During this dire global health emergency, organizations in virtually every industry have been communicating with their stakeholders via email and have done so with urgency and precision. It’s no surprise either, given the email channel has unique features to support this process. Email is targetable and addressable. Campaigns can be deployed quickly, with flexible content, including video and links to detailed information. Engagement is almost immediately measurable at the recipient level. In all, the email channel is perfectly suited to the rapidly evolving communication needs of a public crisis.  

We’ve been tracking related email activity on our platform, and we want to share what we’ve been seeing. These developments are advancing so rapidly that we can provide only snapshot views, which will certainly have changed by the time you read this piece. But we have a clear sense of how various kinds of senders are deploying this messaging. What we see is instructive, but not surprising.  

As identified by certain subject line keywords, related message volume tracked on our platform has grown enormously.  From mid-February, weekly volume went from about 3,600 campaigns to more than 40,000.

COVID-19 email activity

Narrowing the focus to twenty-six industry sector examples, we’ve analyzed thirty-day related campaign volumes and read rates. Highlights:

Volumes

  • Almost half of related messaging belongs solely to the Social Networking sector, where network members receive notification emails regarding various Tweets, newsfeed-type items, and related shares.
  • Other larger-volume senders classify in Health and Wellness Information, Medical, Dental and Healthcare and Travel Services and Tourism.
  • Somewhat less prominent campaign volumes are coming from the Credit Card sector, Financial Institutions, Sports and Teams, and Airlines.

Read Rates

  • The average read rate within these volumes is almost 24%; that is, nearly one in four recipients are opening these emails. This is strong email engagement by any standard.
  • The highest read rates are reflected in three sectors:  Transportation-Airlines (35.1%), Transportation-Cruises (34.8%) and Food Delivery and Meal Kits (31.6%).
  • Strong but somewhat lower read rates occur with campaigns from Museums and Galleries (28.6%), Insurance (27.9%), Personal Care and Hygiene (25.9%), Financial Institutions (25.8%), and Performing Arts (25.6%).
  • The lowest read rates belong to the Credit Cards sector (11.4%), and to the Social Networking sector (15.3%).  Surprisingly low read rates are also occurring with Drugs and Vaccines (17.4%) and Health and Wellness Information (17.7%). 

COVID-19 email activity

Subject Line Themes

Most of us are seeing emails of this type in our own inboxes, and we know what they say.  There’s a set of common themes across all the industry sectors, but the sectors use individualized approaches.  Examples of these are noted below.

Themes from Multiple Sectors Themes Unique to Sector
  • Updates
  • Preparedness/planning
  • Response and safety plans
  • How to avoid/protect
  • Symptoms 
  • Travel safety/restrictions/advisories
  • “What you should know”
  • CEO/President messages
  • Openings/closings/cancellations/postponements
  • FAQs
  • Do’s and Don’ts
  • Supply chain impacts; store closings (Apparel)
  • Gift matching (Charities)
  • Delivery options (Food Delivery)
  • Diagnostics availability; educational videos (Government)
  • Effect on kids; health care workers; test accuracy (Health Information)
  • Actions taken; risk mitigation; loyalty status (Hotels and Resorts)
  • Coverage updates; isolation bed info (Insurance)
  • Effect on clinical trials; flawed test results; clinical characteristics; disinfecting surfaces; hospital preparation (Medical and Healthcare)
  • Drive-thru meals; pick-up options (Restaurants; Bars)
  • Message(s) from President/Deans; schedule impacts; travel guidance (Schools and Universities)
  • Banning fans/spectators; Olympics status (Sports and Teams)
  • Shortages/policies; supply chain issues; diet tips; how caring for crew members/customers (Supermarkets and Drug Stores)
  • Destination/route advisories; exception/waiver policies; flight restrictions (Airlines)
  • Risks; booking policies (Cruises)
  • Border closings; where to travel during: updates by region; facts about travel safety; financial impact on world tourism; event and flight cancellations (Travel and Tourism)

 

As noted, this health emergency is rapidly evolving, and is likely to continue for several more months at least. Communication will continue to be vital to driving knowledge, appropriate behavior and the safest possible outcomes and we have written some tips to help optimize content and deliverability during these trying times. Email will continue supporting that process, and we’ll keep tracking and periodically posting updates on this activity to keep you informed of how different industries are responding to this very fluid situation. 

~ John