Ask the Experts: How do you think the email industry did during the pandemic?


In 2021, Webbula launched a video series where we sat down with email industry experts to discuss various topics within the email marketing world. Each month, Webbula introduced a new lineup of email experts with a new topic.

Follow along in 2022, for 12 new questions and a new lineup of email experts. Thank you to every email expert who participated in this video series and provided advice to other email marketers. 

Video transcription completed with Descript. 


HubSpot Video


Yanna-Torry Aspraki

Head of Deliverability & CBDO at EmailConsul


"The whole industry has done a lot. It has been the backbone of communication with customers or anybody who should hear your message. The one thing that was interesting to me, I guess the advice will be in the story, is as a deliverability specialist, people have usually called me when the problem has already happened, right.

The emails aren't delivering anymore; they're trying to figure out what is happening. With the pandemic, the people who were already following best practices [such as] cleaning their lists, having double opt-in, communicating correctly with the right message, the right people at the right time like we usually say, didn't have any deliverability impact during the pandemic. [For instance] when they switch, their tone of voice or the switch, how they were marketing or, you know, up volume, reduced volume, as much as people who were already not listening to best practices and then panicked, realizing they had to send more because social media wasn't helping anymore or in-store purchases were not possible anymore.

Those companies or senders had much more issues or saw deliverability as a thing when the pandemic hit and the first lockdown happened. So even if you don't want to listen to your deliverability specialist, following best practices is as simple as they may seem, really does help because when you need to pivot and change things quickly, you're going to be okay or at least more okay than most businesses who had to catch people's attention in the inbox."



HubSpot Video


Kristie Doak

Manager, Database Marketing, PGA Tour


"I think it was kind of one of the silver linings of it. It definitely gave us more time to focus on what we were communicating to our fans. And it really was our only way for us, being in the sports industry and having to kind of shut down tournaments for a while, and then when we came back to playing, not having fans at the tournament right away, it was our only means of communication.

I think that a lot of brands probably felt that way. It gave you a chance to look at your communications a little bit, refine them a little bit. For us, [it meant] finding out things that worked better than we realized at the time kind of thing. So overall, I would say it worked for us."



HubSpot Video


Skip Fidura, FIDM

Fractional CMO, NED, Board Advisor, Public & Video Speaking Coach, Event Host, and Keynote Speaker


"My big lessons from the pandemic - The first one is especially as senior marketers, those of us who are senior marketers, we should have pushed back harder on that ubiquitous CEO 'We care email.'

All I had to do is flip on the television to know that your store was going to be shut, that there were going to be service disruptions to your business, and my base hope is that you look after your own staff.

So by telling me that in your email, made me wonder, 'Oh, maybe they don't care about their own staff, maybe they need to tell me that they care about their staff to make themselves feel better.' You know, I didn't need, I didn't need that email.

Other than that, I think we could have been more responsive to the situation. We need to become more fluid as all marketers need to become more fluid, but email marketers especially need to become more fluid by being able to quickly identify what's working and, again, doubling down on those areas and backing off, but not eliminating the areas that aren't really working. Now, I think email really proved its worth during the pandemic and on the B2B side is, it's especially true.

All of a sudden sales stopped. They stopped having meetings. They no longer had the phone number of the people that are trying to call, and they just stopped. And they panicked, and email really stepped in to fill that gap with some good sales enablement programs, that amount to sales-led marketing automation they kicked off at the beginning of the pandemic.

I wish there was some way we could go back and measure it because I suspect it's going to be kind of a hockey stick kind of graph.

Similarly, in B2C, email became a more vital conduit between the brand and the consumer. So I think if anything coming out of the pandemic, it gives us, as email marketers, an opportunity to give back to the head of the table and say, 'Hey, look at what we achieved over the last year. We are a core part of not only the marketing mix but the success of this business. And we need a bigger voice at the table.'"



HubSpot Video


Gavin Laugenie

Head of Strategy & Insight, Dotdigital


"Well, I guess the positive thing is that we're still here. I still got a job. That's pretty much how we've gone. There's been a rise in sends. We've seen that within our platform and doing our benchmark report; we definitely saw a rise in send volume over March, April time in 2020.

But moving forward, more people, more industries have adopted the channel. They've tried to do more which has meant that our inboxes are all full up. We've got more being sent to us.

So again, we've had to listen more to our audience and segment and rely on our data a little bit more. By listening more to what our audiences are telling us, we're able to deliver more relevant content. It seems like a broken record every year. It's the same thing. But delivering more relevant content is definitely what we're looking for [and asking ourselves] if we have that more relevant content where we're talking to each individual customer in the right way, and we're delivering the content that they need.

It also told us that email is king. It will be king or queen, depending on how you want to look at it. But, because of that, we are sometimes overusing; as I said, our inboxes are more full these days, but it's meant that other channels are becoming more useful to us.

So if we start looking at things like live chats, SMS, push notifications etc., that is going to help us bolster the effectiveness of email. I've seen a number of clients sort of use SMS to drive people back to an important email that's sitting in their inbox.

