4 reasons why email list hygiene is non-negotiable during the pandemic
Written by
Melissa McGaughey
Melissa McGaughey

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4 reasons why email list hygiene is non-negotiable during the pandemic

Published : August 25, 2021 | Updated : April 25, 2024

The pandemic has changed the way companies interact with their customer and prospect base. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is, an email hygiene service should be an integral part of your email marketing practice; it’s even more important now for reasons that this blog is all about.

Here are 4 reasons why an email hygiene service is non-negotiable during the pandemic.

1.  The number of internet shoppers has increased

The internet shopping trend has been steadily increasing since 2016. Statista reports that 6.4 million people have started internet shopping since 2019; we’ve gone from 224.1 million online shoppers in 2019 to 230.5 million in 2021.

According to McKinsey & Company, 75% of US consumers tried a new shopping behavior because of economic pressures, store closings, and changing priorities.

“Omnichannel retail” has been a buzzword in the retail space since 2015. However, the lockdowns of 2020 hit the accelerator on already evolving consumer behavior and shopping habits. Businesses needed to get in touch with customers and prospects, and digital channels, such as social marketing, email marketing, and SMS marketing, became the norm.

During the 2020 holidays, the spike in online shopping caused huge headaches for every part of the supply chain. National parcel carriers like FedEx and United Parcel Service saw a huge increase in demand and struggled to deliver packages on time. Consumers across the United States experienced outrageous delivery delays. As we prepare for the 2021 holidays, there is a possibility that we could witness a repeat performance.

What it means for marketers: Consumers have increasingly become more tech-savvy. Disposable domains (also referred to as temporary or throwaway email addresses) are becoming more common. In 2021, delivery threats like disposable domains made up a full 70% of the threats Webbula identified on its customers’ lists.

Disposable domains are harmful to your email campaigns because on the surface they appear like an optimal subscriber. They’ve double opted-in, they’ve clicked on your email, used your promo code, and made a purchase. However, after that first initial flurry of activity, they’ve gone quiet. This can be detrimental to your metrics, deliverability, and your sender reputation.

Email deliverability issues become dire when compounded with shipping delays. If businesses cannot communicate with customers about their package delivery delays, that spells trouble for the customer experience and customer retention after the holidays.

How an email hygiene service will help: An email hygiene service can help identify disposable domains as well as other hidden email threats, improving email deliverability and customer engagement.

2.  Email marketers are sending more emails than ever

During the pandemic, businesses that had long ignored omnichannel marketing as the way of the future needed to get on board ASAP. In response to the pandemic and folks being more active in digital spaces, email marketers have responded by sending more emails. According to this Litmus article, even industries that reduced their email marketing efforts at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, are now ramping up email volume. 

What it means for marketers: The same Litmus article referenced above states that email open rates have increased 4.7% worldwide. However, with Apple Mail Privacy Protection updates in September, businesses aren’t going to be able to use email open rate as a reliable KPI any longer. Marketers will need to rely much more heavily on other engagement and conversion metrics, such as click-through rate and revenue-per-email. Marketers will also need to ensure they’re sending emails that are historically successful in e-commerce email marketing programs.

How an email hygiene service will help: Increased email volume paired with the latest update to Apple Mail Privacy in September 2021, will call for increased email list hygiene practices to avoid getting blocklisted. Naturally, an increase in email volume also increases the potential for increased spam complaints, deliverability issues, fraud, and reputation threats. An additional layer of intelligence will help mitigate the risk of blindly mailing to dead email addresses recycled as spam traps.

Just utilizing a verification or validation solution won’t cut it either. Both services only help you to understand which emails in your list are valid or invalid. A true email hygiene service offers deeper insight into real email addresses (spam traps, bots, and disposable domains) that still click on your emails but are troublesome. If you pair a true email hygiene service with additional deliverability tools you’ll set yourself up for success.

3.  Unprecedented unemployment rates mean higher bounce rates

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the United States has seen unprecedented unemployment rates.

