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Key Insights: 2021 Strategic pearls on email and content marketing




30-second summary:

  • Consumers are becoming more conscious of how they shop, with an increased focus on small, minority-owned, women-owned, and Black-owned businesses.
  • Shopping this year has more sentimental value as shoppers look for a morale boost. Nearly, half, (43%) of consumers used shopping as a means to cheer up family and friends.
  • Mastercard predicted that 77% of Americans will choose to shop local while 75% of consumers intend to prefer shopping from businesses that share their personal values.
  • Email and content marketing have stood as pillars for brands through 2020, these will be a make or break factor for businesses to succeed in 2021.
  • Email marketing has an average ROI that is 4X higher than any other channel with APAC getting the highest open rates and EMEA winning the highest CTR.
  • The top seven industries in terms of open rates and CTR revealed.
  • Top priorities businesses must-have for email marketing 2021.
  • Lead generation, website traffic, and improving brand reputation are the top three priorities using content marketing.
  • 56% of organizations spent between $10,000 to $25,000 on content marketing.
  • Website analytics tools and SEO tools were the top two used technologies for content marketing.
  • 69% of businesses created content for “Top of the funnel” in 2020.
  • A drill-down of content marketing as a strategy and what makes content succeed in terms of strategy, views, shares, and more. Read on to unlock these insights.

We’re nearing the end of 2020 for good, and as we as people, consumers, and brands have learned, unlearned, and adapted to a lot of dynamics, this week we will take you through the pillars for brand success in 2020 – email marketing and content marketing. Their role in the minds of a more conscious consumer, best practices, and stats on what worked and what didn’t. Read on for a 20/20 strategic vision of 2021.

Consumers’ changing shopping attitudes

Consumers have shown exceptional resilience and adaptability to the pandemic and retail. Global payments giant, Mastercard highlighted that consumers are becoming more conscious of how they shop, with an increased focus on small, minority-owned, women-owned, and Black-owned businesses. 

In fact, shopping this year has more sentimental value as shoppers look for a morale boost. Nearly, half, (43%) of consumers used shopping as a means to cheer up family and friends while 40% shopped to get in the holiday spirit.

Mastercard predicted that 77% of Americans will choose to shop local while 75% of consumers intend to prefer shopping from businesses that share their personal values this holiday season. In fact, consumers would rather not receive a gift than accept one which has been purchased from a retailer that doesn’t align with their personal values.

Some key findings from the Mastercard study were:

  • Total U.S. retail sales grew 4.1% for the expanded October 11-December 24 holiday season, compared to the same period in 2019
  • 64% of consumers will actively avoid gifting cash this year
  • 52% of respondents plan to ship more gifts to their loved ones’ homes to avoid person-to-person contact (hence emphasizing the importance of free-shopping for online retailers)
  • 59% intend to spend the same or more money on holiday shopping (2020 vs 2019)
  • Almost half (43%) note having more to spend on holiday gifts because they haven’t spent as much as usual over the course of 2020
  • 82% said they are likely to shop online this year

“While the holidays may look different this year, one thing is clear – Americans are shopping with a different perspective,”

said Linda Kirkpatrick, president, US Issuers at Mastercard

Top cities according to holiday shopping spend

Mastercard Spending Pulse analysis of retail sales in the 20 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, where total retail sales grew 4.1% in October and cities including Atlanta, Houston, and Orlando emerged as leading the retail recovery. 

Mastercard analysis of top cities according to holiday shopping spend

As consumers become increasingly conscious of their shopping preferences and habits, the importance for brands to have transparency and maintain the same communication and language across all channels will be a high priority. 


Since content and email marketing have stood as pillars for brands through 2020, these will be a make or break factor for businesses to succeed in 2021.

businesses using a content marketing approach

Email marketing: Performance overview 2020 and 2021 strategy

Email marketing has an average ROI that is 4X higher than any other channel. SMB digital marketing, Sendinblue, analyzed the data of 691 companies across 25 industries in 46 countries over one year/through 2020 to release its 2020 email marketing industry report. Here’s the email marketing overview in a snapshot.

  • Q1 –  Open rate peaked in March with 28.05% while CTR remained low
  • Q2 – CTR peaked in June at 6.45%. Interest in offers and emails rose substantially
  • Q3 – The best time to update your contact lists, set up automation workflows, or run A/B test in your mailings as the majority of people ignore emails on summer holidays
  • Q4 – Fewer campaigns sent out compared to the previous half of the year. Email volumes peak in November. Sending times are of essence.

