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The new normal our world is dealing with involves six feet of separation, concerts on Fortnite, and entry conditional on face attire. In short: Changes must be made for many businesses to survive.

Determining just how and when to pivot requires bright ideas and effective marketing.

It’s no secret that businesses—especially small businesses—are struggling to stay afloat. So we’ve cultivated a list of companies that have pivoted their businesses during COVID-19, highlighting their novel ideas and how they effectively drew in new business amidst a strenuous time for all.

Restaurants: trying to keep the lights on while doors are closed

Many restaurants run on extremely narrow margins—accelerating a temporary lockdown into a permanent closure. But some restaurants have adapted to the new normal very quickly, offering new ways to support their customers (and gain financial support in return).

Stay Golden, a coffee and trendy-eats restaurant in Nashville, quickly pivoted their business to:

  • offer sponsored meal kits for those without food (subscribers donated to support)
  • sell their brunch and dinner items as boxes customers can put together at home
  • provide mixed cocktails to go
  • set up contactless purchase once they reopened for dining

To inform of these rapidly changing updates, they sent emails nearly daily and have been able to make it through the initial lockdown to see their restaurant reopen. Their efforts in quickly setting up online ordering in March has paid off, as they continue to use this as their primary POS, allowing them to serve their patrons either tableside or curbside without having to come into close contact.

Here are a few of the emails they sent out between March, April, and May.

Meanwhile, restaurant supporters like Resy mobilize to support an extremely hard-pressed industry. On April 6, Resy sent out this email, showcasing their dedication to your local city’s food scene by providing an updated list of restaurants offering takeout, as well as a step-by-step guide to ordering through their app.

takeout and delivery email from Resy

Resy’s email both informed and inspired, supporting restaurants by connecting them with prospective customers. The information was much needed during a time where one restaurant may be permanently closed, while its neighbor may be offering takeout, curbside, and delivery.

Publishers: shifting content when news consumption is at an all-time high

Media and publishing has been a volatile industry, with sweeping layoffs due to decreased ad revenue and conversely increased viewership and demand due to the need for up-to-date news as the world changes.

Bottom line: Publishers that can adapt and ride out the recession are sure to increase their audience.

A publisher we admire for their pivoting is Girlboss. On April 12, they sent out an introduction to a new series, “The Girlboss Guide to Now.” This daily newsletter would be packed full of tips, interviews, and resources for subscribers who may be worried about what’s to come or struggling to find a job.

You can view the entire email here.

For five days, these newsletters were jam packed with resources to support their entrepreneurial and advancement-aspiring audience, including topics of career pathing, pivoting in the current era, and finance fundamentals, among others.

The emails were impressive, with curated videos from previous Girlboss events, selected podcast episodes and blog articles, schedules for AMAs to be hosted on their Instagram, a homework section, and even templates for must-have projects like budgeting and creating a resume. Each newsletter addressed a precise challenge their audience faced, and gave ample resources to conquer it—like a boss.

The Girlboss team carried these vast resources over to their website, as well, where subscribers can look back at all the fabulous content the team put out over the week.

You can view all their Guide to Now emails here:

Retailers: combatting a slowing economy and inspiring purchases

It’s no surprise that retail has been hit extremely hard during the pandemic. But some retailers and retail services have been able to pivot their offerings to encourage purchases during a time when many are clutching to their wallets.

Campaign Monitor customer GlamCorner acted quickly to engage their customers in new ways during the lockdown.

As Australia’s leading destination for designer fashion rentals, facing a situation where their customers are sheltering in place meant those customers aren’t likely to rent any designer dresses.

To pivot their content, GlamCorner created buzz around being at home. Starting a hashtag #GCathome, they were able to capitalize on user-generated content to fill their newsletters and inspire more rentals. Fear of missing out plays perfectly here, encouraging customers to believe in the hype and join the ranks of those dressing up at home.

Email from GlamCorner on March 29

And the newsletters that followed were just as smart, filled with interviews, quotes, and candid photos from GlamCorner customers that were still renting while staying at home.

Three newsletters sent by GlamCorner during COVID pandemic

Showing customers using GlamCorner’s services in new and atypical ways inspires their broader audience to take a chance and purchase when they otherwise wouldn’t have thought to.

Local reseller McKay’s goes curbside during the lockdown.

