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Push marketing is finding a more receptive audience during lockdown … but it has its limits

by Ben Magnuson April 28, 2020

When the rest of the world went into lockdown in mid-March, we saw a dramatic shift in user behavior that showed people flocking to authoritative news sources, opening their emails and hopping onto social media to connect. Now, more than a month into lockdown, we took a look at what trends persisted and which have started to revert.

Email: starting to shift back to typical patterns

Inboxes were flooded with notifications from businesses and brands on how they were responding to the Coronavirus pandemic. Despite the wide reach of many of these communications, the data showed audiences were responsive toward them. Emails that mentioned the Coronavirus in the subject line were less likely to be sent to spam and saw higher open rates.

Weeks later, things have started to shift back to normal email marketing strategies. Validity held an excellent “State of Email” webinar detailing the changes.

Source: “State of Email” Live Webinar hosted by Validity

  • In mid-March, one in fifteen emails sent included COVID-19 content. Today, it is now one in twenty-five. Four percent is still a lot, but it has started to recede from being the exclusive topic in every email.
  • When audiences are interacting with their inbox is changing. Though most email blasts are still sending their highest volumes as business days begin, Validity found that emails sent earlier and later in the day were seeing good inbox placement numbers, with 4 pm currently being the best time.
  • Open Rates on COVID-19 emails are still “noticeably higher” and 15 percent less likely to be sent to Spam. However, this trend reverses on weekends, where engagement is noticeably worse.

This doesn’t mean you should just include Coronavirus in your subject lines. Industries that have helpful information such as Government, Education, Professional Services, etc. are still welcomed by audiences. On the flipside, Validity found Software and Apparel companies sending out fewer emails with less COVID tailored content.

Takeaway: Companies with relevant information on the response to COVID-19 are finding an appreciative audience. But industries without that angle are choosing to wait it out for a more appropriate time to engage. Brands don’t want to risk becoming a meme.


Telemarketing: a yearning for human connection during lockdown

The isolation from the lockdown has left everyone eager for a human connection. Even, as it turns out, with telemarketers.

Source: “Isolated by Coronavirus, Frightened Americans Welcome Calls From Phone Banks” by The Wall Street Journal

Telecommunication may not be a digital channel per se, but this is still an interesting trend worth pointing out. The Wall Street Journal reported via Consumer Research firm Dynata that “response rates for consumer surveys conducted by landline have tripled since February, from below 2 percent to nearly 6 percent. Cellphone response rates have jumped from 2.5 percent to more than 7 percent.”

Although Chatbots have been growing in popularity thanks to their ability to help businesses scale to the demand, having a human touch may be a welcomed and powerful way to connect to customers. As the WSJ reported earlier, the phone may be making a comeback as a way to communicate.

“Data shows that people all over the U.S. are doing the same thing. Verizon says it has seen an average of 800 million wireless calls daily on recent weekdays, nearly twice the volume of Mother’s Day.”

Takeaway: Phonebank employees are often playing duel-roles as counselors on their calls, including listening to stories of medical and financial distress. Many are even risking their health to work themselves. So, while starting up a cold-calling operation may not be a solution, finding ways to create that human connection and creating a personal touch may go a long way with your customers and audience.


One North has been keeping track of how user engagement has been shifting during the lockdown from COVID-19.

Ben Magnuson
Associate Director, Data Strategy

As Associate Director, Data Strategy at One North, Ben supports clients by applying a strong data focus to marketing initiatives across channels and tools. He starts by gaining an understanding of each client’s unique goals and tactics, and guides them toward a strategic analytics program. He focuses on the creation of a meaningful feedback loop to help support and steer decision-making.

Key Takeaways
  1. Companies with relevant information on the response to COVID-19 are finding an appreciative audience via email.
  2. However, industries without that angle should wait it out for a more appropriate time to engage.
  3. Although Chatbots have been growing in popularity and can help businesses scale their customer service efforts, finding ways to create a human connection and add a personal touch will go a long way with your audiences.