Pandemic-Focused Email Benchmark Assessment

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Email Volume, Engagement and Inbox Rates Since March 2020

It’s been a while since we’ve provided an update on email benchmark trends in light of the pandemic and the ever-evolving situation that has unfolded over the last 16 months. We like to check in periodically to keep tabs on what is happening when it comes to send volume (grey background), inbox rates (red line) and read rates (blue line) by different verticals and specific niches within those verticals. All data within this update has been pulled from our highly accurate permissioned panel data. 

Let’s start with retail where we see online and apparel with a moderate, steady increase in volume outside of holiday 2020, where there was an expected sharp peak. Inbox rates have been steady for both and read rate has declined at an equal and opposite reflection of volume and inbox rate increase. 

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When it comes to uncategorized retail, volumes have fluctuated wildly with a trend toward an increase since the start of the pandemic. Inbox rates have remained quite steady given the volume fluctuations and read rates have slightly declined over the 16-month period. 

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The supermarket and drug industry has had the most drastic change among retail since the beginning of the pandemic, which is no surprise. Many people are moving toward digital engagement by ordering groceries and personal care items online and doing click-and-collect or having the items delivered. This results in emails surrounding the transactions that didn’t take place at such a high level prior to the pandemic, but also more personalized promotional communications by retailers understanding shopping habits. There’s been a steep increase in volume, steady inboxing and a slightly declined read rate. 

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Media and publishing has experienced some interesting changes since March 2020. There was a dramatic spike in volume toward the first few months of the pandemic with volumes moderately declining after the initial spike. It’s no surprise volumes were high earlier in the pandemic, as breaking news and information was being shared on a near-constant basis. There’s been a steady decline in volume since that initial spike with a strong and steady increase in inbox rates and a fairly level amount of engagement over the 16 months in the way of read rate. 

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Medical volume was fairly high throughout most of 2021 with a steady decline since the beginning of 2021. Inbox rates have been fairly steady with a marked dip in early 2021, and read rates have been steady since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 through mid-summer. 

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Social and review companies had very high volume at the beginning of the pandemic with a moderate, steady decline since. Inboxing has improved with the decline in volume, and read rates have been steady since the beginning of the pandemic. 

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In Telco we’ve seen wild fluctuations of volume at times with an overall steady increase in email volume if we look at it across the entire 16-month period. Inboxing increased into summer 2020 and has steadily declined since the fall of 2020. Read rates have moderately and steadily declined since the beginning of the pandemic. 

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Travel has been impacted heavily by the pandemic. Volumes decreased sharply early in the pandemic and have yet to completely rebound to pre-pandemic levels. Inbox rates have been steady with a very slight decline in read rates as volumes have started their rebound. Even with the seeming rebound of the travel industry this summer, volumes didn’t line up with pre-pandemic levels. 

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Automotive has been remarkably stable throughout the pandemic in terms of volume, inbox rate and read rate. We did see a sharp spike in December, but that is expected given the seasonality of the holidays. (A lot of lucky people get automobiles as gifts or year end or spend for business tax write-off purposes.) The automotive industry has been hit hard with supply chain issues, but email seems to be relatively stable even with all the challenges since the beginning of the pandemic. 

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While it’s had some steep dips and spikes a few times over the 16-month period, B2B volumes have been relatively stable, with only a slight decline. Inboxing and engagement have slightly declined.

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Entertainment has trended down nearly 20% since the beginning of the pandemic, which is no surprise, as this category comprises businesses like theaters. With the downward trend in volume, we’ve seen better inbox rates and read rates being fairly flat despite the volume and inbox rate fluctuations. 

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In Finance, volumes were steadily high for the first six months given all the economic changes. It has since declined, but leveled off to be slightly lower than the early days of the pandemic. Inbox rates have slightly improved with the slight decline in volume and read rates have been fairly stable the entire time. 

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Volume for Food and Beverage was up earlier in the pandemic as delivery services took off and dining transactions happened digitally. That has tapered off since the beginning of 2021 as many people returned to restaurants into the summer. Inbox and read rates have been mostly stable even as the volume has changed. 

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Lastly, Government, Education and Charities slightly trended upward until Q4 2020, where they had a sharp spike due to seasonality. Many people make donations around the holidays and to get tax benefits for the following year. In the US, the election cycle impacted volume in this category as well. Inbox rates have slightly improved, and read rates have slightly declined. 

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We will continue to monitor the evolution of email as we continue to navigate through the pandemic. With the delta variant spiking in various parts of the world and winter ahead, we will likely see more fluctuations in certain categories. We’ll be sure to keep you posted on what’s happening with email as a result. 

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