Consumers are now said to be more responsive to email marketing nowadays as a result of COVID-19. According to statistics from eCommerce marketing automation platform Omnisend, which analysed over 2.5 billion promotional emails sent from its platform from January to April this year, open rates from 1 January to 26 April "steadily increased" this year, with the largest increase starting in March. Year-over-year (YoY), Omnisend said that open rates this year witnessed a 13.64% lift, mostly carried by the post-COVID period.
More specifically, open rates for pre-COVID period between 1 January to 15 March were up 2.44% YoY, while the post-COVID period from 16 March to 26 April saw a 31.54% lift. The study added that in 2019, the open rates for post-COVID period decreased by 5.38% from the pre-COVID period. In 2020, however, the post-COVID period witnessed an increase of 21.5% in open rates over the pre-COVID period.
As consumers continued to spend more time online for retail purposes, Omnisend explained that marketing emails naturally became a go-to resource for product discovery and potential discounts. Aside from common basic necessities such as toilet paper, there were also a need for other products such as homeschooling accessories and other at-home activities including puzzles and exercise equipment. This led to consumers increasingly opening related retailer emails, Omnisend said.
Overall, click rates were sporadic, with a significant 18-day shift in March. YoY, click rates in 2020 dropped 17.19% compared to 2019, Omnisend found. Click rates this year were slightly down to start the year and began following the same slight downward trend as seen in 2019. Shortly after, it witnessed a quick and negative impact toward the end of the pre-COVID period. According to Omnisend, the significant YoY drop in click rates occurred between 12 to 29 March, with many days seeing over a 30% to 40% drop. This could probably be attributed to the lockdowns implemented. Meanwhile, YoY click rates for pre-COVID period were down 17.01%, while the post-COVID period saw a dip of 16.89%. Figures from the pre-and post-COVID periods indicate that although the decline may be seasonal, it was "exaggerated" during those 18 days beginning in mid-March.
Omnisend explained that there were substantial email marketing click rate decreases due to COVID-19. This could be attributed to factors of economic and need-based shopping versus poor call to actions or marketing copy. According to the study, the jump in open rates show that:
Consumers had interest in shopping and were receptive to receiving trusted brand communications. However, there was more browsing of emails than action within them.
Meanwhile, conversion rates from 1 January to 26 April steadily increased this year, peaking in March. According to Omnisend, this was a stark contrast to the previous year, which, while steady, saw only a slight increase. YoY conversion rates jumped 17% over those in 2019, with rates for pre-COVID period up 11.81%, while post-COVID period nearly doubled that with a 22.66% lift. With the trends observed with open and click rates, it is expected that conversion rates would increase. Conversion rates at the beginning of 2020 were likely powered by the natural post-holiday shopping season and a strong economy, before eventually shifting to more focused COVID-related purchases.
According to Omnisend, conversion rates also increased as the world moved closer to the heart of the pandemic. The YoY and period-over-period increase in conversion rates and the decrease in click rates indicate a consumer shift to intent-based shopping. This essentially means when consumers identified products of interest or need inside of an email they went through and completed their orders without hesitation.
Time for retailers to focus on building email programme
The study has pointed out that email marketing is still a driving force behind consumer online purchasing decisions. As such, brands need to ensure that their automated messages are up to date and note which ones may need to be updated if another crisis hits. They should also focus on customer retention strategies, such as with automated post-purchase messaging, and look to build trust by automating other lifecycle email messages. These include lapsed-purchase, welcome series, as well as cart and browse abandonment. Brands can also expand their opt-in channels by building out and strengthening their SMS programme, as well as test other marketing channels such as Facebook Messenger and push notifications.
Separately, jumping on the importance of email marketing, Verizon Media rolled out its view time optimisation (VTO) email solution in Southeast Asia that offers marketers the ability to deliver their brand and marketing emails to users when they are active in their inbox. This is done by placing these emails in one of the top spots of a user’s inbox. It will be exclusively distributed by email solutions provider, Validity, as part of the global partnership that will make VTO accessible to marketers in Southeast Asia and beyond.
VTO, available on all Verizon Media’s mailboxes including Yahoo Mail, is designed to increase engagement between brands and their customers by delivering brand and marketing emails to users when they are active and most likely to be engaged. This has been identified to be the exact moment when users first open their inbox, and also for emails that appear in the top inbox positions.
According to Verizon Media, VTO will ensure prime visibility in inboxes and improve the likelihood that emails are read. In a pilot of VTO in the region, Lenovo utilised the email optimisation solution to distribute its promotional newsletters which saw a 29% increase in open rates and a 67% increase in clickthrough rates, Verizon Media said.
Rico Chan, co-head APAC, Verizon Media, said optimising timings to reach audiences as a practice has been based on past learnings and experience. According to him, old rules may not apply anymore as consumer behaviour and media consumption habits rapidly evolve through this pandemic.
"VTO, an industry-first feature, allows marketers to reach consumers more effectively, skipping the guesswork on optimal timings and ensuring that their emails are prominently visible in the inboxes of engaged users, catching their attention," he said.
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