And things like live chat, you know, offering people that two-way discussion piece is what has worked really well. Especially for retail clients, they've sort of taken the people that were working on a shop floor and got them to tend the live chat. They're very knowledgeable; they know the products inside out, so putting them to use on live chat has worked really well. All of this has helped to take the strain away from email as people have looked to use it more and more and helped to make it an even better channel. So we can cut through the noise into the inbox."




HubSpot Video


Magan Le

Email and Lifecycle Marketing, Bolt 


"I actually think the email industry did pretty well. If anything, it put a renewed focus on email marketing. I'm sure a lot of people have told you the same, but I mean like it's such a hot market for email marketing right now. So if you're new to the field, now's a great time to join. I just love that now email is rising to the top and there are a lot more focused. Businesses that didn't have email marketing teams before now have those teams because they realize how important it is, especially in this really digital world that we're getting into. And then I also love that there's been this renewed focus on content. So not just pushing a sale and being more human in general goes back to focusing on content versus sales. We're all people trying to live every day."




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Ryan Phelan

Co-Founder, RPE Origin


"We survived. That is the biggest win of all. Email marketers stepped up and delivered in the best way possible during the pandemic. Rounds of applause to them all because we made it, yay. Now we gotta keep going."




HubSpot Video


Tejas Pitkar

Outbound Marketing Strategy, Hurix Digital


"I think that they're pretty good. I think even marketing as a whole did a really good job during the pandemic. It allowed brands to communicate with subscribers urgently. It has improved the communication. Research shows that 90% of brands are trying to drive more empathy to marketing.

Even pre-covid, but now after COVID-19, we all saw the kind of entity and care brand show to the audiences. We struggled to do so effectively before, but email enables them to do it very effectively now. The lockdown channeled that. I think email marketing offered brands kind of a direct channel to quickly and easily locate the right message to the engaged audience. It allowed brands to reconsider what they wanted to say and deliver it very noninvasively to the customers. During the whole lockdown phase, marketers were trying the best to create useful, relevant, and entertaining content during the bad times for the subscribers.

When it came to store opening hours, curbside delivery, or daily deliveries in certain areas because some areas were more effective than the other areas, email was the favorite channel for companies to communicate and to use. So if we had 2020 Covid survey report that showed that almost 76% of people said email is the favorite channel to communicate with the brands during the pandemic, that says a lot because marketers started utilizing new tactics, like personalization data based on purchase history, real-time behavior purchase intent in order to ensure that they're bringing out the right products in front of the right customers, even though they
were just essential products but then it required a bad time.

I think companies did a really good job doing that using email. Email drove a lot of change and revenue for online businesses during the whole pandemic and lockdown phase. Even offline stores to go online and use email marketing as a channel to start their own digital footprint.

Email proved to be really cost-effective of all the marketing channels during the whole pandemic era and it offered great returns. It just dominated all the challenges during the pandemic at the time."



HubSpot Video


Jenna Tiffany 

Founder & Strategy Director, Let's Talk Strategy


"I really think email stood very strong during the pandemic. I think there are a lot of other marketing channels that didn't necessarily go particularly well. Email was that one constant channel and has always been this one constant channel, but I think the pandemic really highlighted to organizations that maybe, have dipped their toe at using email or maybe haven't put it as an important marketing channel to include.

And it was the main channel to communicate changes to customers. It was the main channel used to communicate if any potential new loyalties or stores closing, or actually, [informing staff and the public about] we need to reinforce these new different types of rules [covid guidelines] in our stores.

Email was used as communication tool for that. And it's used all the way through the customer journey, which I think a lot of organizations typically forget. So for me, email stood really strong. It demonstrated what it can do. And as an agency, we've actually seen a huge influx of organizations really wanting to either ramp up their current email marketing activity as a result or use email marketing because they haven't done so in the past and see how valuable it can be."



HubSpot Video


Chad S. White

Head of Research, Oracle Marketing Consulting


"I was impressed and heartened by how well brands pivoted during the pandemic, especially in the early months. I thought the brands did just a fantastic job in late March into April and May and June really recognizing how their subscribers, how their customers were being affected, and you know, what their lives were like. I really saw this massive sea change and the language that brands were using for the content they were putting in their emails. You saw a lot of messages that provided comfort and support and even a bit of distraction in addition to trying to continue to serve their customers in novel ways. And sometimes introducing new products or new product offerings or new services that they didn't offer before, certainly things like curbside and same-day delivery became very popular as the months went on. But it was really kind of special to see brands tuned in. And of course, they should always be tuned in to what their subscribers and their customers are thinking and feeling, but it was great to see in that moment, as a heightened focus, and you could really see the fruits of that.

So that was fantastic and I do see a lot of marketers starting to kind of go back to pre-pandemic type messaging, and I hope we don't lose that focus. We should be gut-checking ourselves all the time to make sure that we're in line with what's going on and where our customers are at emotionally, financially, whatever it might be like. Always try to direct our focus towards them. And so I hope we don't lose that. I was just so impressed by what we did.

The other thing that came out of the pandemic was a renewed focus on brand building and this idea that you can strengthen your brand without always asking for that purchase.

I think these two things kind of go hand-in-hand sort of, empathy and brand building. And so it was really nice to see that. A lot of brands did a lot of good for themselves by not making it all about them and making it about their customers and subscribers. So I think those are two aspects I think were really powerful and hopefully enduring lessons that we can carry forward."

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