Marketing efforts need to adapt and transform in these uncertain times, particularly for retail brands.
They’re among the hardest hit by the changes brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
In the U.S. alone, more than 47,000 stores of big retailers—from Apple to Zara—closed temporarily, starting mid-March. The statistic doesn’t even account for small businesses that responded similarly. And, while many have store websites, a few—such as HomeGoods, Marshalls, and TJMaxx—have shut down their ecommerce departments too.
In the U.K., the Centre for Retail Research estimates that more than 20,000 stores in their locale won’t survive the crisis and will close permanently by the end of the year.
As an email marketer for retailers aiming to reopen their doors after COVID-19 quarantines, what should you keep in mind when crafting your campaigns? Let’s look at ways to retool emails for maximum impact in this new normal: pertinent perspectives, best practices, and more.
Maintain a compassionate connection with your subscribers.
We know that email is an ideal marketing channel for retailers. Apart from facilitating promotions and purchases, receiving messages via online inboxes helps foster real relationships between retail companies and their potential and existing customers.
Great email marketing encourages brand loyalty and results in more people caring about your company and its products. However, this is a two-way street. Your emails need to reflect your brand’s genuine concern for its followers too.
What was the first thing you did once news of the pandemic got out? You’ve likely sent out some COVID-19 updates by now. You may have also canceled or suspended insensitive email marketing campaigns.
These actions may have disrupted your marketing calendar. Overall, though, it’s easy to focus on keeping customers informed of matter-of-fact company-wide policies.
The trick now is to navigate a sure path for marketing emails through subscribers’ heightened emotions and preoccupied minds. More than 90% of U.S. adults prefer promotional emails over other communication methods from brands they’re interested in. How receptive will they be in this climate?
The more you know your subscribers, the better you’ll be at balancing compassion with continuing campaigns.
Follow best practices for emails retailers can send after quarantine policies change.
In the not-so-distant past, you may have targeted common subscriber segments: loyal customers, inactive followers, and the like. These days, there’s an extra descriptor to add to each segment: affected by quarantine.
We’re all distracted and in disarray due to current events. Whether you’re boosting sales or launching products during COVID-19, the critical ingredient in every email is empathy. Put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes: What are they going through? What will they think when they receive your email?
It’s imperative not to sound pushy or self-serving. You must adjust your tone and message if you want people to have a positive reaction to your marketing campaigns.
Below are three tips that’ll help improve emails retailers can send during this time.
1. Capture subscribers’ attention with strong but sensitive subject lines.
There’s no shortage of tips to write better email titles online. However, after COVID-19, some suggestions may prove to be not so evergreen.
You may have to rethink everything—including tried and tested practices that have served you well so far. Case in point: How would you craft a killer subject line today?
Source: Really Good Emails
Let’s examine a great example. The subject line of the Lululemon Athletica missive above is “In this together, wherever you are.” What do you think of it?
Pre-pandemic, this email title wouldn’t elicit much reaction. There’s no humor, no piquing of curiosity, and no leveraging of FOMO. There’s no mention of any special offer or hint of personalization. In spite of all this, it’s immediately understood and very effective at conveying the point of the email.
Moving forward, you may find yourself using similar subject lines for emails retailers can send after quarantine measures have relaxed. Here are some possibilities:
- We’re reopening—and here’s how we’re keeping everyone safe.
- Because we care: Daily curbside pickups and seniors-only store hours on Mondays.
- How can we make your shopping experience safer and more comfortable?
Refocus your offers by putting customer concerns first. This will likely lead to more opens and clicks, not to mention a closer connection with your subscribers.
2. Share only relevant and actionable information.
How many COVID-19 updates and letters from company CEOs do you have in your inbox right now? Because we’re all affected by the global pandemic crisis, everyone’s talking about it. Setting your marketing campaign apart from the rest and getting your subscribers to read your emails has never been harder.
You don’t want to overwhelm your audience, but you don’t want your relationship with them to deteriorate, either. The strategy is to make sure you’re providing crucial and critical details that your subscribers will appreciate. Concentrate on what customers need to know. Everything else is secondary.
Consider the Howler Brothers email below. In three short paragraphs, we learned that their online store is open, domestic shipping is currently free, and customer service is available on weekdays.
Source: Really Good Emails
An email to announce a physical store reopening would not go unnoticed. Other welcome updates include changes in opening and closing hours, temporary adjustments to store services, or a list of daily sanitary measures.
Again: Don’t forget to put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes. Even if an email campaign seems important to your brand, it doesn’t mean it’ll be relevant to your customers.
Once non-essential retail gets the green light—possibly even before then—you may consider moderately aggressive sales campaigns targeting only your most loyal customers.
Even if it’s a short list of subscribers, good engagement of that segment may significantly increase short-term profits. On average, about 20% of a brand’s customers contribute 80% of revenue.
3. Keep emails quick, concise, and scannable.
Most of the first wave of COVID-19 marketing emails featured a noticeable trend. Plain and severe layouts dominated design-wise. Many followed a simple letter format and contained solid walls of text.
It’s not surprising. CEOs, after all, don’t often find themselves tasked to create sobering email marketing content. And there’s never been a situation quite like this to take in and write about. No one’s had ample time to practice how to craft COVID-19 messages.
Source: Really Good Emails
Email marketers know how essential scannability is to the success of an email. In general, you have eight seconds to engage a subscriber before they get distracted and move on to another task. In reality, you likely have less time, now that everyone’s always exhausted or overwhelmed.
Short, sectioned, and scannable content written in plain English works best. Make it as easy as possible for your subscribers to absorb the information you’re conveying.
Urge customers to practice safe shopping habits.
As more establishments reopen after quarantine, it’s essential to instill sanitary precautions and social distancing habits in shoppers. We can’t expect to go back to the way things were. We will need to adapt to a new normal, instead.
Consumers agree: Of more than 2,000 U.S. adults who responded to an April 2020 survey, nearly 25% said they wouldn’t feel comfortable going to the mall to shop for the next six months. Less than 5% feel confident enough to go shopping in May, should it be possible to do so.
Strict policies and safe shopping habits will keep people safe, even after COVID-19, and will help keep non-essential stores open without endangering anyone.
Mandatory mask-wearing, limiting the total number of customers within store premises, and constant deep cleaning may be around for months and years to come. Some companies may even institute temperature checks at the doors of their establishments.
Contactless commerce is still the best choice, safety-wise. Curbside pickups will gain traction, as well as online purchasing and store delivery—anything that facilitates transactions while reducing foot traffic outside.
Effective and engaging email campaigns in the time of COVID-19 must be compassionate, empathetic, and sensitive. Marketing content will benefit from adopting a less aggressive and more serious tone.
It’s not an easy feat to market retail brands without sounding pushy or profit-motivated. However, a delicate balance between compassion and promotion is what’s needed for your email campaigns to perform well.
When shops finally open doors again, you’ll want to tell everyone. Here are some tips to keep in mind when crafting considerate emails retailers can send:
- Capture subscribers’ attention with strong but sensitive subject lines.
- Share only relevant and actionable information.
- Keep emails quick, concise, and scannable.
Store reopening announcements and other post-quarantine missives should highlight the need for safe shopping habits too. Reminders and explanations of store policies regarding sanitary measures protect both customers and employees.
Even with physical stores back in business, continuing to promote contactless commerce is a good practice. Consider campaigns to highlight curbside pickup services and online purchase benefits.
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