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  • MailUp Statistical Observatory 2021: Email Marketing in the year of Covid
Paola Bergamini
13 April 2021
Reading time: 4 min.

MailUp Statistical Observatory 2021: Email Marketing in the year of Covid

Here is the annual analysis of 14 billion emails sent by about 11 thousand MailUp customers to understand the trend of newsletters, DEM, product sectors, e-commerce and much more.

In recent months we have often talked about how the pandemic has affected Email Marketing, determining the need to exploit the email channel as a tool for restarting companies in the new post-Covid normality.

Today we finally present the concrete data on the progress of email campaigns in 2020, to understand how much the health emergency has actually affected the performance of mailings over the 12 months of the year just ended.

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Overall trend of 2020 email campaigns and comparison with 2019

Global comparison between the metrics of 2020 and those of 2019 returns a delivery rate almost identical to the previous year (with a slight variation of + 0.19%), while regarding opens and clicks there is a marked improvement ( + 11% and + 13.2% respectively), a sign that in the face of an almost unchanged percentage of emails delivered, last year’s campaigns generated greater interest and were considered more relevant by recipients. Users’ responsiveness to communications received was also greater, with a variation of + 2% compared to 2019.

Delivery timing: how much did the pandemic affect 2020 volumes?

The study then focused on analysis of mailing volumes per month, to clarify how seasonal logic can affect Email Marketing strategies. In a year like 2020, this type of analysis has also served to understand whether the sending trend has been influenced and has followed the pandemic’s evolution.
Unlike what could have been expected, the most consistent volumes were recorded not in the first months of the lockdown but in November, in which about 1 billion and 326 thousand emails were sent, about 9.69%. This figure is synonymous with how much sales opportunities such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday and the Christmas holidays continue to be particularly incisive, confirming a trend that is repeated every year and has not stopped even with the health emergency. Indeed, we can advance the hypothesis that, precisely the presence of restrictions in what is characterized as one of the most profitable periods of the year has encouraged users to discover offers and promotions online through the email channel.
After November, the month with the highest number of mailings was July, while the one that recorded the least number of emails sent was, unsurprisingly, August, a period in which Email Marketing is affected by the closure of companies and the suspension of activities for summer vacation.

timing invio

DEM, newsletters and transactional: performance by email type

Among the three types of emails, newsletters are those that record the highest volume rate, confirming almost 70% of the total volume of emails sent also recorded in 2019. Data show that this type of communication has now reached full maturity, continuing to achieve constant improvement in all sectors.
Newsletters record a positive trend in all metrics examined; in particular, the click-through rate (which in 2019 had undergone negative changes compared to the previous year) achieves positive growth reaching a +22.4% in the B2B audience.
However, if we consider only the absolute values of the analyzed metrics, the best performances continue to be obtained from transactional emails, even compared to 2019, the results of this type recorded a worsening in terms of unique clicks (-8.9% in B2B and -19.9% in B2C) and reactivity rates (-19.1% in B2B, -28.9% in B2B and -4.5% in mixed). Unique opens, on the other hand, undergo positive variations in all sectors, confirming the fact that, by their very nature, transactional emails have a greater degree of relevance for the user.
Regarding DEMs, however, the results showed a general improvement compared to 2019, albeit with reduced sending volumes (from 28% in 2019 to 26% in 2020). The only metrics that record a worsening in the advertising world are unique opens of the B2B audience (- 0.35%) and clickers on B2C readers (- 5.18%).

Trend of mailings by sector: best and worst performers

Newsletter: best performer

  • B2BHealth and Pharmaceuticals. The Health and Pharmaceutical sector achieves good results in B2B throughout the funnel, particularly in the response rate of recipients. This is not surprising: the health emergency that characterized 2020 greatly contributed to increasing interest in communications in this sector.
  • MixedReal Estate Agencies. The high reactivity rate and relevance that this sector’s newsletters, addressing both private citizens and companies, continue to have, confirming the excellent results obtained in previous years, raise the performance of this sector.
  • B2CUtilities. The Utilities sector rises to the top of best performers in the B2B sector, confirming a record already achieved in previous editions of the Observatory and obtains the highest results among all sectors, with rates well above the general averages of newsletters

DEM: best performer

  • B2BHome & Garden. This sector performs well in all metrics, a sign of a return to the importance and value of the domestic realm as a result of the pandemic and restrictions on mobility.
  • MixedPublic entities. In the mixed sector, the performance of public entities stands out, especially in relation to the rate of unique opens, which is the highest of all sectors for the category of promotional messages.
  • B2CPublic Relations. This sector achieves very satisfactory results despite a health crisis that has limited many work activities. These performances are a confirmation of how professions that before the pandemic included a strong component of “in presence” social interaction and physical events, have adapted to the post-pandemic scenario, discovering the potential and effectiveness of the email channel as a tool to bridge distances.

Newsletter and DEM: worst performances


Training and Jobs
Unique opens: 10%
Unique clicks: 0.4%
Response rate: 4%

Advertising/Direct Marketing Agencies
Unique opens: 8.5%
Unique clicks: 0.4%
Response rate: 5.1%

Wholesale trade
Unique opens: 10%
Unique clicks: 0.4%
Response rate: 3.4%


Unique opens: 23.2%
Unique clicks: 0.7%
Response rate: 3.5%

Entertainment and Culture
Unique opens: 12.1%
Unique clicks: 0.5%
Response rate: 4.7%

Unique opens: 5.1%
Unique clicks: 0.2%
Response rate: 6.7%

Focus on e-commerce situation

The Observatory’s second focus was dedicated to the performance of commercial mailings in the e-commerce world, comparing results obtained by online stores that connect the MailUp platform to an e-commerce system with those obtained by companies where there is no integration between these systems.
The focus confirmed a trend already detected in 2019: best results are obtained by companies that decide to connect their e-commerce system to the MailUp sending platform. In particular, unique click rates and response rates (which reached + 40% compared to the previous year) recorded excellent performances.

Keyword analysis: main themes of 2020 email campaigns

In the last focus we took into consideration all the keywords used in all the emails sent last year and their degree of frequency, highlighting a clear prevalence of themes clearly linked to the health emergency. In particular, the keyword “webinar” was the real protagonist of the email objects, present in 0,72% of emails sent, followed by “covid” with 0,51%. What is surprising is the frequency of these themes in sectors that, before the pandemic, were rarely associated with these types of online initiatives and events, such as Tourism and Hotels, in which the keyword reaches eighth place among the ten most used, and Health / Fitness and Sport, in which it reaches third place, with a frequency rate of 0.50%.


In summary

Although 2020 was a very special year, the Observatory’s results reveal a positive picture for 2020 email campaigns, testifying to how mailings of the past year were not particularly affected by the health emergency.
In fact, we found an overall improvement in performance compared to 2019, compared to a number of emails sent that remained almost unchanged.
The effects of the pandemic on 2020 Email Marketing were found, in particular, in the anomalous performance of some sectors (Home and Garden and Entertainment and Culture) and in the most frequent issues (with keywords “webinar” and “covid” to assume the role of protagonists), while regarding the timing of sending and the e-commerce trend, the trends that have emerged in past years have been confirmed.

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Paola Bergamini

I was born in 1993 in Como and I escaped from this little town to study in Milan, where I graduated in 2017 in philosophy. I've always been interested in marketing and communication and I love writing and reading. As Content Editor at MailUp, I try to keep up to date with Email and Digital Marketing news, in order to share trends, theories and tools about this constantly evolving sector.

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