At this very moment, you probably have hundreds, if not thousands, of unopened marketing emails in your inbox. Email marketing is one of the most important channels for digital marketers and it has only become more important since lockdown began as emails replace in-person engagement with consumers.
Most brands’ email strategies can be summarized as quantity over quality, but marketers can learn from standout brands not only in their own industry but from others as well. Gartner’s Digital IQ Index: Email Benchmarks 2021 shows how six different industries have adapted to the pandemic and offers applicable recommendations for digital marketers in these industries. Below are the rankings of the six industries and the top brand in each:
Retail is the top-performing industry in the benchmark as multiline and mono brand retailers dominate. Brands like Best Buy, Target, and Nike took advantage of the ample amounts of data to send hyper-targeted, relevant email updates. After all, you are more likely to open an email discounting a pair of shoes you looked at last week than another limited-time discount email on a nonspecific item. Retail leveraged both implicit and explicit data to inspire engagement, and had the highest year-over-year growth in site traffic from email, driving increased conversion.
2. Financial Services
Financial services as a whole performed nearly as well as retail and made up 5 of the top 10 spots in our brand rankings. Brands also saw increased traffic from email and benefited from having the highest open rates across all industries. Financial services marketers can push timely, targeted email content through their extensive customer account data.
For example, Bank of America — the number one ranked brand in this study — uses its app to collect granular customer data. Bank of America collects data about savings plan preferences via an AI tool within its app and directly references those answers in email subject lines. A millennial planning to save for a home will receive an email with a Life Plan to help work towards that goal.
3. Travel and Hospitality
One of the hardest hit in the pandemic, travel and hospitality brands that adapted quickly were able to find relative success in email marketing. The industry has the second highest number of total open emails but was not able to drive traffic to site as well as other industries. Top brands found ways to offer value to customers virtually or safely, usually in the form of free delivery or curbside pickup. Once people started dining in person more, Chili’s – the number one travel and hospitality brand – sent follow-up emails to customers after each visit rewarding them with a free appetizer, or dessert at their next visit.
4. Manufacturing and Natural Resources
Manufacturing and natural resources brands often struggle to collect the necessary customer data, but industry leaders have adopted some tactics from their B2C peers. Top brands leveraged the data they had to target specific customers and achieved email open rates comparable to its travel and hospitality peers. Milwaukee Tools, the top brand in the industry, uses a data collection form on its brand site to target specific trades in their emails, driving traffic back to their site.
5. Consumer Goods
Consumer goods also faces an uphill battle due to the relative lack of first-party customer data and owned commerce channels. Marketers in this industry had the lowest email open rate of all industries and suffered a decline in traffic year-over-year. However, top brands also emulate B2C brands by offering customer accounts to collect data like purchase history. Hint, for example, offers exclusive subscriber access to new water flavors and alerts users to restocks for specific flavors they had previously purchased.
Healthcare ranked the lowest overall. Brands in this industry had the lowest mobile optimization rate, despite being table stakes among the other industries. Healthcare marketers were largely unsuccessful in driving traffic to site from email, but top brands were able to push educational and targeted content that resonated with subscribers during the pandemic.