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Whether because of the boost the pandemic bestowed upon online shopping or simply more time in front of their laptops, senders had to change strategies regarding promotional emails and the way they are distributed, according to “How The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Changed Emailing,” a new study from Pathwire. More than half, 55% of senders said they increased their email volume, and 49% email customers more frequently since the start of COVID-19.

Brands adapted and the new strategies will affect email trends, not only in 2021 but also beyond, per the survey.

Pathwire said that brands once reliant on their brick and mortar outlets were forced to tactically assess other ways of engaging customers who needed answers to the most practical questions; when lockdown was in full effect, email senders had to quickly adjust to shifting all promotion and sales online.

Today, email senders need to continue their communications to update customers on new store hours, changes in shipping, changes in shipping schedules, and other unforeseen circumstances that affect operations and customer support, the report found. Despite it all, email senders are driven by the need to maintain strong brand-consumer relationships.

Most senders (77.4%) said open rates have either stayed the same as pre-pandemic or increased during the pandemic, per Pathwire. Click-through rates are up, too (40%).

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The study, which gathered data from more than 760 respondents, found that “More time spent at home on devices, combined with users’ desires to hear from brands as highlighted in a previous Pathwire survey, worked out well for brands’ engagement rates–showing how effective email is for customer communication.”

The coronavirus changed the way we live, our habits, values and social attitudes, the Pathwire study explained, and it “left an impression on brand communications.”

More than a third of those surveyed told Pathwire that they increased focus on their brand’s mission and values because now consumers expect brands to align with their ideals and passions. About 25% of respondents “highlight different social and local initiatives in their email messages.”

Optics are also important and shouldn’t be overlooked. Introducing simpler designs increased authenticity 40% of respondents said and 32.5% of email senders said they are changing their tone to sound more human.

“Coming out of 2020, we know that people are more passionate, more dedicated to the causes they care about and more upfront with their values and beliefs,” said Will Conway, CEO of Pathwire, in a press release. “Therefore, consumers are making choices based on how a brand aligns with their personal beliefs over other traditional factors. We found it very encouraging to see that email senders are listening to consumers’ calls for more authenticity and ingenuity in their email strategy.”

Budgets also reflected the upheaval of 2020 and many brands worldwide struggled economically, yet, only 12.4% of respondents said they decreased their email budget during the past year.

“Budget increases and stabilization may be tied in part to the increase in pandemic emailing, but it can also be linked to an increased investment in tools and features too,” Conway said.

And senders continue to try to be innovative; two-thirds of respondents said they’ll introduce changes to give emails more relevancy by segmenting contacts and personalizing email. Avoiding the dreaded bounce back: Nearly a third started validating email addresses to maintain a healthier email list.