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Ilma · 12 min read · Tips and resources · December 29, 2020

5 email marketing trends to help you plan 2021 campaigns

Email sending volume increased by 45% in 2020 compared to the last year.

During the uncertainty of the pandemic, businesses needed to shift their strategy and reach out to their current customers. Email became the main channel to inform people about new working hours, new online opportunities, virtual events, etc. 

So, how will the changes of 2020 inform your email approach in the coming year? We’ve identified 5 trends that will help you plan your email marketing strategy for 2021.

Due to social media’s unclear algorithms and privacy issues, businesses still choose email marketing campaigns to talk with their customers. In fact, it’s on the rise! Email sending volume increased by 45% in 2020 compared to the last year. 

Moreover, we saw that people choose email as a favorable medium to get information. The number of monthly subscribers collected has grown by 40% since February, and it’s still increasing: 

Graph showing subscribers collected from January to October 2020

Our marketers are also looking for new ways to collect emails and stay engaged with their customers. In 2020, the number of landing pages grew by 70% since 2019. And the number of pop-ups grew by 75%!

As a result, e-commerce orders via email tripled this year. We can see that the numbers of both orders and unique buyers are growing. With widespread social distancing restrictions in place, people are now more likely to buy online, rather than go to physical shops. The e-commerce industry is here to stay, and it's growing! 

Graph showing ecommerce orders and unique buyers from January to October 2020
How can I use this trend?
  • 2020 has shown that people are signing up for email newsletters more than ever. Make the most of this trend in your email marketing efforts by setting up more webforms and landing pages, so that your audience can easily sign up to join your email list.

Check out this email sent by Bill Gates. Would you click the link?

GatesNotes email newsletter black and white insider edition

In fact, 1,119,245 people have watched the video since August 30th. The email content is authentic and engaging, and it offers something valuable to the people who read it. 

Remember, you trade your email for your audience’s time. If they have made the effort to open your email, you should be giving them enough value to make it worth their while. If your email wasted their time, they won’t open the next one. 

Subscribers have always expected to receive authentic and valuable content, but in 2020, it became even more of a priority.

McDonald’s get their customers involved by incorporating user-generated content into their emails. It’s a win-win tactic. People join their email list to see their Instagram photos featured, and it gives McDonald’s free interactive content for their email marketing. If you have a big following on social media, think about getting your followers involved with interactive emails

McDonald's email newsletter red and collage

In 2020, Shopify started an email series talking about different business trends. For example, in the email below they talk about what doormats people buy, and how to promote them. This is how they contribute to the success of e-shops and it results in Shopify’s growth. 

Shopify email newsletter home sharing graphic analysis

Robinhood, an investing app, sends the daily email Robinhood Snacks, a 3-minute newsletter with fresh takes on the financial news you need to start your day. This way they stay on top of the audience's mind as experts in financial services.

Robinhood email newsletter snacks green letters
How can I use this trend?
  • Think about how you can help your audience succeed. Can you help them to save time, be entertained or more connected and involved?.

  • Create email content that uses your knowledge, personality and community.

Due to Covid-19, many traditional newsrooms and publications have experienced hard times. In 2020, several prominent business, technology and political journalists have left their news companies to launch their own paid newsletters. Some people are saying that email is the future of journalism. It’s a way for writers to express their independent views and have a stable income. 

Usually, paid newsletters are based on niche topics with a very specific target audience. For example, Sinocism is a paid newsletter that talks about the business environment in China. On average people pay 10-20 USD/month for this newsletter. This year we released an integration with Stripe that allows our customers to create paid newsletters. We believe that it will become more and more common for email subscribers to pay for valuable information. 

Other newsletters with wide audiences can include ads. For example, the Skimm is a daily newsletter for millennial females that want to get “a digest of news stories intended to be simple and easy to read.” They have more than 20m users and an open rate of 30-40%. Their engaged audience is a big asset right now. Advertisers have to join a waiting list to buy ads in the newsletter. 

