SparkPost, the world’s largest email delivery and analytics platform delivering nearly 40 percent of the world’s email, today released its annual Email Benchmark Report, titled Email in 2021 – The Trends, Behaviors and Benchmarks Shaping Email in 2021. The report looks closely at email marketing trends as a response to digital marketing opportunities in the wake of COVID-19, and includes important business data resulting from two key global surveys targeting marketing leaders and email practitioners on pandemic-driven changes to business and investment changes, workloads for both groups, and changing outlooks for the 2021 market. The marketing leaders survey, which polled 1,000 global leaders, found that despite economic and environmental challenges in 2020, businesses are still succeeding, largely due to the realization that investments into digital and email marketing were/are necessary to scale to meet the needs given the emergence of COVID-19.
2020 Has Presented Challenges, but also Opened Doors to New Opportunities
While it’s clear that 2020 has become one of the most challenging years in recent memory, business leaders and practitioners alike have quickly embraced and adapted to change. Shifts to digital-everything, both personally and professionally, have increased pressure on marketers to invest and perform. CMOs and Marketing VPs around the world have quickly recognized the worthwhile channels for increased martech investments, better positioning their organizations to succeed both in the short and long term. Email marketing has again taken center stage, as organizations of all types have leaned heavily on the communication channel to educate, inform, engage and transact.
- 58% of global leaders note email marketing efforts drive value and positive impact to their business
- 59% of email practitioners say email is a main source of revenue
- On average, 75% of marketing leaders have had to reallocate or adjust budgets because of COVID-19
- Specifically, 44% of leaders note they have increased their email marketing budget in 2020
Increasing investments across digital marketing piqued in several areas specifically, leading with social media marketing, communications, digital marketing and advertising and email marketing. The combination of these investments is a ‘fire on all cylinders’ approach that leaders are betting on. The strategy largely reflects the fact that the majority of the world’s population is simply online more — turning to digital channels for communicating, shopping, entertainment, and staying informed.
While Most Feel Overworked, Practitioners are More Likely to Feel Overwhelmed
Marketing teams have made significant changes to team size and marketing investments in 2020, spotlighting the channels that show the most promise and success. Digital channels and email marketing specifically have experienced a natural, yet dramatic, uptick in workload:
- 61% of marketing leaders have had to make changes to team size due to changing business environments
- 60% of leaders report their email marketing team’s workload has increased and they’re “busier than ever.” However, practitioners tell a different story, with nearly 3 out of 4 (72%) saying their workloads have increased
- 49% of marketing departments that have experienced team size changes in 2020 grew, agreeing with the sentiment “we’ve seen the workload grow beyond what our previous team could handle”
Success Measurement Changes
The topic of measuring success continues to be a top priority for marketing leaders, with email practitioners feeling the weight articulating their value up the chain to justify investments or to encourage adding resources of both budget and manpower. Despite knowing that email marketing is business critical and driving significant value for the business, data shows marketing leaders are still a bit out of touch, with many not feeling the need to understand the details of their email marketing program.
- Nearly half of marketing leaders (44%) either report their organization hasn’t yet developed a way to estimate the value of an email address, with 50% of them simply feeling that the accrued marketing cost of obtaining and nurturing an email address is a figure that is “meaningful”
- Somewhat concerning is the low rate of changes in measurement. Given how dramatically the environment – and business itself – has changed in the last 12 months, only 51% of leaders report they have changed the way they measure email marketing since the start of COVID-19. That figure is even lower among the practitioner set — 44% say that they haven’t measured performance any differently than in years past
The data that stems from email often serves as the foundation for all marketing communications and personalization. It’s the fastest, easiest way to determine things like segmentation, engagement, campaign success, and trends in spending. It’s insights are often invaluable to business.
Clear Opportunity to Tighten Alignment For Positive Outcomes in 2021
Most leaders have made changes to be more proactive and hands-on with the work their teams do: 49% of them meet with their teams weekly; 23%, daily. Tight collaboration during pivotable times throughout 2020 has yielded present-day success and optimism for the future.
- 88% of leaders say their teams have been successful despite changes brought on by COVID-19. Practitioners are noticeably harder on themselves, with only 64% of practitioners agreeing they’ve been successful
This strong performance, obtained in the face of many unforeseen obstacles, has leaders quite bullish on succeeding to more stability and predictability in 2021. It’s unclear whether the notion of “going back to normal” in business is truly attainable in the next year but, for better or worse, leaders are seemingly confident marketing budgets and priorities will be reinstated to pre-COVID standards some time in 2021.
- 42% of leaders agree 2021 budgets and priorities will return to ‘normal’; 26% feel the changes they’ve made to be more permanent
- From a practitioners point of view, there’s a much higher level of uncertainty: 30% agree that COVID-triggered changes are here to stay and only 19% share leadership’s optimism that budget and priorities will return to pre-COVID standards in 2021
Despite The Unforeseen Stress of 2020, People are Happy
Stress has been an integral theme of 2020 which could be mapped back to increasing amounts of work, major marketing team shake-ups, or the ever-challenging impacts of COVID-19 and the resulting economic fallout. Surprisingly, people are generally steadfast in finding comfort and joy in their work.
- 83% of leaders report company growth where they have received a promotion, citing they are ‘happy’
- 81% of practitioners note they’ve “had personal opportunity to up-level their work” and are ‘happy’
“Digital marketing has taken off in new and unexpected ways in 2020, largely due to the effects of a pandemic that forced us all to dig deeper, get creative, and be laser focused on making the best of unplanned circumstances,” said George Schlossnagle, Co-Founder and Chief Evangelist at SparkPost. “It’s clear that with greater purpose and tighter collaboration, digital marketers have risen to the challenge of delivering email and digital marketing experiences that allow organizations to thrive. As we ready ourselves for 2021, email marketing specifically shows increasing promise and value, and the better it’s understood on the leadership level, the more well-positioned the business is to succeed long term.”
Download the SparkPost Report “Email in 2021 – The Trends, Behaviors and Benchmarks Shaping Email in 2021.”