April 15, 2021

COVID-19 One Year On: Data Sheds Light On Extraordinary Growth in Digital Marketing

Use of push notification, email, and SMS marketing has surged during the pandemic, showing little sign of returning to pre-COVID levels when stores reopen.

March 11 2021, Indianapolis IN — Exactly one year on since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, new data from marketing data specialist Emarsys sheds light on how much brands have increased their use of digital marketing tactics like email, SMS, push notifications, and web notifications.

Since March 2020, all digital marketing tactics have increased significantly, but it’s mobile push notifications that have seen the widest adoption — with the number of pushes increasing by 78 per cent over the last year. Currently, this trend shows no signs of slowing down or returning to pre-pandemic levels, with mobiles remaining a vital part of both the online and in-store shopping experience.

Email marketing has also increased, with the number of promotional emails sent rising from eight to 12 billion (a 50 per cent increase) in the run up to Christmas. Even after this busy festival period, use of email marketing remained high, but appears to be slowly returning to pre-COVID levels.

A similar trend occurred with promotional SMS messages, peaking at 30 million ahead of Christmas (a 159 per cent increase), before settling back down to 13 million in January 2021.

In contrast, the use of web notifications has followed a different path over the course of the pandemic. Distributions of web notifications hit their peak towards the beginning of many global lockdowns in April, seeing an 81 per cent uplift compared to previous months. Here, their use passed the 200 million mark for the first and only time, before gradually settling back to pre-pandemic levels:

Commenting on these findings, Payal Hindocha, retail analyst at Emarsys said, “One year on from the start of the COVID-19 crisis and it’s fascinating to look back at how the digital marketing landscape has changed and just how quickly brands were able to ramp up their promotional activities.

“The pandemic had only been in full effect for a few months before vital retail periods like Black Friday, Christmas, and the January sales — and brands moved incredibly fast to make sure they had the right technology to capitalise on those opportunities.

“As physical stores reopen, we predict that the volume of digital marketing may decrease, but is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels. The genie is out of the bottle and marketers have seen the impact that these high-volume digital campaigns can have. Looking ahead, marketers will continue to use these tactics to drive sales both online and in-store. Now however, the focus will be on making these campaigns more targeted and more personalised, helping to optimise digital marketing against all sales — regardless of whether they’re online, on mobile or in store.”