Continuing trends and new opportunities

Continuing trends and new opportunities

30 second summary:

  • In 2020, email marketing usage has increased significantly as the number of senders skyrocketed. Will this trend continue until 2021? Or should we expect another type of disruption in the coming year?
  • Based on the insights of several of our in-house experts at Validity, below are our top five projections for email marketing in 2021.
  • These trends include: inbox congestion, alternatives to tracking open rates, increasing email fraud, more targeted marketing, and increased use of AMP.
  • The top five email marketing predictions for 2021 and how these trends will affect marketers.

In 2020, email marketing usage has increased significantly as the number of senders skyrocketed. Will this trend continue until 2021? Or should we expect another type of disruption in the coming year? I got in touch with several of our internal experts at Validity. Here are our top five email marketing predictions for 2021.

1. Inbox overload

As email maintains its role as the most trusted digital marketing channel, especially during a pandemic, list sizes have grown significantly. According to our data, the global email volume has already increased by 25% year-on-year. And these numbers continue to trend upwards. This continual expansion in email volume will make it harder to get into people’s inboxes and it will be harder to get people to concern themselves with the messages they will receive in 2021.

2. Alternatives to Open Rate Tracking

The open rate key performance indicators (KPI) are becoming increasingly unreliable. At the recent Validity Summit, Marcel Becker, Director of Product Management at Verizon Media (which supports Yahoo! Mail and AOL) told us that actual open rates may be three times lower than reported. The causes include increased caching of images, especially on mobile devices, and bot-controlled logins that lead to artificially inflated open rates. Legal considerations can also lead to a move away from open rate tracking: in Europe, an open tracking pixel is viewed as a cookie, so certain consent requirements apply. We expect senders to focus on more useful KPIs than open rates in 2021, such as the time people actually spend reading and emailing.

3. Growing email fraud

In April, Gmail announced it had blocked 18 million malware and phishing emails a day – and more than 240 million spam emails a day – all of which used COVID-19 as bait. These types of attacks grow and evolve. Bad actors often impersonate a trustworthy website like the World Health Organization (WHO) by using a fake subdomain like We anticipate that legitimate marketers will take additional steps in the coming year to protect their brands, sender reputations, and customers from this type of scam by implementing a Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Implement conformance). The DMARC standard is designed to give domain owners control over who sends emails on behalf of their domains and their subdomains. At the summit, Becker said his personal wish was the 100% introduction of DMARC in 2021.

4. More deliberate marketing

In 2020, many brands realized that they needed to communicate more empathically with their customers: less sales, more focus on “We’re in, how can we help you?”. This won’t go away in 2021. In fact, we believe that many companies will be even more effective in interacting with customers in the New Year. Sign-up profiles are one way senders can segment their lists more effectively, in this case based on a subscriber’s intent. Did this person sign up because of a particular product being offered, an affinity for the brand, or some other benefit? Progressive profiling, in which marketers collect small amounts of data at a time, often through a series of forms on their website, can also help companies adjust email content, tone of voice, timing, etc. to better serve each audience segment. This type of intent-based marketing can help senders increase engagement, conversions, and reduce complaints and unsubscribes.

5. New technology

We expect more senders to use Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for email in 2021 to deliver rich and engaging inbox experiences. With AMP for email, consumers don’t have to click a link and wait for a webpage to load. Instead, companies like, Pinterest, Doodle, and Babylon Health weave website-like functionality into the email itself, including drop-down lists, carousels, and customer surveys that increase engagement and reduce friction in the sales process.

We’ll also see greater adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for things like subject and heading optimization, as well as augmented reality (AR) to bring more in-store experience to the inbox to try on.

To stand out in crowded inboxes in 2021, senders will be deploying new technology and getting to know their customers better to make messages more relevant, compelling, and actionable. To do this, marketers need good, clean data and a way to understand everything. And they need to protect their brands, customers, and reputation from fraudulent email activity. That way, they can take advantage of the power of email to engage more closely with customers, which ultimately benefits everyone.

Guy Hanson is VP of Customer Engagement at Validity.