How can I use this trend?

Since email marketing is their core business, it’s worth subscribing to some paid or popular newsletters to get inspiration and best practices for your own emails. See how they use referrals to grow their email lists, how they use surveys in emails and how they write engaging copy. For example, Skimm has a special promotion where if you get 10 of your friends to sign up, you get an online wine tasting session with a celebrity.

Here are some newsletters that are worth following:

Email’s biggest advantage as a marketing tool is that you can automate personalization at scale. This means sending targeted emails to each subscriber. You can have millions of subscribers and still make each one feel special.

Since February, the number of email automations at MailerLite has grown by 60%. I’ve seen marketing automation done by one of our customers that lasts for a year. You can see how she took the time to think about the logical workflow and create personalized emails. After the automation was set up, she could sit back and let her emails do the work, giving her more time to focus on her business. 

In 2020 we introduced MailerSend, a new kind of transactional email service. These automated emails have the technical bells and whistles that developers love, but also the drag & drop editor to easily create and edit emails for everyone. Now it’s much easier to get creative with transactional emails. I do believe that these automated emails are a missed opportunity for most businesses. 

Recently I received an email from Epic, an app that my son uses to read English books. I was a proud mom to read the email and pay for more books to add to the app. Everyone is happy: mom, child and Epic:

Epic newsletter white background

Here’s Patreon’s email with a monthly invoice. The link to tweet about it is a very smart way to make me brag about how kind I am, promote the initiatives I support and grow the community of Patreons.

Patreon email newsletter minimalist light blue button

This is the automatic tweet that you get when you click on the link.

Automatic tweet from Patreon showing yellow gold image
How can I use this trend?
  • Know your customer journey and use emails to stay connected throughout the process. Use automated emails to send personalized messages to your audience.

  • In addition to saying thank you on your welcome email, include a call-to-action or a survey to get to know them better.

  • Double-check your transactional emails and think about how they could become more creative and engaging to grow your business.

There are 40-50 new products launched on ProductHunt daily. More and more tools are thinking about non-technical users and how to enable them to create products independently. No-code tools enable you to build websites and web apps without writing a single line of code.

Instead of investing in all-in-one tools, businesses are choosing to combine the best-in-breed tools to reach their marketing goals. The Swiss Army knife approach doesn't work as well. Why not integrate the best tools to create your own custom stack?

In 2020, MailerLite was included among the TOP 10 apps with the fastest growth on Zapier. This tells us that people prefer to integrate separate tools. Check out this article about our Zapier integration update, if you want to use it to improve your process. 

Here are some examples of our customers that joined MailerLite in 2020 and were created only with no-code tools.

  • Unicorn Factory is a freelancer marketplace from New Zealand that was built using entirely no-code tools.

  • Say Thanks is an Irish gifting agency (by the way, if you are located in Ireland, it’s a great way to send a gift). 

  • Bad Unicorn was set up using no-code and is “The newsletter that brings the worst startup ideas to life every (other) Friday.” 

How can I use this trend?
  • Think of the ways you can use no-code tools to automate your current processes or to create new solutions for your business.

  • In early 2021, we plan to introduce a new no-code tool Ycode that you might want to check out.

Create your first no-code web app

Ycode is a new no-code web app builder tool that empowers you to create and host advanced web apps without writing any code or hiring developers.

Get early access

In 2021, we can expect to see a continued rise in e-commerce purchases and email signups. With email marketing as big as ever, make sure you stay ahead of the curve by adopting automation and personalization processes. Also, think about how emerging trends such as paid newsletters and no-code software could help your business. Happy emailing!

Have you heard of any other 2021 email marketing trends? Let us know in the comments below.

Ilma Nausedaite

I’m Ilma, COO at MailerLite. I love seeing our customers succeed. When they win, we win (like being named one of the top 5 fastest growing SaaS companies). Email is my passion, although I took a rather unusual path. Before MailerLite, I worked in finance and art, which turned out to be the perfect mix for marketing.