My Biggest Takeaways from the State of Email Live, Episode Three

Hi again, friends. Validity hosted another episode of their State of Email Live webinar series, and this time, we had a guest. Validity Director of Privacy Matthew Vernhout hosted a discussion with Greg Kimball, senior director of product management, and Carel Bitter, chief data officer at Spamhaus, where they built on the data we’ve been looking at over the course of the series, and examined spam and phishing trends over the last few weeks. With six weeks of data trends and access to insider intel from a well-known blacklist, some surprising things came to light for me.

COVID-related emails are still more likely to be opened, but that margin is decreasing.

The last time we checked in on the open rate performance of COVID-19 email, they were more than 20% more likely to be opened than run-of-the-mill email. While those topical emails are still outperforming general messages, it’s by a smaller percentage, something closer to 15%. While it’s not a dramatic drop in interest, it could indicate fatigue is setting in again, and audiences are less likely to be interested in what brands have to say about COVID-19 as the weeks start to drag on.

Similarly, the likelihood COVID-related emails will be marked as spam is ticking upward.

Much like the previous stat, recipients’ patience with coronavirus emails is seemingly wearing thin. Last time we checked in on the state of email, they were nearly 15% less likely to be marked as spam as other, non-COVID email. People were clearly more willing to give those emails a chance when they arrived in their inboxes. But today, that margin is closer to 5%, with COVID-related emails inching closer to being treated like any other message in the inbox, so it looks like its spam complaint grace period is coming to an end.

Malicious emails are a-plenty, but phishing and spoofing might not be the only threat.

We were extra lucky to have Carel on hand to speak to the trends Spamhaus is seeing during this time of increased email volume, and in turn, increased email deception. Certainly, some emails are easy to spot as scams (Nigerian princes are not immune to coronavirus, who knew), but as consumers, it’s important to take every email about COVID-19 with a grain of salt. There is an increased risk of legitimate-looking domains being hijacked or used improperly to take advantage of at-risk communities, so always be extra cautious when dealing with fundraising or other social service initiative emails. Additionally, and this is where the lightbulb went off for me, be wary not of the email itself, but of the companies sending real email. Like Buzzfeed highlighted last week, affiliate email is not illegal or even technically malicious, so you need to do your due diligence to ensure you’re doing business with a reputable company. As Carel explained it, would you immediately buy something from a door-to-door salesman? …Well, maybe don’t answer, but our advice is to do some research first.

I strongly suggest you watch the webinar included below, as it’s clear email trends are changing by the week. You’ll want to stay up to date with the State of Email Live! Don’t forget to register for access to exclusive Q&A content during the next webinar on May 13. We’ll see you in two weeks.

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