In a world that is rapidly changing, one thing that has remained consistent through this pandemic is the need for digital marketing. Digital has been vital for maintaining communication, and from team catch-ups in your PJs to technical difficulties, and of course a special shoutout to our teammates who can’t work out where the unmute button is; we’ve sure had our fair share of stories since working from home.

Email marketing has been a tactic that has not halted, in fact, email activity has thrived as more companies move away from traditional marketing techniques. This blog explores Litmus’ State of Email Report and what marketers should be doing with email in a COVID-19 world.

Email marketing today… and your predictions for tomorrow

The data for the report was collected from 2,000 marketing professionals, including email specialists, team leads, managers, directors, VPs and C-level executives.

  1. Personalisation is now a major focus if you want to get traction – We’re not just talking about ‘Hi [First Name]’ we’ve moved beyond this, it’s time to ramp up the personalisation further.
  2. Put your money where your measures are – There are far too many companies opting to send emails to their entire CRM and hoping for the best. Outrun your competition by fixing your email ROI.
  3. Don’t expect it to happen overnight – The higher the focus is on email, the more people within your organisation are going to want to make it successful and get involved. Approval processes are growing as there are more touchpoints.
  4. More emails and more messages – Companies are investing more money in email marketing which creates a greater demand for more unique messaging to differentiate between each communication.

Understanding the Predictions

Personalisation for better traction

We’ve all become tired of hearing that personalisation is key, but Litmus has given us the stats we need to get our act together:

  • Almost three-quarters of marketers say personalisation in email increases engagement
  • Personalised emails generate a median ROI of 122%
  • Birthday emails generate 3.42x more revenue per message than a standard promotional email
  • Emails with personalized subjects are 50% more likely to be opened

These are impressive stats, but where exactly are these companies using personalisation in the email itself? Litmus’s table below outlines the percentage of respondents who personalise different sections of an email.

Personalisation 2019 2020
Name, company name 83% 72%
Customer status (e.g. prospect/customer, seasonal shopper/year-round shopper) 44% 49%
Past interactions with your products, services etc. 27% 40%
Past interactions with your emails 32% 39%
Past purchases 31% 38%
Expressed preferences via preference centre, profile, account etc. 25% 32%
Geolocations 36% 31%
Past interactions with your website 25% 30%

As we move from 2019 to 2020 we are noticing a larger focus on personalising based on customer status, past interactions and purchases, and from companies letting recipients choose what their preferences are. While personalisation of the name and company was nice to have, we are seeing more and more companies shift to deeper personalisation methods; and focusing personalisation on recipient actions is a much more effective way to serve the contact the content that is relevant to them.

Put your money where your measures are

The survey found that a whopping 45% of email marketers believed their measurement was poor, very poor, or non-existent! One of the barriers that email marketers face is not having an accurate ROI calculation, without this, there is no way to calculate the effectiveness of emails in terms of income.

ROI can be calculated by subtracting the email marketing cost from the total sales growth and then dividing that number by the email marketing cost. As shown below:

Sales growth from email marketing – Email marketing cost = ROI
Email marketing cost

Another issue that clients face is the inability to accurately work out the cost of email marketing. There are many factors to think about including fees for email marketing platforms, agency cost for email creation, and in-house resources. It’s not always a straight forward calculation.

Lack of resources is perhaps one of the biggest causes of not measuring correctly, companies know they should be sending emails out so they do what they can in the time they have, without prioritising measurement.

The top six email measures that respondents should be tracking include open rate, click-through rate, unsubscribe rate, click-to-open rate, bounce rate and conversion rate. These are all relevant vanity metrics that tell you how your email is performing, but tracking the cost to revenue will give the clearest picture on how your emails are impacting the business.

Don’t expect it to happen overnight – Creations and Approvals

Only a few will be surprised to hear that 30% of email marketers say that the approval process is too burdensome, especially within larger companies where the email teams are bigger and growing. Emails are just as important as ever but we are noticing more companies put a bigger focus on getting the messaging right, which of course means more people are involved in the approval process.

So what issues exactly are email teams dealing with?

Ad-hoc approval methods are one way that messages can get lost in translation, collating dozens of different pieces of feedback on a range of platforms is only going to increase the time spent implementing that feedback.

Last-minute changes, everyone’s favourite…! These are never ideal but often can’t be avoided. The daunting question of whether you send round for one last final round of approvals and risk another set of last-minute changes is probably a question that a few of us are all too familiar with. Setting specific approval timelines with set days that certain people need to send feedback by can ensure that feedback is sent earlier which will give you more time to implement the changes.

Even with a tight approval process, it’s still important to understand the cause of changes. Changes to emails can be caused by a lack of briefing or an unclear brief. Minimise the chances of last-minute changes with a tighter briefing process. Specifics on tone, target audience, and top messages that you want to communicate to the recipients can reduce the need for changes later on in the process.

More emails more messages!

According to HubSpot’s How Many Touchpoints Are Necessary? blog, businesses need around eight touchpoints to have success with a prospect. Increasing the number of valuable emails you send that prospect is one way that you can build up those touchpoints.

With an increase in email messages, there is more pressure to get each message right. One way that email teams plan to do this is through A/B testing, with a massive 90% of respondents already running A/B testing on their emails. If you’re not running these tests yourself, then it’s highly likely that your competition is, and all the time they are doing this, they’re getting more insights into their database than you are. To the 10% that aren’t A/B testing, jump on the A/B testing bandwagon before it’s too late!

When ramping up your email activities, it’s important to consider whether you have done all the right checks to ensure your email will reach your recipients. The goal isn’t just to make an incredible email that ends up in the spam box. Don’t let your emails get caught up in spam filters, and regularly spam test your emails to ensure you’re not making vital mistakes that are driving your emails to the junk folder. Check out the full Litmus report for drivers of emails landing in the spam box and how to fix them.


There you have it, email data and trends from a COVID world. I hope this blog has been useful at giving insight into what email teams can expect for 2021 and how you can get ahead of the game. If you have any questions on email marketing and how to get ready for next year, get in touch with the Napier team today, and to read the full report yourself, please click here.