You’ve Got Mail: COVID-19 Brand Emails

When it comes to quarantine hobbies, many consumers chose the same activity: finally reading their emails. As the world sought out a new normal, many depended on brands to explain daily life changes. Brand emails announcing policies, closures, and procedures offered clear messages about routine activities such as ordering food or working out.

In Acoustic’s 2020 COVID-19 Email Marketing Benchmark Report, we explored consumer behavior from campaigns executed from January through June to better understand consumer actions and attitudes around email marketing during a pandemic.

Much Ado About Click Through

For consumers, content remains king of email. While we saw a large uptick in open rates across the globe, few consumers were clicking through to companies’ websites.

Globally, open rates increased an average of 4.7 percentage points from February to April. This dramatic open rate rise far surpassed click-through rates, with those increasing at one-third the percentage that open rates rose from February to March. While “A Message from Our CEO” enticed consumers, they weren’t terribly interested in reading beyond the email bullet points and quickly understanding how they were personally affected. Notably, though, only .06% unsubscribed.

The true difference, especially in North America, came during April when the information shifted from general messages to actionable directions about how to do business. The open rate increased a full 38% in April versus February.

(Not) Leaving on a Jet Plane

The industries that saw the greatest business impact during COVID-19 were also the ones that experienced the largest uptick in open rates.

Over half (58.3%) of transportation companies saw a nearly 60% one-month increase in open rates between February and March. As consumers scrambled to understand travel restrictions and postpone vacations, engagement skyrocketed in the hopes of understanding company actions.

Financial services and healthcare, at 35.4% and 33.7% respectively, also saw a bump as consumers navigated deferred payments and learned more about how to contact their primary care physician and dentist during quarantine.


As we move forward, brands must adapt to new consumer behaviors and adjust their email marketing strategies to fit the world we live in today.

Reexamining and cleaning up their data is critical for a strong foundational approach. Data should be accurate and compliant with GDPR and CCPA. Including new data points about consumer behavior changes will be key to engaging with today’s customers.

Personalization went from an interesting idea to an imperative action overnight. Every local region went through their own unique cycle of COVID-19 restrictions and shelter-in-place orders. Tailoring emails to best match the permissions of the customer’s country or state greatly increased engagement.

Brands who had the agility and flexibility to change strategy, adapt cross-functionally, and work together faired best. Expecting the unexpected meant meeting customers online and virtually shaking hands.

Staying Human: Still the Imperative

Despite more people being forced to interact in a virtual world, brands that focused on the human element captured consumer hearts best. Brands that authentically showed empathy, compassion, and understanding around COVID-19 and the mounting uncertainty of everyday life were able to connect most easily. What consumer behavior demonstrated through the beginning of this pandemic is that no matter the circumstances people find themselves in, fundamental marketing axioms still hold: connect on a personal level, live and communicate your values, constantly innovate, and act in the best interest of your customers.

Download our COVID-19 Benchmark Report.