THE TOUGH REALITY OF 2020
I have to say that the recent weeks and past few months of 2020 have been really tough for everyone – some more than others for sure, but what’s clear is that our way of life has changed and collectively we’re having to adapt by practicing social distancing, cancelling plans and rethinking the way that we interact with our loves ones.
Alongside, the trauma of being separated from our loved ones, we’ve completely changed our way of working too – either having to work from home, start shift patterns or being put on furlough. Then you have layer on the fact that many of parents are now working full time jobs and being teachers too as they are forced to homeschool their children to ensure that they don’t fall behind.
LIFE IS TOUGH AND SO IS MARKETING
One of the big questions for marketers has been ‘what do we do now?’ – how do we talk to consumers in a time of such uncertainty?, do we keep our marketing plans going?, do we pull marketing spend completely?, how much communication is enough and how much is too much? Right now alongside everything else – it’s a hard time to be marketer, simply for fear of getting it wrong.
Here are my reflections on email marketing during the Coronavirus pandemic…
TRANSPARENT COMMUNICATION AT THE BEGINNING AND ALL THE WAY TO THE END…
Right at the beginning of this crisis, as severity of the pandemic started to take hold and life was being turned upside down, what consumers wanted more than anything was transparency as well as clear and honest communication from the brands that they subscribed to. Trust was so important here.
I personally received a lot of emails from various brands and businesses that I shop with. They offered explanations about what was going on, how the pandemic was affecting them and therefore how it in turn would impact me. I liked that level of openness – it allowed me to understand where they were at and it enabled me to feel like a person rather than ‘someone who just buys from them’.
RO Skin based in Stamford, Lincolnshire were a great example of this. I’m slightly irked at myself right now as I deleted their emails but I think that they are a great example of a small local business using email marketing to communicate really well with their customers.
They used their email channel to inform clients as to how they would be handling the pandemic – they started off with discussing their cleaning processes and how treatments would be handled (i.e. therapists would wear masks and gloves and they would clean down the rooms after each treatment). As they were forced to close their doors when the UK lockdown was imposed – they were open about asking their clients to ‘wait for them’ until normality resumed. I can’t imagine being in their shoes – being reliant on footfall through their treatment centre but what I do know is that I went on their journey with them. What was/is great however, is their online shop which offers supplements and beauty products. That’s still a revenue driver for them and I liked how they let their customers know that there was still the option to ‘self-care’. Something that is very on trend right now during this stressful time.
What I liked about the RO SKIN emails were that they were honest – there was no sugar coating the fact that this was a terrible situation for them and their customer. However, as a business they were clear about how they wanted to keep their clients safe and at the heart of what they do. I like how they linked up their social media presence as well so that their message was aligned as well as clear and consistent.
USE EMAIL TO PROVIDE RETAIL UPDATES:
TESCO, Sainsbury’s, Asda & Waitrose used their email platform to inform customers about changes to opening hours, processes that would be put in place to maintain social distancing and how the vulnerable/NHS workers/key workers would be accommodated. With the rush to bulk buy and hoard food products, there was an urgent need to inform customers about how ‘order’ would come back into the supermarkets.
CLOSING THE PHYSICAL DOOR BUT KEEPING THE ONLINE DOOR OPEN
Some brands were lucky enough to have a strong online presence and when they were forced to close their bricks and mortar stores to ensure the safety of their employees and then because of the imposed lockdown – they were still able to continue trading. It was probably an easier choice for retailers that had a strong online presence but for those that didn’t, they had to communicate that their stores were closing for the foreseeable future. A significantly difficult task in itself, as the ever daunting prospect that they might not open again probably loomed very heavily.
THINK ABOUT THE LANGUAGE USED:
The language that we use as marketers is always important but right now I personally think is more important than normal. I do believe it’s easy to get right now though…what you have to consider is that you’re probably going through the exact same things as your consumers – so it’s easy for you to empathise and understand. You’ll be feeling the same frustrations and anxieties as it’s likely you’re living the same experience as them or a variant of something similar. How are you going to feel if you receive an email that promotes ‘parties with friends’ rather than ‘celebrating important relationships from afar’? Pretty annoyed at the lack of empathy and understanding around the current situation?
Consider how you position your emails to your consumers – you want your customers to know that you are there for them and that you are trying to make their life easier.
BE TIMELY AND CONSIDERATE:
Consider what is going on and what your consumers need from you as a business.
Some of the gifting companies have been doing this really well actually. Not On The High Street, Getting Personal and GiftsOnline4U really stand out for me here. They’ve understood that they have a job to do and their job is simply to help the consumer get their ‘love’ out to their loved ones.
The gifting industry is an interesting one – people right now will want to gift more than ever especially as they are being kept apart from their loved ones but still it’s important to remember that the tone of any email right now needs to focus on fulfilling the needs of the consumer rather than a hard sell. The examples above of GiftsOnline4U and Getting Personal are really illustrative of this. They know that those people sending the gifts will want to help their loved ones – by showing as a company that they get that, it makes them more relatable.
What’s clear is that transparency, openness and understanding are key to consumers right now. Email is a great way to engage your existing consumer base and bring them along your journey as a business through the pandemic while offering you the ability to be empathetic to their journey too. Email marketing right now really does give the ability to be ‘in it together’ because really… we are.