As the pandemic sweeps through the world, here are the changes our clients have seen in their email marketing activity from January to March 2020.

Timeliness is a trend

Due to fast changing market activity and frequent important announcements that drive it, we have seen a 40% increase in emails sent since the start of 2020. In addition, announcements of stricter rules and multi-country lockdowns, as well as the dynamically evolving situation in Italy begot a 48% increase in emails sent between the week of March 9 and March 16.

Overt references to COVID-19 in the subject

We have observed a 2,320% increase in the number of subject lines related to COVID-19 or Coronavirus since financial market response to the pandemic has pretty much been the main topic of our clients’ content over the last few weeks. It’s moved on from reassuring the clients on business continuity with working from home to focusing on content around the markets, asset classes, products and fund updates.

16% of campaigns include COVID-19, Coronavirus or virus in the subject line. Of these, 45% use COVID-19 while 37% use Coronavirus. This has seen a steady increase of 86% week on week since week 3 (January 13) when it all started.

Slightly lengthier text for COVID-19 communication

When comparing COVID-19 campaigns, which has seen a 14% increase of campaigns with COVID-19 or Coronavirus in the subject line from February to March, to other campaigns, there has been a slight increase in the average amount of words and sections used. In terms of sections, an average email communication is built around 10 sections, while the COVID-19 emails tend to have 12 sections on average. This implies that the COVID-19 campaigns are trying to be self-contained with the bulk of the text in the body of the email. Perhaps, this is also why COVID-19 emails are seeing less click through rates.

COVID-19 emails do not follow bi-weekly cycles

When analysing all the email campaigns that we manage globally, we noticed a curious trend. The number of emails increases across all our clients in odd weeks (+102% on average) and decreases in even weeks (-66% on average) when compared with a previous week. However, the communications with COVID-19 or Coronavirus in the subject line remain unaffected and increased steadily week after week by 86% on average compared with the previous one.

More concise communication

As many clients increase the frequency of communication during the pandemic to reassure and provide timely updates (see blog Tips) to clients and internal teams, the average email length tends to decrease. An average email in January contained 1,020 words compared to 706 words now which is a 30% decrease in word length.

More desktop usage

With no need to commute, people spend more time on their desktops. We noticed a higher percentage of clicks for emails read on desktop (1.5%-2.2% on average) compared with mobile (0.5-0.6%), with a surprising outlier recorded in January across all our client data at 6am (23%). Click through rates tend to be highest during lunch time as well as in the early evening between 5-8pm. However, people do check their mobiles in bed or at the dinner table judging by high mobile click through rates from 6am-7am as well as 6pm-7pm.

Increased client interest

The increased frequency and lengthier text do not put off their clients though as open rates remain stable on average at 42% with variances of 15-23% weekly due to important announcements being made or updates to the contact list. The decreasing number of opt-outs (0.035% in March vs. 0.077% in January) compared to a 0- 0.05% overall average also indicates topicality.

Longer core open rate hours

We have seen a lot more open rates in the period from January to March after the core working hours of 9am-5pm. In January, we have seen an average of 15% open rate only during the hours of 6am-7pm and before sleeping at 11pm with a small percentage of mobile checks at 1-2am. However, by March the hours increased to 6am-8pm and 10pm-midnight with no one checking in the wee hours of 1-2am. For mobile users, the highest number of clicks can be seen between 5-7pm.

Here are some tips that we prepared related to good marketing practices that our clients are implementing now:

Increased internal interest

Perhaps the remote working environment makes us eager to receive communications from colleagues since 16% of overall email marketing campaigns are internal. From the COVID-19 campaigns, 15% of these are internal with an average open rate of 73% (up to over 88%).

However, a clear increase in the number of client communications resulted in a lower percentage of internal vs. external communication since the beginning of the year – 16% overall compared with over 28% in 2019.

Revived journalistic creativity

Some of our clients have come from journalism so they find creative ways to refer to the current situation without mentioning COVID-19 or Coronavirus and by using positive language or highlighting positivity.

Widening contact list

The far-reaching effects of COVID-19 mean that people are contacting a larger portion of their contact list with over 65% increase in contacts used. This is reflected by the 0.48% increase in bounces averaging 2.9% to 3.4% at the highest point.

Open rates and types of content

Since the beginning of the year, the best performing types of content in terms of open rates across all our clients were Market Commentaries (30% on average, 23% of which with COVID-19 in the subject line), Product Updates (27% on average, 0% with COVID-19 in the subject line) as well as News and Newsletters (24-28% open rates).

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