Dealing with High Email Bounce Rates during COVID-19

Email marketing has been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated shutdowns and shelter in place orders. With millions of people working from home, laid off, or furloughed, there have been some key changes in the level of engagement for business to business (B2B) emails. Most notably, bounce rates have increased significantly, and engagement has decreased over the past several months for nearly every industry.


The increased bounce rate and lower levels of engagement have an obvious culprit: nearly 39 million Americans lost their jobs in the nine weeks between mid March and mid May. According to the U.S. Labor Department, unemployment jumped to 14.7% in April, the highest since the Great Depression.


Is your email list still any good?
The question is, with all these people out of work, is your customer email list out of date? The answer is most likely “yes”. In the best of economic times, list expansion and maintenance need to be constant activities. Once you add someone to your list, it’s important to check periodically to see if they are still at the company. People change jobs, and when that happens, it’s easy to lose the customer, unless you are updating their information routinely.


With such a sharp rise in unemployment, however, a large number of email addresses have been or will be deactivated. According to Christopher Penn of Trust Insights, as much as 25% of your B2B email list could no longer be active.


“Every non-personal email you have in your database has the potential to be invalid. Personal emails – the Hotmails, Gmails, etc. of the world – should continue to be fine, but corporate emails likely will not be,” Penn explains.


As more and more companies are forced to close permanently due to the economic strains, email lists will likely continue to degrade even further. The more out of date your audience is, the less effective your emails will become, and your sales will suffer as a result.


How to keep your email list current
It’s important to clean your list regularly by removing any bounced emails to make sure you’re not sending to inactive email addresses. More than just cleaning out bad or inactive contacts, however, you have to verify existing contacts continuously and add new contacts to your list, as companies return to normal.


With so much reshuffling going on at many companies, you need to reach out to confirm who the decision makers are and to determine whether your current contact is still valid. In addition, because some of your competitors may not survive the downturn, there is a great opportunity to expand your audience. Find businesses that are similar to ones you’re currently working with, and check to see if they have any needs that aren’t being met in the new economic landscape.


Conclusion
Bounce rates are high and may continue to increase over the next couple of months. The current situation makes email list maintenance and development even more critical for ensuring your business can sustain your customer base and grow it further. Checking existing contacts and prospecting for new ones should be a regular activity for your company through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.