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2021 Digital Marketing Benchmarks

At Customer Insight Group, many of our clients are asking the same questions many of you are: What now? 

How have consumer expectations and the customer journey fundamentally changed? What should you change about your marketing strategy, and what can go on, business as usual? When making changes, how should you prioritize and invest your marketing dollars?

Research highlighting 2021 digital marketing benchmarks and trends

2021 Digital Marketing Benchmarks and Trends

We’ve been gathering research and reports highlighting 2021 digital marketing benchmarks and trends to help U.S. companies understand how business metrics are shifting as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic. We hope to provide you some helpful benchmarks to measure your business against, so you can make adjustments to your marketing strategies as needed.

We’ve included links to the research so you can take a deep dive and focus on the information that is the most relevant to your business.

Email Marketing Benchmarks

Campaign Monitor announced the release of its annual Benchmarks Report to provide marketers with average performance metrics. The 2021 Email Benchmarks Report analyzed over 100 billion emails sent globally by CM Group clients, finding that total email volume growth was 7% in 2020 over 2019, an increase nearly three times the amount from the previous year’s growth rate. This equates to more than 1 billion more emails sent year over year by CM Group clients per month, with the highest increases happening in March and July when clients sent 1.5 billion more emails.

Importantly, the added email volume translated directly to higher interactions with audiences. Open rates grew 13% from 2019 to 2020. With the added volume in people’s inboxes, they were more likely to engage than ever before, with the peak open rates in April and May. 

“As marketers, we all know that we need to shift as the industry shifts. Our audience doesn’t just prefer personalization and strong online experiences, they expect it. It’s our responsibility to ensure that all of our digital interactions meet these expectations, and that includes our email marketing strategies.”

Carly Hegstad, Senior Digital Strategist at Lawrence & Schiller

Email Marketing Statistics

Here are several email marketing statistics other important takeaways from the report:

  • Friday had the highest open rates: In a shift from past years where early week-day performed the best, Friday was the highest performer in 2020.
  • Mobile share decreased: With less time in lines and commuting, mobile’s share of opened emails went down for the first time in years, from 63% to 54%.
  • Click-to-open rates decreased: Many more emails were sent to simply provide information, rather than to drive an action, resulting in a slight click-to-open rate decrease from 2019.
  • Several industries saw click-through rates above 4%: Four industries — government, education, nonprofits, and agriculture — all saw increases to its click-through rates in 2020, all reaching above 4%.
  • Unsubscribe rates were historically low: Specifically for entertainment, media, and importantly retail, Campaign Monitor saw unsubscribe rates near 0% throughout the year.

Related Posts: Email Best Practices: Loyalty Programs

Omnisend research found that year-over-year, conversion rates in 2020 increased 17% over those in 2019—accelerating sharply in March. And year over year, conversion rates for the pre-COVID period (Jan. 1-Mar.15) were up 11.81%, while the post-COVID period (Mar.16-Apr.26) nearly doubled that with a 22.66% lift.

Conversion Rates Were Impacted by Covid-19

Seeing the increase in the open, click-through, and conversion rates with the pandemic, it is evident that email marketing is a significant driving force behind consumer purchasing decisions and will likely continue to be a trusted marketing channel by consumers in the future.

Website Benchmarks

Customers are initiating more interactions with businesses today than they were a year ago and doing more research online. A Hubspot study found that the average monthly website traffic increased by 13% in March, compared to February.

Customer-initiated conversations with brands have increased. In a recent Hubspot study, weekly chat volume via onsite chat and Facebook Messenger increased 5% after March 16, based on previous Q1 global weekly averages.

Bazaarvoice monitoring patterns and changes in product page views, orders placed, reviews submitted, and more. Data shows that page views are up 75% year-over-year, and order count is up 57% for the same time period. While this growth is down from April and May, it’s still more significant than the growth we saw pre-pandemic. January saw 11% YOY growth for page views and 2% growth for order count, and February saw 15% YOY growth in page views and 6% growth in order count.

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Mobile Marketing Benchmarks

Twigby, a phone service provider, reported from their May 2020 study that shopping, video calling, social media, gaming, and food delivery app usage increased. COVID-19 has shifted consumers’ mobile phone usage habits — with texting up 37%, online shopping up 23%, and overall video call usage up 32%.

App Usage Increases with Covid-19

Airship revealed findings from the aggregate analysis of nearly two billion app installs in March 2020, direct open rates for mobile app push notifications reached their absolute highest average rate in more than four years.