Key findings included region specifics and details about the best send times for B2B and B2C businesses:

  • APAC: Highest open rates but lowest CTR
  • EMEA: Low open rate but highest CTR
  • The Americas: Average open rates and CTR, but the lowest unsubscription rate (indicating more brand loyalty vs APAC and EMEA)
  • APAC send the most mails (47.1% of total email volume) and also has the highest bounce rate
  • “Fashion/ Beauty” has the highest volume with 796 campaigns sent, which represents 554 more campaigns than the median. 
  • “Insurance” has the lowest volume with only 70 campaigns sent, which is 172 less than the median.
  • Best days for B2B mails were Mondays and Tuesdays, early mornings
  • Best days for B2C mails were afternoons during the week, and weekends

email marketing overview - global and peek into 2021Top seven industries in terms of CTR

  1. Media/Publishing (9.34%)
  2. Insurance (8.58%)
  3. Household/Garden (7.81%)
  4. Electronics/Hardware (7.68%)
  5. Association (Club/Religions) (7.38%)
  6. Healthcare/Fitness/Food (7.17%)
  7. Fashion/Beauty (7.06%)

Top seven industries in terms of open rate

  1. Marketing/Advertising (38.10%)
  2. Association (Club/Religions) (36.75%)
  3. Insurance (36.25%)
  4. Electronics/Hardware (31.35%)
  5. Gambling/Lottery (30.70%)
  6. Event/Entertainment (27.70%)
  7. Agency/Consulting (26.25%)

Top priorities for email marketing 2021

  • GDPR compliant registration form
  • Transparency
  • Sender id variations ([email protected], [email protected], [email protected])
  • Personalization of subject lines, CTAs, linguistic style, and content
  • Direct speech and strong verbs
  • Aligning the link description and target
  • Link the full information for further reading
  • Automate the exclusion list to save time

Content marketing: Performance overview 2020 and 2021 strategy

Recently, SEMrush launched their ‘State of Content Marketing 2020 Global Report’ which analyzed 600 000+ tweets, 1,200,000+ blog posts, and surveyed 1,500+ marketers across the globe. Here are some key findings:

  • Almost 84% of survey respondents have a content strategy
  • Lead generation, website traffic, and improving brand reputation are top three priorities using content marketing
  • 56% of organizations spent between $10,000 to $25,000 on content marketing
  • Just 11% evaluate their content strategy as “excellent” 
  • Website analytics tools and SEO tools were the top two used technologies for content marketing
  • 69% of businesses created content for “Top of the funnel” in 2020
  • Strategy development is one of the top three skills required for a content marketer
  • SEO is the top discussed topic (18.32%)
  • #DigitalMarketing is the most popularly used hashtag (71%)
  • #SEO is the second most popular hashtag (62%)
  • 7000+ word articles got almost 3X more page views and 43% more shares vs 900–1200 word articles
  • Clear structures (H2+H3+H4) help improve content performance
  • One list per 500 words of plain text got 70% more traffic than posts without lists

What were the most effective ways to use content marketing in 2020?

These were the top five most-used tactics by digital marketing teams:

  1. SEO
  2. Repurposing content
  3. How to guides/Educational content
  4. Optimizing customer journey
  5. Video/Visual content

most successful content marketing tactics used in 2020 and how business will consider it in 2021

Top topics related to content marketing

The top three topics were – Strategy, SEO, and social media. While Tools, trends, AI, and content ideas were the lesser talked about topics.

content marketing - most discussed topics and insight into 2021

Tweets that win

Time is the name of the game for Twitter. What kinds of Tweets won the sweet spot on Twitter users’ timelines and devices?

Tweets that performed well

Top Google searches regarding content marketing

Even though Google being down recently made the rounds on social media but we can understand why – Google handles nearly 5.6 billion searches per day! Coming back to content marketing and search queries, these were the top three Google search queries SEMrush recorded:

  • Content marketing strategy
  • Content marketing agency
  • Content marketing examples

What kind of content performs best?

In terms of unique pageviews, articles ranging between 3000 to 7000+ words work well. However, articles that saw the highest shareability ranged between two categories – 1501 to 2000 words, and 5001 to 7000+ words.

If you’re looking at winning backlinks, articles within the range of 1201–1500 words championed these criteria.

Headlines that performed the best in terms of unique pageviews, shares, and backlinks were in these formats:

  1. Lists
  2. Guides
  3. Questions
  4. How-to

Headings (H1 tags) that were the best performing ranged between 10-13 words, followed by headings with 14 words.

Content with 6-7 images performed best in winning unique pageviews and shares.


For brands wanting to win with video content in their articles, adding 1-3 videos fell into the healthy threshold for winning backlinks, unique pageviews, and shares.

ClickZ readers’ choice for the week

2020 has been cold and marketers have been hungry for insights all year long. This week, our readers have been roasting their marketing marshmallows on the flame of forecasts for 2021 in terms of retail and digital marketing, with a sprinkle of some delightful thoughts from our interview with marketing leaders – eBay, IBM Watson, FILA, and Salesforce. Bon appetite!

  1. The digital marketing forecast for 2021
  2. Top marketers highlight 5 common themes about the impact of 2020 on business
  3. Five retail and marketing trends for 2021

Read More



What Not to do in Email Marketing



What Not to do in Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the best ways to speak directly to your audience. You can build a relationship with them and create loyal customers. It is also a great way to generate traffic to your website, increase leads, and execute large campaigns.

