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DMA Insight: Challenges and Successes Through the Lens of 2021


Over the last year, the pandemic has challenged many brands to think differently, and many, as we found in our Marketer Email Tracker 2021, have seemingly welcomed this.

While 2020’s metrics, analysed in the Email Benchmarking Report 2021, appear to show a year-on-year decline, the overall send volumes increased by nearly a fifth. Despite all the unprompted changes, it’s reassuring that emails’ key metrics remained so stable.

Indeed, data shows a significant uplift in total opens and total clicks – a success that validates the increased importance of email as a key channel, especially during the pandemic.

With this infographic, you can learn about the challenges of email and what its success looks like today.

Challenges: Old and New

When asked about the challenges to successfully execute their email marketing programmes, marketers were offered 16 options to select, which were grouped into six broader themes (included in the graphic above).

Traditionally, issues around budgets and resources have regularly been cited as the biggest challenges. However, this year, difficulties around data have grown to overtake (by less than 1%) these historical issues.

Indeed, the number of marketers citing ‘Limited budget’ has fallen from 44% in 2020 to 29% in 2021.

On the other hand, concerns around the lack of data, access to it, or its quality, have been mentioned by half of respondents (52%) – an increase of 10% year-on-year.

In addition, the focus on digital channels to reach and engage with customers has also led to an increased awareness of the challenges around the technology (38%) required to collect, manage, and utilise the insights data can provide.

A Challenging but Successful Year

In general, in 2020, the volume of emails sent saw a consistent increase (17%) compared to previous years. This is based on the nine email providers who have historically offered data for this study.

In particular, the Financial and Utilities sectors have seen greater than average increases. Travel has seen an improvement too, despite the difficult year when one might expect to see email volumes decline.

Despite the challenges all businesses have faced, around half of marketers report increases in many email key metrics over the last 12 months. For instance, list size (51%), delivery rates (43%), open rates (48%), and click-through rates (46%) have all increased.

Two key metrics have also positively decreased in the year: opt-out rates (25%) and spam complaints (29%).

Keen to stay up to date with all our insights on email? Check out the DMA’s Customer Engagement page. Here you can find articles and reports, as well as follow the ever-evolving relationship between the channel, consumers, and marketers.

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