COVID-19’s Impact on Email Volume

March activity was on the rise for the majority of organizations

Email activity in March showed mixed results as the global pandemic gripped the business world. Analyzing 50 high-volume email senders from a cross-section of industries, SocketLabs saw several interesting changes in sending patterns that reflect the changing nature of commerce.

As we all have observed, most businesses have reacted to these unprecedented times with unprecedented levels of communication. Without question, email was heavily upon as a channel through which to reach key audiences. Overall, the volume across our platform surged by 15% from February to March. From technology businesses shifting to work-from-home policies to restaurants and other retailers adopting new delivery and curbside pickup policies, the rising volumes reflected the many ways companies are adapting to the circumstances — which have been changing on an almost daily basis.

email volume

Interestingly, the increase in volume was not consistent across all companies. In fact, only 60% of the sample saw increased traffic, while 40% sent reduced volumes.

SaaS Email Volumes Rising

To understand the situation better, we took a look at the types of businesses that had increased volumes. Increases were seen across a variety of industries, but there was a clear concentration in marketing communications. More specifically, SaaS software applications – especially CRMs, marketing automation, customer service, and payroll apps – saw email traffic volumes jump by 300% to 500%.

Additionally, there were significant month-over-month increases in industries such as ecommerce (where the volume doubled), health and wellness, and media. Many of the gainers were delivering marketing messages in industries that had large audiences to educate about changes in their service availability or to promote new modes of business operations. For example, many professional services businesses, such as healthcare and business consultants, increased volumes as they transitioned to remote business operations with online appointments.

Of those businesses that saw declining volume, more than half were sending transactional messages. Their decline mirrors the obvious decline in economic activity in these industries. The largest volume losses were observed in sports, real estate, and financial services businesses who experienced volume drops of 30-40%.

Mail Quality Matters

Only time will tell if the increases in March will become trends that continue, or if they will level out or decline in April. Many observers expect declines since the marketing messages that were sent in the first few weeks of the pandemic were large, one-time general awareness or alert notices. Now that this initial wave of messages has been sent, the value of sending additional messages is unclear and many organizations are confused about how to proceed. In fact, there has been an overwhelming sentiment building that sending bulk announcements to large audiences is counterproductive and is potentially damaging to a company’s email sending reputation. The best advice from SocketLabs for protecting your reputation is to simply continue following normal email best practices.

In addition, however, according to findings recently explained in Axios there are also some new “COVID-19 best practices” and concepts of good sending etiquette that companies should also be aware of. For example, this article explains that companies should not simply talk about their own internal responses to the pandemic or attempt to aggressively sell their products or services. Rather, many email recipients (consumers in particular) still expect a more somber tone from companies. They’re happy to receive messages from marketers as long as they seem in touch with the fact that many people are facing difficult times. Further, they only want to receive promotions about ideas or products that can help them now. Nothing else is relevant.

Offer a Helping Hand

As they become available, we look forward to bringing you additional statistics and insights about how the pandemic is impacting the world of email. In the meantime, we encourage you to please help those in need. If you are able, we invite you to join SocketLabs in supporting the Philly Pledge which provides assistance to organizations supporting the Philadelphia community during this crisis.