Email Marketing & Automation Best Practices in Crisis

email marketing in covid-19

Five Important Email Program Practices in Times of Crisis

Amid the sweeping impact of the coronavirus on businesses large and small, it can be tiring and overwhelming to continue to re-strategize, re-evaluate, and re-plan for how to sustain and/or grow your business.

We get it. It’s hard to prioritize which endeavors are the most important right now. Each business must consider their pain points, challenge themselves and team on how to mitigate those issues, and find where to pivot and adapt to the current situation. 

The following guide is designed to provide a reference for how an email program can be maintained in a time of uncertainty. It will emphasize five adaptation and communication practices we believe to be beneficial to businesses as they think about marketing through email during this pandemic.

1. Shift Your Priorities

Businesses around the globe are in unprecedented territory; pivoting and shifting their priorities in quick fashion. Brands must recognize that it is as important as ever to stay engaged with their customers – whether by creating new campaigns or adjusting your current ones. As your priorities change, make sure your email marketing campaigns reflect that.

An email from Dunkin’ Donuts keeping guests up to date on operations

If you find that your shifted priorities require you to cut back on marketing to new clients, prioritize staying relevant to your current customers. They may provide the stability you need to sustain your business through some rocky days.

While keeping these changes in mind, stay as nimble as possible and be willing to adjust as your plans and priorities as necessary.

2. Plan with Continuity, Plan to Adapt

We all watched as businesses around the world fell into a difficult economic recession in a matter of weeks. At the speed things have changed, it’s more important than ever to plan, and to do so with continuity, with the expectation that you will need to adapt, and then adapt again. 

Do you need to pause all of your campaigns and automations? Not necessarily. Consider your messaging and its relevance in today’s situation. Now is a great time to review what you have in place and  consider your audience’s situation. 

An email from Delta sent to guests with flights a month away. Delta assures these guests their travel questions would be addressed, but only after focusing on guests meant to fly in the next 72 hours.

You might also consider creating new segments or lists based on client location. For example, if you have storefronts in high risk areas, communicate your available services and alternative options for customers in those areas to continue to support you.

Some of this adaptation may have you considering what offers you have in place. This may be a good time to consider creating new and unique offers to incentivize new customers and bolster customer loyalty.

3. Create New/Unique Offers

As you are thinking about your messaging to your customers and how you can get those messages across while staying true to your brand identity, you may also want to brainstorm creative ways to keep your customers engaged or otherwise committed to your brand. One way we recommend doing this is by creating custom offerings. For example, if you are a vacation or travel-based company, consider extending current promotions to those who have already made reservations and are looking to cancel. Keep those lines of revenue as open as possible by offering gift certificates, award stays, or double points to go towards future stays.

For other eCommerce businesses, discounts, free shipping, expedited shipping (if feasible) can help people choose to shop with you over competitors. 

You may also consider incentivizing customers with discounts in exchange for reviews or referrals. If you have decided that you have to pause or slow spending on your pay per click marketing, consider asking your most loyal customers to share user generated content on social media like Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. 

People love companies who “do good” and are making a difference in the world. An effective way to do this is a simple donation with every purchase. For example: For every purchase made, donate $10 to the Feed America program. Campaigns that not only share your ideals with customers, but also help organizations battle against this pandemic, can go a long way.

Consider the life situation of your customers right now. Likely, they are spending a lot of time at home. Brainstorm a campaign emphasizing products to use while staying home, like fun activities for kids, pets, or a date night-in options.

An email from Roomba with a special offer after social isolation guidelines were introduced and many people began working from home

4. Communicate With Empathy

We have talked a lot about making sure you are reviewing your messaging to keep relevant and not seem tone deaf. But we can’t say this enough: Give your messaging another overview, because how you are saying something may be just as important as what you are saying. 

Everlane.com email, sharing a common feeling right now: firsts.

Empathizing with your customers is proven to be one of the most important factors in building brand loyalty even before this crisis. Show your business is a leader in the midst of uncertainty by re-affirming that you are committed to providing high quality products or services. Take time to highlight how you are giving back to the community and how you are being part of the solution. 

While it is good to consider products your customers may need, it is equally important not to be perceived as a company looking to take advantage of the situation to push sales. Stay true to your brand, exercise empathy, care for your customer – but don’t take advantage of the situation and make sure your language doesn’t downplay the seriousness of the situation.

Finally, leave as much of the health information to the experts as possible. People are inundated with health advice right now, so limiting health related communications to only the most essential can help keep your customers informed with what they need to know while not overwhelming them. 

5. Review Essential Automations

A great way to keep your emails from ending up in the spam box is to make sure that you are not overwhelming them with too much information. Automations are key to sending thoughtful, behavior based communications that will make sense and be relevant to your customer. 

People are now more than ever turning to their computers and mobile devices. So ask yourselves these questions:

  • How are your automations performing? 
  • Is their messaging cohesive to what we have discussed?
  • Is it empathetic?
  • Is it timely and relevant?

Now is the time to shake off the rust and go back into those automations that you may have considered “set and forget” in the past. The top suggested automations we recommend starting with are as follows:

  • Welcome series
  • Cart abandonment
  • Browse abandonment
  • Back in stock
  • Replenishment
  • Winback

Of special note is the “back in stock” automation. This is a great opportunity to show your customers that you are looking out for them. By letting them know when key provisions are replenished, they know they can rely on you to keep them informed. 

Wayfair.com back in stock email

One Last Note

There’s a lot of information in those five practices, but we believe them to be essential to a thriving email program. If you need more information or are looking for further advice on a specific topic, our Trinity team is offering free consultations to help businesses in need of extra help. You can set up a session with a team member here.

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