“Mobile customer engagement has steadily grown in importance for more than a decade, but in just one month, the pandemic made it absolutely critical for every business as customers seek in-the-moment information, reassurance, and even entertainment,” said Brett Caine, CEO, and president, Airship. “These trends show increasing marketer reliance and consumer receptivity to in-the-moment notifications, which is positive, but businesses must ensure messaging is helping to streamline operations and orchestrate excellent customer experiences across channels to leverage as much from digital as possible in these trying times.” 

Mobile Industry Verticals

Among 15 industry verticals, Media saw the biggest month-over-month increases in push notification send volume (+43 percent) and push notification direct open rates (+60 percent). Growth in web notifications was also led by Media increasing send volume by 52 percent, with web notification direct open rates growing 119 percent from February to March 2020. The industry seeing the biggest month-over-month drop in average push notification direct open rates was Travel & Transportation at -23 percent—coming from the second-highest rate in February. However, Travel & Transportation saw the largest increase in Message Center read rates at 158 percent in March, reflecting a dramatic shift from day-of-travel messaging to broader informational updates that app users can read at their convenience.

Related Post: Mobile Loyalty Isn’t Coming, It’s Already Here

Top Five Verticals for App Notifications Growth

Top Five Verticals for App Notifications Growth

Social Media Marketing Benchmarks

With more time on their hands, consumers use digital, mobile, and social media on an even greater scale than before the outbreak. Digital 2020 reports – published in partnership with Hootsuite – show that digital, mobile, and social media have become an indispensable part of everyday life for people worldwide.

Socialbaker released a comprehensive report on Social Media Trends for Q4 2020. The report reveals that global social media ad spend skyrocketed during the last quarter of 2020, despite the continuing economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other insights from the report include a global rise in cost-per-click (CPC), an acceleration in the growing dominance of Instagram, expanded reach for advertisers on Facebook, a spike in the popularity and ad costs for videos, and a decline in the use of social media influencers for brand advertising over the holiday season. Ad spend data is based on a sample of more than 15,000 Facebook advertising accounts.

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Interactions Dip, but Ecommerce and Facebook Make Gains

Overall, user engagement with brands dipped slightly in Q4 2020 compared to Q4 2019. Worldwide, brand interactions fell by 5.4% on Facebook and 6.3% on Instagram. However, there were some success stories in this category. In North America, Facebook achieved an 11% rise in interactions while Instagram decreased by 10%, year over year. The eCommerce sector also made gains in engagement with a 14.4% increase in interactions on Instagram and a 1% rise on Facebook year over year.

In Northern America alone peak spend increased by 92.3%. Doubling down in digital ad spend has become the new normal, as brands work to build lasting relationships with their customers and increase their online sales.”  

Yuval Ben-Itzhak, President, Socialbakers

IZEA Worldwide, Inc. examined the impact the pandemics will have on marketers and social media influencers. IZEA fielded two unique consumer research studies focused on Coronavirus implications on March 12th and March 13th. The body of work assessed the potential impacts that household confinement due to COVID-19 concerns may have on consumer spending and social media consumption habits and identified opportunities, challenges, and ideas for those operating in the influencer marketing space.

Key Statistics for Coronavirus Impacts on Social Media Include:
  • 66% of social media users believe their social media usage habit will increase in the event they are confined to their home due to the Coronavirus. 
  • 64% expect their usage of YouTube to increase, only 2% expect a decrease.
  • 63% expect their usage of Facebook to increase, only 2% expect a decrease.
  • 44% of social media users would consider becoming a social media influencer to earn money for their household during an economic recession.
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Key Statistics for Coronavirus Impacts on e-Commerce Include:
  • 99% of social media users believe there is a chance they will purchase something online if they are confined to their home during a Coronavirus outbreak.
  • 92% of consumers who have “a great deal of say” on purchasing decisions believe they will purchase grocery store items online (versus in-store) during confinement.
  • 79% of consumers with children ages 3-17 at home believe they may purchase home improvement or DIY items online while confined to home.
  • 76% of consumers who have a “great deal of say” on purchasing decisions believe they will order restaurant food delivery online.

“We see a significant opportunity for brands to connect with an audience that is hungry for content, education, and online social experiences. We believe that an increase in the supply of influencers, combined with the macroeconomic factors impacting the events and travel spaces, will drive the average cost per post lower near term. Brands will see their influencer marketing dollars go further than they have in recent years and certain sectors stand to benefit significantly from these price improvements.”


Ted Murphy, Founder and CEO of IZEA.

Related Content: 6 Steps to Build a Successful Social Media Strategy

Sallie Burnett
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