By now we’ve all had to navigate communication with customers through the COVID crisis.
While the pandemic is by no means behind us, the scramble to share news about inventory issues, physical location closures, and changes to the way we do business is mostly complete.
We’re settling into a new normal, but the way we live our lives is going to be quite different in the coming months as governments grapple with how to re-open the economy.
Because the only constant of this crisis has been a lack of clarity around what’s coming next, it’s important to remain poised to communicate with your customers as new developments emerge that will impact our lives and businesses.
When it comes to communication around a sensitive topic, the delivery of the message can be just as important as the message itself, and many marketers are finding that during a time of crisis their email program is the most effective channel to convey these important updates.
So what is it about email marketing that makes it the most valuable communication channel in uncertain times?
1. It’s Personal
Email marketing, when done right, can be a truly 1:1 communication.
Customers have to grant you permission to send them emails, meaning there’s already an element of trust present in their relationship with your brand when they sign-up. If you properly nurture that trust through responsible mailing habits and the delivery of personally relevant content, brand loyalty will naturally follow.
Using this personal channel to open the lines of communication in a crisis is natural, as long as what you’re saying is actually relevant for users on the receiving end.
Before you send out updates, carefully consider if your message will bring value to your subscribers. Don’t send a COVID update just because everyone else is, and don’t blast your entire list with messages that aren’t relevant.
The beauty of email marketing is theability to segment at a granular level to ensure you’re sending the right message to the right audience at the right time.
Lapsed customers who haven’t opened your emails in the last 6 months probably don’t need to know your fulfillment center is behind.
2. It’s Visible
Email inboxes are relatively quiet spaces compared to the rest of the internet; you can only open one message at a time, meaning your attention is devoted to the content taking up the screen real estate.
In times of crisis, email allows you to get your message right in front of your reader with little distraction otherwise.
And according to the Pew Research Center, 76% of adults have used email or other messaging services to communicate with others during the coronavirus outbreak, so sending an email is equivalent to meeting your customers where they’re currently spending their time.
Messages on social platforms or display ads are likely to get lost as other crisis-related content competes for the reader’s attention. In the case of COVID, this can have an even more detrimental impact, as surveys indicate seeing a brand’s ad next to COVID-related content can actually diminish the person’s perception of a brand.
Being sure your reader will see your message in isolation and maintaining their (relatively) undivided attention will ensure they are able to fully digest your message, which is crucial when the content is critical or sensitive in nature.
3. It’s Cost-Effective
As businesses shutter and unemployment rates continue to climb, millions of people are facing an uncertain economic future.
The lack of a clear path or timeline to get life back on track has consumers understandably tightening purse strings, which means spending is down and retailers are feeling the pinch. For many companies, continuing to invest in ad spend just isn’t in the cards.
For retailers with established programs, email marketing can be an inexpensive source of continued revenue.
Email already has an incredibly high ROI – some studies indicate an average of $38 earned for every $1 spent on email – and the source of that incredible return is rooted in low overhead. Most email service providers charge a fixed monthly or annual fee based on the number of contacts in your database and the volume of your mailings. There’s no fluctuation in spend from month to month and the total annual contract is typically minuscule by comparison to a paid advertising budget.
Continuing to mail throughout a crisis is a cost-effective way to keep orders coming in.
Of course, you can’t expect to see the same conversion rates or AOV as you did pre-COVID, but the low cost to execute an email campaign means any return is all upside.
4. It’s Preferred
Email was ranked among the top channels US adults prefer to receive communications from brands during the coronavirus outbreak.
That’s great to hear given all the other benefits of leveraging this channel discussed above.
Above all, it’s important not to go completely silent.
Customers have short attention spans so a failure to communicate for weeks or months on end could lead to churn.
Pausing all mailing for an extended period can also impact your deliverability and prevent your messages from reaching inboxes when the world does get back to normal. This setback could put your company behind the curve as brands look to recoup losses experienced in the height of the crisis.
If you’re not quite sure how to tactfully run your email program during this unusual moment in history, we’ve got your back.
Check out our resources for managing email during this “new normal” and some tips for planning a marketing calendar for Q2.
We’ll also be hosting regular live Q&A sessions for marketers and hope to see you at an upcoming event (virtual, of course).