With all of the benefits that your company can gain from email marketing, it’s no wonder that 64% of small businesses engage in email marketing. However, there are still a few important things to keep in mind. In order to be successful, you should avoid these 4 mistakes explained by 97 Switch when preparing an email marketing campaign.

Talk About Yourself

Many companies fall into the trap of only talking about themselves. They assume that since their audience signed up for emails, they want to hear all about the company and the sales. While marketing your products or services is important to do sometimes, your audience is still looking for value.

Failing to foster a relationship with them by being too sales-y will lead to unsubscribers and a loss of potential customers.

Instead, it’s important to give the audience something in return for their loyalty. Exclusive deals and sales codes are appreciated, but they also want to see educational or entertaining content in their inbox.

One way to do this is by creating content such as “you asked, we delivered” or “your questions answered” to show that you care about your customers and the feedback they give you, and it builds trust.

It’s also important to speak your audience’s language. Sometimes, companies get too caught up in trying to sound professional and impressive and end up using jargon that’s hard to understand.


Using more simple ways to get your message across is imperative, as it makes the email easier to consume and thus more valuable.

Email Without a Purpose

While building relationships with your customers is one of the main goals of email marketing, you should keep in mind that they don’t want to hear from your company just for the sake of connecting.

Ensure that you have a clear purpose for each email you send, whether that be to inform, entertain, or motivate.

Being intentional about when to reach out includes sending timely emails. You should respond to relevant industry, company, or world news in a timely manner. Readers would find you reminding them about the last day of a sale important, and that qualifies as a purposeful email.

Part of proceeding with a clear purpose is also including a call to action in your emails. Your readers want to know exactly what you’re asking of them, and making it simple is the best way to get it. Beware of including too many calls to action, as it can be more confusing and seem more selfish than helpful.

Over Generalize

Personalization is one of the greatest strengths of email marketing, yet it is often overlooked. Simply including first names in an email makes it sound more personal and builds stronger relationships. This can easily be achieved using an email scheduling tool such as Mailchimp. Again, this is a way to build customer relationships. Research shows that using someone’s name in the subject line increases open rates by 26%. Be that as it may, personalization is more than just plugging in names.

Using an email marketing tool is also an easy way to utilize the segmentation aspect of personalization. By separating your audience into groups, you can categorize what they would each be most interested to hear from you.

It has been shown that segmented campaigns perform better than non-segmented campaigns. An example of this is categorizing your readers as beginners, intermediate, or advanced knowledge of your industry. Based on this category, you can send each segment a different email that would pertain to them more specifically.


Your readers will appreciate that your content is tailored to their needs. Imagine sending a beginner an email that skips over the basics of a process. They would be confused and find it very unhelpful.

Now imagine an expert who is wasting time reading the basics that they know by heart. They would become frustrated and lose interest in finishing the email. These are just two examples of using segmentation to better serve your audience.

Use Poor Subject Lines

Often, people will decide whether to open an email at all based on the subject line alone. A mistake that marketers tend to make is wording the subject in a way that sounds like spam, and thus never gets opened or reaches the audience.

As we mentioned before, it is also helpful to include someone’s name in the subject line. While it might seem like a shot in the dark to form an effective subject, there are a few tips for the best open rates you can achieve.

A good subject line should be short. The ideal length for a subject is 7 words, based on a study conducted by Marketo.

However, you also want to make it interesting so that people are curious and want to know more. This curiosity is enough to encourage people to read the email.

However, you want to avoid click-baiting your readers with interesting subject lines that have nothing to do with the content in the email. Make sure that your subject is also relevant to what you have to say. Otherwise, you will have the opposite effect you’d intended by destroying trust and losing credibility.

Being Inconsistent

Simply sending out random emails is not enough to see results. You have to stick to a schedule that your readers can count on and know when to expect to hear from you in their inbox.


The frequency can vary based on your industry and from business to business, but emailing at least once a month is recommended. The more you email, the more you will be on the top of potential customers’ minds when they need what you offer.

That being said, you shouldn’t always assume more contact is better. If your company emails are flooding their inbox, you can bet that they will either block the sender or unsubscribe from future emails. Finding a balance is key to seeing the best results from your campaigns.

You should also consider the brand voice that you are using to speak to your customers. If your emails all sound like they were written by different people, then it’s hard to gain the brand-strengthening benefits of email marketing. It is also confusing to your audience and makes it harder for them to connect with the company.

A good way to remedy this is to create a company persona, where you give a personality to the company that is sending the emails.

Are you funny and witty, or are you serious and somber? Consider strengthening your branding within the company before communicating it with the world.

Key Takeaways

You can’t expect to be perfect at email marketing, so don’t get discouraged if you find that you have made these mistakes. There is always room for improvements, and every so often it’s a good idea to evaluate how your email marketing campaigns are going.

Using analytics to track your results and adjusting your strategy will help you grow as you fix any mistakes you might be making.

By taking the time to improve your strategy, you will see the success that can carry across all your marketing efforts.


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