Email Marketers See Increase in Engagement During Covid-19 Crisis

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This post is the latest in our “Commerce and Coronavirus” series. It will be an editorial focus for the month of April, and you can see the rest of the series here.

In the middle of a global health crisis, email marketers are experiencing a renaissance.

According to new data from LiveIntent, email newsletter engagement has grown during the coronavirus pandemic. Newsletters in the health and fitness and “hard news” categories, including those focused on law, government, and politics, have seen a sudden increase in engagement and click-through rates on ads.

While millions of Americans are working remotely under shelter-in-place orders, email marketers have seen a 5% increase in newsletters opens. Health and fitness newsletters are seeing a 34% increase in engagement and a 46% increase in ad click-through rates. Newsletters focused on hard news are experiencing similar surges in interest. LiveIntent found that hard news newsletters are seeing a 23% increase in engagement and a 20% increase ad CTRs.

While it’s true that many Americans are finding themselves with more free time on their hands, LiveIntent Senior Vice President of Global Marketing Kerel Cooper thinks there’s more to the spike in engagement than boredom at home. With so much news coming in from every direction on social media, email can feel like a safe haven. People typically “opt-in” to receive newsletters, so they trust the information sources more than news sites they find elsewhere on the web.

As a “people-based” marketing platform that connects thousands of publishing and advertising brands with millions of people across all types of media, LiveIntent has access to data showing how click-through rates for the ads it serves in emails have changed over time. Cooper says that LiveIntent’s advertisers have been “pleasantly surprised” to find that people are engaging with ads served in emails about non-news topics just as frequently as they are in email newsletters focused on the current state of affairs.

“With Covid-19 news taking precedence all over the globe, we would’ve expected people to run out of energy after reading hard news, but we’re seeing that’s not the case, surprisingly,” Cooper says. “People are equally indulging in reading other types of news to take their minds off pandemic-related news when they can.”

Health newsletters give people the opportunity to escape the onslaught of coronavirus coverage, even if only for a moment, while changes in everyday routines are forcing people to reevaluate their workouts and nutritional goals.

“In these times, health and fitness publishers have been smart, creating content around how to stay healthy as people everywhere are spending all their time at home. There’s a hunger for that among the public as they’re stuck inside — to utilize and benefit from all kinds of fitness classes publishers are unlocking for them,” Cooper says. “Staying physically and mentally strong and healthy during these stressful situations is the need of the hour, and publishers are stepping up and making it convenient for readers.”

Email marketers should be careful not to make assumptions about sentiment given the limitations in LiveIntent’s data analysis. While LiveIntent can see that engagement and clicks on ads in newsletters have increased, the data doesn’t prove the underlying reasons why people are trusting email newsletters more than social media right now.

“Our feeling is that newsletters originate from publishers who the public has asked to receive content from, as opposed to social media, which has news shared by your friends but also by Facebook ‘friends’ you may barely know,” Cooper says. “This would explain why we see big advertisers trusting more in email right now. The inventory is secure and thoroughly vetted and not served alongside questionable user-generated content.”

As the crisis continues to progress and even more Americans are asked by officials to stay at home, Cooper recommends that more publishers consider bringing down their paywalls for visitors who agree to give out their email addresses. That information could be useful in the future, especially for publishers who hope to monetize their newsletters or grow their subscription programs.

“Publishers should pay attention to who clicks on how many stories and enter them into their database,” Cooper says. “They can pursue those readers as ‘subscribers’ once the pandemic is over.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.