The Data & Marketing Association (DMA) and Validity have published the latest Consumer Email Tracker 2021 report, their annual study into consumers’ interactions with marketing emails. Of the headline findings, the report shows that, for the first time, the relevance of received messages (55%) has become the leading reason consumers like brand emails, even surpassing discounts and offers (53%).

The report goes on to say that, with many customers having made the shift from traditional commerce to e-commerce over the past year, online brand presence has never been more important. In last year’s report, 55% of consumers cited brand recall as a reason to open an email. This has jumped to 68% this year, widening the gap with the content of the subject line (59%). Liking the brand (46%) is also a key driver for determining open rates.

Guy Hanson, Deputy Chair of DMA Email Council & Vice President of Customer Engagement, Validity International says:

“Whilst email’s dominance remains unchanged, the arrival of Coronavirus signalled major changes for global email strategy. Messaging focus has pivoted away from promotions to useful information about store closures, delivery timing changes, and the steps brands are taking to keep customers safe in-store. These messages, delivered with empathy, are addressing big changes in work/life balance that altered when and how consumers engaged with their emails.


“This report holds up a mirror to show what consumers really want to receive from their marketing emails, and smart senders will take note by adapting their programs accordingly.”

This latest report also indicates the continuation of some of email’s longer running trends. Nearly three years on from the GDPR coming into force and consumers are showing they’re becoming more savvy to the data collection practices of businesses, and how to opt-out. This ultimately benefits marketers, as the greater knowledge and control customers have over their personal data, the more engaged they are when it is used appropriately. The proportion of consumers wondering where a brand got their email from has dropped from 43% in 2017 to 28% this year. Most people (54%) now use the link provided to them to unsubscribe from email programmes, up from 39% last year.

Tim Bond, Head of Insight at the DMA says:

“The halo effect of GDPR continues to improve key measures of email’s success. Our most recent ‘Marketer Email Tracker 2020’ report highlighted rises in deliverability, response rates and conversions as a direct result of GDPR. We’re also seeing GDPR push changes in consumer behaviour, including greater importance of brand recall, increases in the perceived usefulness of messages, and a greater understanding of the controls available to them.”

Consumers also ranked the brands they believe are utilising email well. Amazon once again topped the list, followed by eBay, Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Asos, Next, Boots and Nectar, with Argos rounding out the top 10. Nine of these companies are Validity customers.