  • According to the Congressional Research Service, in April 2020, the unemployment rate reached 14.8 percent. This is the highest rate observed since reporting began in 1948.
  • In July 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 5.2 million people reported that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic.

What it means for marketers: Many of the business email addresses in your email database may belong to employees who no longer work for that employer.

There are a few things marketers have to consider when taking steps towards identifying and addressing these potentially problematic email addresses. First, put a plan into place about how you’re going to be handling inactive email addresses.

Frequently, after an employee leaves their position, the business will keep the email address active and forward it to another member of their team.  In some cases, you might get a reply email from the forward address letting you know that individual is no longer with the company and either a) update the address in your database to the forwarding address, or b) please unsubscribe that address from your list altogether.

The real issue arises in the case where either the email address was shut down or the individual behind the forwarding address doesn’t loop you in.

How an email hygiene service will help: If the email address is deactivated, then an email hygiene service will give you a heads up that that email address is no longer active.

However, if the email address is still active, it could start to cause some real trouble for you in regards to decreased conversion and deliverability rates. Worst case scenario is that the email address goes unchecked in your database for so long that it’s repurposed as a honeypot. Now, you have an unidentified reputation threat on your hands that could result in blocklisting.

The best way to avoid blocklisting is to incorporate frequent (every 3-6 months) email list hygiene best practices into your email marketing strategy. A true email hygiene service will identify spam traps and honeypots on your list before they become a problem.

4.  COVID’s ‘Delta variant’ contributes to an uncertain future

Despite the positive outlook from the spring this year, unfortunately, the pandemic seems far from over as the Covid-19 Delta variant shakes things up across the globe.

  • According to CNBC, “Parts of Asia that were previously relatively successful in containing Covid-19, such as the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, are now locking down hot spots.”
  • Army personnel will help police in Sydney Australia to check that people who have tested positive are isolating.
  • In France, the government is fighting a fourth wave of infections.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, does not think the US will need to shut down again as it did in 2020, but he warned that “things are going to get worse” as the Delta variant spreads.

What does it mean for marketers: The best way for marketers to handle uncertainty is to be as prepared as possible. Here are a few ways marketers can equip themselves for an uncertain future:

1. Revisit your best-performing emails from the start of the pandemic lockdowns.

Review email metrics and ask yourself:

  • What worked well?
  • What did not work?
  • How can I scale up what worked?

2. Prepare for the Apple Mail Privacy update.

The Apple Mail Privacy update will affect your email marketing performance. If you haven’t already started shifting your focus away from the email open rate and toward your email click-through rates, conversion rates, and revenue-per-email metrics, then the time to do that is now.

3. Clean your email list and enrich customer and prospect data.

We’ve talked about the benefits of cleaning your email list extensively throughout this article. However, a data enhancement service will allow you to append data, such as demographics, household income, state, zip code, and more. This valuable information will empower you to better segment your list and personalize your offers to your audience’s needs and financial means.

4. Invest in email deliverability and email personalization tools.

Email deliverability and personalization tools will improve overall campaign performance by prioritizing subscribers based on historical engagement. Powerful tools, such as those offered by Netcore, will deliver emails when subscribers are most likely to be active, increasing engagement rates.

5. Stay informed

Stay informed about lockdown updates, unemployment rates, and other events that might impact your target audience. Adjust your email messaging appropriately.

Email hygiene best practices keep you out of trouble, increase engagement and revenue per email

There’s no getting around it anymore. The pandemic has permanently changed the face of email marketing. An email hygiene service is an email marketer’s golden ticket to increasing subscriber engagement, improving email deliverability, and boosting conversion rates.

Get a free email hygiene test on your list.

About Webbula

Webbula is the undisputed industry leader in Email Hygiene, Data Enhancement, and Audience Targeting services. Check out webbula.com to see what Webbula has to offer.

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Written By: Melissa McGaughey
Melissa McGaughey
Melissa McGaughey is an SEO Strategist and Inbound Content Marketer with a decade of experience in B2B spaces. With a background in Agile Scrum methodology, developing processes and systems to streamline workflows, enhance productivity, and drive ROI is her jam.