Consumer Email Tracker Series: The Relevance of Email Marketing | DMA

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Consumer Email Tracker Series: The Relevance of Email Marketing


This article is written by Saravanan Subburam, E-Commerce Content Manager at Pearson, who is part of the Email Council and its Research Hub.

Understanding how email marketing continues to be relevant during challenging times: Focus on the UK cost-of-living crisis

Email has remained the marketing channel of choice amongst consumers.

The findings from the recent DMA Consumer Email Tracker 2023 have conjured up some surprising insights with a strong preference for ‘relevance’ (55%) rated highly ahead of ‘offers’ (49%) which saw a decline from 2021 (53%).

From when the pandemic hit in early 2020, we began seeing a new trend of messaging around ‘relevance’, ‘helpful’, and ‘empathy’ which have re-shaped consumers' relationships with brands. These are all common factors that remain true today in many consumers’ inboxes.

However, the cost-of-living crisis has inflicted pressure on household incomes with increased energy bills, higher rents/mortgage payments, inflation at +10%, and rising food costs coupled with the ‘fall’ in real disposable income. This has influenced consumer behaviour in many ways, challenging consumers to change their spending habits and prioritise their needs.

Brands should take note that simply flooding subscribers’ inboxes with offers will evoke negative engagement particularly when basic needs are becoming unaffordable. This ultimately leads to fewer clicks and conversions coupled with poor deliverability when content continues to become irrelevant. It’s a topic where Russell Dawson (fellow DMA Email Council member) ties in the importance of using preference centres in the context of relevance; you can read Russell's article on The Importance of Email Preferences here.

This itself has created profound opportunities & challenges for email marketers to help subscribers navigate through these tough times.

What can senders learn from others to make email campaigns better, and drive meaningful actions? Let’s explore further, along with the use of examples, strategies brands can harness to continue delivering relevant and engaging emails.

About Relevance

Back in 2021, the DMA Email Council had an active discussion around the topic of ‘Relevance’ which manifests itself in many aspects in today’s multi-channel environment. In particular, the role of ‘context’ operates at both a global and personal level which has become highly relevant in the current cost of living crisis.

A recent study by the Office for National Statistics reported that 93% of UK adults highlighted the cost-of-living crisis as the most important issue facing them today, followed by the NHS (87%) and the economy (73%). This is further heightened by the news that almost half of adults were reported to be worried about the cost of energy & food. Brands have been in survival mode, with the emphasis on present and immediate needs, at the cost of longer-term planning and strategy.

In a post-pandemic era, subscriber needs are shaped by a desire for impactful and helpful content that goes well beyond just delivering monetary value. This is highlighted in the increased number of users reporting emails as useful, a jump from 15% (2021) to 32% (2023), reflecting how important email has become in keeping subscribers updated and loyal.

My fellow council member Kostas Karagkounis discusses further emails’ role in driving engagement and connecting consumers to other touchpoints as part of adopting an omni-channel approach; you can veiw this article here.

Brands in action

Brands across various sectors have stepped up, responding to the financial crisis by taking different approaches.

Be helpful

Early in the crisis, HSBC was on-hand to provide consumers with a dedicated cost-of-living hub, providing guides and tools to help manage their money better, and making financial support options available to them.

Be Supportive

Crisis (the homeless charity) highlights the real issues faced by people on the brink of homelessness due to rising living costs. The charity takes a highly empathetic approach encouraging supporters to help others struggling with basic needs by engaging in active conversation today.