Let's Get it Started...Again: Tips for Keeping Emails Relevant During (and After) COVID

May 22, 2020
Written by
Will Boyd
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

Let's Get it Started...Again: Tips for Keeping Emails Relevant During (and After) COVID

The world has been completely disrupted over the last few months. With these disruptions, many email marketers have found it necessary to change their email practices.

While some senders have had to cut way back their sending during this time, others have seen their audience demographics shift. Others have found all-new ways to utilize their email program to build and maintain relationships with their subscribers.

Most often, these changes do come with some challenges. Below are some good things to keep in mind as we all work to return to more normal activities.

Volume changes

How mailbox providers, such as Gmail and Hotmail, treat your email has a lot to do with your recent sending history and reputation. Mailbox providers, over time, develop a pretty good picture of what is "normal" for a sender's email program. Whenever they see large, abrupt shifts in volume, this can cause issues with both delivery and inboxing.

To avoid these issues, it is important to plan out any significant volume increases so that you can execute that increase in a controlled fashion. If your sending volume doubles (or more) overnight, that can cause significant hardship in getting mail delivered.

If you need to increase the volume of email you send compared to the volumes you've been sending over the last 30 days, consider planning out your volume increases so that, from send to send, you never increase your volume by more than 100%.

In fact, if you can be more conservative and only increase your total volume from send to send by 50%, you'll see even better results. As you increase your volume, try to first target the addresses that are the most likely to positively engage with your email. These should be recent signups, people who have opened or clicked a message recently, recent purchasers, etc. As you work your way toward your target volume, target less likely to engage email addresses as you go.

Audience changes

I've worked with a number of senders who have noticed that the global pandemic has resulted in changes to their core audience. For example, a sender that typically markets their products almost entirely to businesses noticed a large uptick in orders from individuals as working from home suddenly became more prevalent.

This blessing did come with some challenges though. This sender, who typically sends most of their email to small business email domains, suddenly began seeing out of the ordinary results as both types of recipients (and the types of email addresses that made up their email list) changed.

Different email receiving servers behave differently–which means changes in your target audience quite often bring to light different opportunities for improvement that an increase in spam complaints or blocking rates might bring to light.

If you are a sender that has seen a shift in who you are sending to, it is important to pay attention to these new signals and listen to what they are telling you about your new audience. If you are seeing high blocking rates or elevated rates of spam complaints from recipients, it would be wise to explore why this might be the case with this new demographic.

Ask yourself if you need to change how you collect addresses to give recipients more control over what they receive from you. Or, maybe it's time for a content refresh to more engagingly speak to this new audience.

Context Changes

One thing I've noticed since COVID-19 disruptions began is that recipients seemed to be more engaged with their email inboxes. In general, I've noticed overall increases in almost all signs of human engagement with email such as open, click, unsubscribe, and complaint rates.
It seems that, with more time at home, we humans have been spending more quality time with our inbox.
Understanding that changes in recipient context often result in changes in recipient engagement can help you not only navigate the challenges of email marketing during COVID-19, but also help you adapt to future audience context shifts whatever the cause.

When considering context changes, first think of your recipients and what value your messages bring them. If your audience suddenly finds themselves at home more than not, how does that value proposition change? Do you have an opportunity to shift your message to be more value-adding? Do your calls to action make sense?

For example, sending lots of email to drive in-store traffic during a time of pandemic is probably not the go-to strategy. Look for ways to make your offers relevant to both your audience's wants and realities.

Consider shifts in how your audiences engage with your email. Is it likely that more people than ever are engaging with your emails on a mobile device? Is your content providing the very best experience for those mobile reading environments? Do your calls to action make sense for a mobile device?

Consider ways to not just design mobile-optimized email content, but how emails can drive engaging, relevant experiences that improve how your audience engages with your brand overall.


While change can be scary and often brings challenges, it can also bring opportunities. As an email marketer, if you can use the recipient signals and keep in mind how the ways in which they engage with both your email and your brand might shift, you can continually make adjustments to ensure the emails you send are as relevant and engaging as possible.

The more you work to please your recipients, the more email you will be able to get the inbox, and the more money you can add to your bottom line. For more tips on email delivery, check out our 2022 Email Deliverability Guide.

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