Local to our Nashville office, McKay Books is a beloved treasure trove of used books, albums, videos, and other odds and ends. As the city moved into lockdown, this used-goods retailer had to pivot in order to retain business during a time when customers couldn’t browse the warehouse.

Seeing the influx of reading lists online and recognizing the need for many to stay entertained while sheltering in place, McKay’s created a genius offer: curbside entertainment bags.

Customers could fill a grab bag with fiction novels, nonfiction books, kids books, or choose from themed bags. After purchasing, customers could come at their convenience and pick up their bag curbside.

menu of grab bags from mckays books

We were impressed by this ingenious pivot (while also being compelled to purchase multiple bags). Not only did this enable McKay’s to make money while their doors were closed, but it also fit a unique need their audience faced: satiating their stay-at-home boredom.

In-person services: pivoting to the internet and other products

The services industry—which has become so central to western economies—has had to reimagine how they can still offer services when they’re not able to interact with their customers.

Gyms, clubs, and exercise centers have had to figure out ways to sustain revenue while being unable to actually complete their services.

One of our favorite customers, Barre3, has done just that by moving their in-person classes to on-demand and live streaming.

As cities began to lock down and clubs started to close their doors, Barre3 quickly moved to offering classes online to maintain memberships—and even entice new patrons who are now facing the reality of working out solely from home. Here’s an email they sent on March 17 introducing online courses.

In less than 10 days after moving all classes online, Barre3 then pivoted their annual spring sale into a food drive for kids suffering from lack of food during the coronavirus pandemic. Not only did the discount entice more classes to be purchased, but the adjoined donation created a positive brand impression as well.

Keeping momentum up, studios around the U.S. continued funneling new and existing clients toward online engagement with their brand. Temporary discounts kept the barrier for entry low, as those relegated to their homes looked for ways to exercise and connect.

Even as they face a difficult decision on whether to reopen their doors, their tone stays positive and copy upholds the brand’s vibe, while continuing to offer online methods of connecting. Here’s a look at two sections of an email Barre3 Portland sent out on May 14.

Other industries, like pet care services, have diversified to keep offerings relevant and available.

Mad Paws, Australia’s go-to pet care community and Campaign Monitor customer, quickly pivoted their offers once it became clear that their customers (and their pet sitter community) weren’t going to have the same traction.

As an initial pivot, Mad Paws launched a new service on April 3 that they’d been working on for a while: pet insurance. In a time when fears and anxieties are overwhelming to many, the Mad Paws team knew it was a good time to offer pet peace of mind for their audience.

The copy is empathetic and supportive, showcasing a lot of care for their customers and building brand affinity. They even provide a pricing table in the body of the email, giving customers the chance to convert directly from the campaign.

As they continued to nurture customers with messaging around their new insurance product, the Mad Paws team decided on another pivot one month later—this time, shifting focus to food.

Even in the midst of a global lockdown and recession, dogs gotta eat. Leaning on the affinity their brand carries with customers, Mad Paws released this delivery- and subscription-based service to continue generating revenue while their primary services were paused.

Moving from in-person services to online services and new products is no small feat. Yet companies that are able to pivot quickly can continue to generate revenue and even increase brand loyalty.

Live events: moving performances online

Shuttered doors and venues have hit the entertainment industry extremely hard. Brands that are able to pivot and continue providing the performances that audiences look to them for are able to maintain viewership—and maybe even inspire sales.

Focusing attention on its Digital Concert Hall gave Berlin Philharmonic the chance to keep their patrons engaged.

As an already-established offering from the Berlin Philharmonic, their Digital Concert Hall has given global audiences a chance to see performances from one of the world’s finest orchestras. But, to promote it, the team at Berlin Philharmonic pivoted to offer some of their performances for free—an intelligent way to capture lead interest.

And their emails are just as smart. Offering subscriptions to their Digital Concert Hall, they use dynamic content to give a discount incentive to registered users. They know that those who’ve purchased tickets to a digital performance previously are much more likely to subscribe to ongoing concerts—and an offer provides even greater incentive.

Wrap up

A quick and thoughtful pivot can help your organization stay afloat when your primary offers aren’t feasible, and email is the best way to encourage customers to embrace your pivot and collect support from those loyal to your brand.

What ways has your brand pivoted during COVID-19? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @CampaignMonitor. And, if you liked any of the examples above, give our platform a try for free here.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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