How COVID-19 is Changing Email Marketing – 5 New Best Practices

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, email marketing changed in two very obvious ways that have impacted email marketing best practices for businesses operating in most industries.

First, businesses started sending more messages to their subscriber lists during the crisis. Suddenly, consumers’ email inboxes were flooded with messages from companies promising the brands were still “there” for them.

Second, unsubscribe rates jumped significantly across industries as more people had an abundance of free time to actually look at their email inboxes and click unsubscribe buttons.

As a result, email marketers in every industry, included cannabis businesses and cannabis-related businesses, need to review and revise their email marketing strategies and tactics to adapt with changing consumer needs and preferences.

Following are five new email marketing best practices to keep in mind as you develop campaigns in the coming days, weeks, and months.

1. Deliverability

Email deliverability is a critical component of every company’s email marketing plan. If people don’t get your messages, then you’re wasting both your time and money.

First, you should review email deliverability best practices and make sure all of your messages have the best chance to get to inboxes. But that’s not all. During and after the COVID-19 crisis, you need to take extra steps to ensure your email list is as clean and healthy as possible.

Take the time to ensure all unsubscribes and hard bounce email addresses are removed from your lists. Furthermore, if some of your subscribers haven’t opened your messages in six months or more, don’t send new email marketing messages to them. The more people who don’t open your messages, the worse your deliverability rate will be.

2. Purpose

Don’t use the coronavirus crisis as an excuse to re-engage inactive subscribers, and don’t use it as an opportunity to promote without purpose. Remember, people’s inboxes are overflowing with email marketing messages right now. Your messages must be useful or recipients won’t just ignore them – they’ll be more likely to unsubscribe than ever.

Every message you send must have a relevant purpose. Yes, you can send messages about special discounts or offers to help people during a time of crisis. However, don’t overdo it or your brand reputation could be at stake. You don’t want consumers to perceive your brand and business as opportunistic or spammy.

RELATED READING: How to Write Email Messages that People Actually Read

3. Testing

What worked before March 2020 in email marketing may not work today, so testing is more important than ever. In an April 30, 2020 webinar, Jay Schwedelson, CEO of Worldata, shared a number of data-backed email marketing tips based on results from over 200 million campaigns sent from April 1-30.

Based on the data, there are three areas where best practices have clearly shifted already:


Monday is the best day to send messages to get the highest response rate. This was not the case before the coronavirus crisis. Currently, sending messages on Mondays rather than Wednesdays delivers a 5% to 10% lift in the open rate.


Messages that are fewer than 300 words are best and get a click-through rate (CTR) of 2.5% as opposed to back in January 2020 when messages with fewer than 150 words got a 2.5% open rate.


Subtle urgency words perform better now and increase the open rate for B2B (28%) and B2C (32%).

Prior to COVID-19, words like urgent, critical, alert, hurry, serious, and rush worked well. Post-coronavirus, words like free, WFH, jobs/career, and you/your are the go-to words to create subtle urgency for B2B, while for B2C, the top subtle urgency words are free, mom, % off, you/your, delivery, WFH, and just for – in that order.

4. Transparency

Post-coronavirus, email marketers must be transparent but professional. Don’t send messages to your subscribers unless you have something meaningful and relevant to say to them. Segmentation and personalization are critical to ensure the most useful messages are getting to the right people.

Importantly, don’t come across as desperate in your messages no matter how much your business and finances are hurting during the crisis – so are just about everyone else’s.

5. Flexibility

Be prepared to change as the new normal evolves. Things may go back to the way they were and email marketing best practices could revert to what worked before COVID-19, but that could take a long time. In fact, things may never go back to the way they were when it comes to email marketing.

Testing is key to ensure you’re evolving with consumers and sending email marketing messages to them in the ways they want, need, and prefer. If you’re not flexible enough to change with them, your messages won’t get delivered. And if your messages do make it to recipients’ inboxes, they probably won’t be opened or your unsubscribe rate will go up.

Key Takeaways for Cannabis Businesses about COVID-19 and Email Marketing

Things have changed in email marketing since COVID-19. Cannabis businesses and cannabis-related businesses need to keep up.

Review the evolving best practices discussed above, make the necessary adjustments to your email marketing plan, and be the brand people want to see in their email inboxes because you’re sending useful, meaningful, relevant content.

To connect with cannabis and hemp license holders in the United States and international markets through email marketing and CRM, schedule a demo of the Cannabiz Media License Database and see how it can help grow your business.

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