

Similarly, for mails sent out in bulk, a similar pattern can be seen before and after the travel ban. Retail has comparatively thrived better than other industries and it also provides the essential goods and medical equipment.

Click rates and Open rates

Industries that might have been holding digital events and canceling physical engagements are sending email updates to their consumer base. These are mostly crisis-related emails with relevant information that has resulted in good Click and Open rates for some industries, as you can see below:

Unsubscribe rates

Unsubscribe rates have seen fluctuating trends as this action depends on a lot of other factors like design, the content of emails and how sensibly are you generating your email sends. Spamming your user base or trying to generate leads is a big risk that you would be taking during this situation. Although, if you decode the perfect blend of good design, content, and action, your campaign might even hit the jackpot.

(Source: Message gears)

How have industries fared?

Retail Industry

This email sent by a textile retailer – American Giant, has not only used a brilliant copy but has informed the readers about how they are dealing with the crisis, therefore empathizing and striking a chord with the audience. 

Their subject line was ‘Hold on sweatshirts, hello medical masks’, which immediately makes the message clear. They also get points for the representation, credibility and the goodwill campaign on which they have strategized their email campaign.

UK-based cosmetics retailer, Lush sent out emails to their community updating the status of their stores and services.

This email gets bonus points for the design and the messages which invite customers to use their stores for a hand wash without any compulsion of buying any of their products. They have used the phrase ‘Be safe, Get clean’ as their subject line, which has replaced a lot of goodbyes. Although this may seem to pull a little footprint, keep in mind that this email was followed by a second email informing the closure of stores across North America.


Once the retailers closed their stores, e-commerce Tools for navigating Covid-19 orders have spiked uncontrollably and many companies have acknowledged their limitations and stopped their services as well. Now, with all these limitations and impact of COVID – 19 on e-commerce it is becoming obvious to their consumers, the second part of the process is damage control, which is done through emails.

orders have spiked uncontrollably and many companies have acknowledged their limitations and stopped their services as well. Now, with all these limitations becoming obvious to their consumers, the second part of the process is damage control, which is done through emails.

In a survey done by Goodfirm, to determine effective ways of consumer interaction in a crisis, among more than 100 e-commerce experts, 46.6 per cent voted that email marketing is highly effective.

Travel and Hospitality

Companies in this sector have taken an understandable pause but they have definitely not gone into complete darkness. They are sending out emails about how they are preparing for the better days to come and assuring the subscribers for their support in canceling and refunding their pre-booked travel tickets.

This email sent by AirBnb is not only minimalistic but has made sure to avoid any tone of panic. It has also addressed the issues which might have been stressing its consumers out. In such times, predicting the needs of your audience and delivering around them is the only strategy you can incorporate.

Even restaurants and eateries like this one mentioned below, are connecting to its consumer base through email marketing, a trend that might not have been a need for their sustenance earlier.

This mail by Steaks and Shakes gives details about the protocol they are following to ensure hygienic food processing and that they have shut the dine-in services. ‘Their services are open through the takeaway’- they have made sure that this message is loud and clear.


Duolingo is not only retargeting its inactive clients but it’s also actively promoting their services. This email brings out their brand image in design and hits straight at the point that you might as well learn a new language during the lockdown.

How has email marketing evolved?


This email design by Virgin is a perfect example of how you can use the layout and other visual elements to bring out the brand value. The consistency of using simple and sensitive text, the mild color palette complimenting the brand color and the minimalistic design reflect the brand identity.


When clicked upon, the CTA redirects to the next page.

Through this email, RedBubble allows its users to pause their marketing emails for a particular time period. Keep in mind that the situation across the world can be stressful for some and marketing emails can have a negative impact on the nurtured leads. RedBubble, predicting the “Unsubscribe” trend, came up with this light copy, again reflecting the brand image in the email. Note that the priority of engagement is not compromised here and by doing this, leads can be retained.


When clicked upon, the CTA redirects to the next page.

This email by Email On Acid offers free subscriptions to industries that are directly involved or affected by the pandemic. It encourages the viewer to use email marketing as a tool to engage and foster relationships with clients. The headline and the subheadline showing empathy and consideration gets points for subtly laying the brand’s offers across the table.

Key takeaway


• Prioritize your message if at all you need to send an email

• Segment your mail list according to engagement and avoid trying to interact with inactive users

• Your brand name should be reflected in the sender address and subject line

• Keep your email simple, concise and straightforward

• Use a cross-functional platform such as Facebook, Instagram, and your website if you are announcing or informing something that requires immediate action

• Consider giving offers and incentive announcements through mails if you are providing essential products


• Don’t send bulk COVID-19 emails if your message is not the need of the hour

• Don’t take advantage of the situation to send marketing emails

• Don’t sound desperate by mentioning your business is suffering as this is impacting all companies and sectors

• Don’t use an unfamiliar domain name for sending emails 

• Don’t write anxiety-provoking copies or misinform your audience

• Do not provide unverified medical advice

Wrap Up

This pandemic may or may not be the right time to promote your business or generate new leads but using your email marketing campaign sensibly will certainly help you save your sender reputation.

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Annie Catherena

Content Writer at Email Uplers
A journalist at heart and a compulsive book hoarder, Annie would kill for a profession in babysitting dogs. She writes experimental content that remains with you long after you've read them. A novice in the world of marketing, she loves to learn new things and explore the MarTech industry.



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