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10 Immediate Ways to Pivot Your Email Marketing Strategy in Response to COVID-19

By Kim Surko

We’re in uncharted territory, but we’re all in this together. As we settle into what appears to be a “new normal,” brands must adjust their strategies to connect with shoppers in new ways.

Traditional marketing efforts to drive traffic in stores and create memorable in-person experiences must be put aside, but the retail industry is fortunate enough to have a digital muscle it can flex.

From directing purchase traffic to eCommerce websites to highlighting social responsibility to sharing tips and creating a sense of community, retailers have an arsenal of tools to bridge the gap between IRL and URL in a very meaningful way.

Immediate Response: 10 Ways to Adjust Your Email Marketing Campaigns

Over the next several weeks, brands will need to evaluate a lot — business objectives, planned campaigns and revenue projections may change. The bottom line is, there’s a lot of uncertainty right now that will cause big changes and may leave marketing teams feeling like their hands are tied.

Although there’s a lot for your business that might be in limbo right now, there are certain steps you can take right away to adjust your email marketing campaigns in ways that show consumers you empathize with the current situation

Just as a tone deaf message in this trying time can turn off consumers, highlighting what you’re doing to help shoppers can lead to purchases that help sustain your business in the short term and develop loyalty that helps grow your business in the long term.

With that in mind, here are 10 ways you can adjust your email marketing campaigns today to strike the right tone while you work through bigger strategic changes: 

1) Include banners to acknowledge COVID-19 and manage tone

Adding a permanent banner to your emails that directs people to any brand COVID-19 communications and updating messaging throughout to cover shopper wellbeing can make a big difference.

First, these steps help show consumers you understand it’s not life as usual. Second, they illustrate your concern for them as individuals, which can help build and strengthen your relationships with shoppers in both the short and long terms.

Anthropologie COVID-19 Email Marketing Strategy Response

2) Communicate changes in return policies

Updating your return policies to accommodate and support store closures and government policies can help ease shopper concerns about missed deadlines. In response to these concerns, many brands are extending return policies, particularly for items that must be returned in store.

Should your brand make any changes to its return policy, you should bring these updates to your customers’ attention via email. Beyond making them aware of the updates, this type of communication provides an opportunity to highlight how your brand plans to help shoppers.

Nordstrom Rack COVID-19 Email Marketing Strategy Response

3) Revise content blocks focused on store traffic

Normally we’d applaud efforts to drive online shoppers in-store and vice versa, but we’re currently in a unique situation. Instead of going for multi-channel, focus on driving traffic to digital touchpoints.

Additionally, you should repurpose any real estate typically focused on store traffic to drive more meaningful engagements with shoppers. For example, you might use that space to promote personalized product recommendations. These changes will help shoppers find new items they might not have even realized they wanted or needed.

Under Armour COVID-19 Email Marketing Strategy Response

4) Call attention to waived shipping fees

If your business can swing it, waiving shipping fees can help accommodate store closures and reduce complaints around delayed product arrivals.

The best way to alert shoppers to this change is to add a header and/or footer noting the new offer for free shipping to make it easier for customers to shop without incurring extra costs.

REI COVID-19 Email Marketing Strategy Response

5) Update campaigns to focus on WFH products

If you have the inventory, consider revising your campaigns to focus on products that are most useful for people spending more time at home. For example, this might include athleisure, home goods and wellness products.

In addition to promoting these products, try pairing them with relevant content that provides advice on how to make the most of them while staying home. This could be anything from recipe tips for using new kitchen items with pantry staples, design tips for furniture or wellness routines for health and beauty products.

Anthropologie 2 COVID-19 Email Marketing Strategy Response

6) Update CTAs to focus on WFH

In a similar vein, you can continue to promote everyday products but with a messaging update to focus on relevant trends like #WFH and #WFHOOTD. 

These simple updates can help improve your relevance in the current climate and help your shoppers feel like there’s still some level of normalcy without coming across as tone deaf to what’s happening.

Express COVID-19 Email Marketing Strategy Response

7) Manage fulfillment and supply issues through merchandising triggers

Introducing merchandising triggers that respond to real-time changes in your product catalog can help manage fulfillment and supply issues. As a best practice, you should exclude out-of-stock and low inventory products from recommendations within existing campaigns.

When it comes to new campaigns, consider launching back-in-stock, low inventory, new arrivals and price decrease merchandising triggers to keep shoppers engaged and help them understand changing stock levels. Using a living catalog to power these triggers can help ensure you capture changes in your product catalog and availability in real time.

Paula's Choice COVID-19 Email Marketing Strategy Response

8) Update your subject lines and preview text

Review your subject lines and preview text for sensitive language and terms. Your recurring campaigns may include colloquial phrases that are normally fine but that don’t account for the current climate. As a result, it’s important to update your language to reflect people’s state of mind during this trying time.

Subject Line COVID-19 Email Marketing Strategy Response

9) Create a multi-touch drip campaign to extend the conversation

Let people know you’re thinking of them and their situation through a multi-touch campaign that integrates your brand message, promotions and corporate stance.

This approach not only helps you continue the conversation with customers, but it also helps foster loyalty beyond the purchase cycle.

Madewell COVID-19 Email Marketing Strategy Response

10) Paint an optimistic, yet thoughtful future

Finally, acknowledge what’s happening and keep your copy measured, but paint a hopeful and optimistic view of the future. Striking this balance helps shoppers understand your intent as a community-focused brand and gives people a reason to stay optimistic by thinking about brighter days ahead.

Loeffler Randall COVID-19 Email Marketing Strategy Response

Getting Through This Together

The current situation is most certainly unprecedented, but we can get through it together. And the brands that use this moment to help build a sense of community, make people’s lives easier, give them something to look forward to and even offer thoughtful distractions will reap the benefits long after this is over.

A lot will change over the next few weeks and every brand’s strategies and marketing campaigns will be works in progress, but the time to make changes from business as usual — no matter how small those changes may seem — is now.

Ready to get started? Reach out to your Bluecore CSM to discuss any of the ideas listed here and click here for even more advice.

Kim Surko

Kim Surko

Kim is the Vice President of Customer Success for Bluecore. Kim leads Bluecore’s Customer Success Managers, Forward Deployed Engineers and Professional Services to ensure customers’ desired outcomes are achieved. Previously, she was Director of Customer Success and Account Management at Oracle Marketing Cloud – Responsys. Prior to Oracle, Kim was Senior Director of Account Management at digital marketing agencies, providing full-service solutions for martech and adtech partnerships. Kim’s passion for solving customer’s business challenges with marketing solutions has driven her career in customer success.