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How to strengthen the security and trust in email marketing in times of COVID-19

November 2020 by The Certified Senders Alliance (CSA)

Increased email traffic but also more phishing and spam - Higher open and click rates during the coronavirus outbreak.
COVID-19 has changed the way we communicate with each other, the way we distribute and use messages, the way we get the information we need. In these times of social distancing and teleworking, one means of communication is becoming increasingly important: e-mail.

This is because new target groups, such as schools or childcare facilities, as well as many small and medium-sized enterprises, are now increasingly using e-mail.

Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the fact that, due to lockdowns, companies are increasingly maintaining relationships with their customers by e-mail and the recipients, understanding the need for this practice, may not exercise the necessary level of caution when opening an e-mail. This is not just a simple inconvenience for the recipients of these emails: in the worst case, it can actually cost them money.

How has email communication evolved during the coronavirus pandemic, what has changed with the pandemic, what experiences have mailbox providers and email service providers (ESPs) made? We asked around.

From the point of view of mailbox providers, the volume of emails increased significantly during the pandemic, with an increase of more than 30%. Email communication has increased, especially for delivery services or online mail order companies. However, tour operators and the entertainment sector experienced a dramatic drop. In parallel with the increase in e-mail traffic, some mailbox providers are also seeing an increase in spam and phishing, but above all, the direction of the "attacks" has changed: Cybercriminals are posing as government agencies, offering medicines or protective masks, in short, they are exploiting the fears of recipients triggered by COVID-19. The major mailbox providers therefore recommend that their users check all e-mails concerning the coronavirus particularly carefully.

Overall, and especially at the beginning of the pandemic, e-mail service providers saw a general increase in the amount of e-mails but a decrease in the tourism and catering sector. The largest increases in the amount of e-mails were recorded in the retail, e-commerce and finance sectors. However, ESPs mostly registered higher open and click rates, probably because people were at home more often due to the restrictions associated with the pandemic. A great increase in phishing e-mails was not observed.

The increase in e-mail traffic has not been and is not without consequences. Mailbox providers have suddenly experienced a considerable increase in incoming data traffic and have sometimes been unable to process it. As a result, important e-mails were delivered with considerable delays.

E-mail service providers therefore advise their customers, the brands, to send e-mails only if the message is relevant and useful to the recipient. Under no circumstances should COVID-19 be used as a pretext for marketing e-mails. For this can quickly damage your reputation as a serious sender. More than ever in this coronavirus crisis, brands should adhere to certain good practices to protect themselves from phishing attacks, maintain their good reputation and ensure high deliverability.

This includes the use of common authentication methods such as DKIM and especially DMARC, which protects against spammers abusing your domain for phishing attempts. In this time of coronavirus pandemic, you should not use a very large mailing list, although this may sound appealing . Due to the increase in email volumes and phishing, mailbox providers are increasingly looking into this issue and are placing those who send emails to a large number of inactive or non-existent recipients on a blocking list. This also means, of course, that contact lists must always be up to date and not contain "phantom contacts" (list hygiene).

Especially in times of crisis, cybercriminals use people’s worries and needs for their own purposes and stir up their fears in order to push them to take certain measures. Serious senders, however, use e-mail to provide well-founded and relevant information, to support and reassure recipients about their problems in this very particular situation and to give them perspectives for the time after the pandemic.

The Certified Senders Alliance (CSA) also provides current information on sending emails in this time of coronavirus pandemic. Here senders will find useful information. For more information on email marketing or CSA certification, please visit

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