As the impact of the Coronavirus continues to reverberate across the globe, brands are required to shift their marketing efforts in the face of this new normal.

As digital marketers, we have the privilege of being able to pivot and be nimble to changing landscapes, but it’s important to settle in and create a new sense of normalcy not only for yourself and your teams but also for your customers. 

Because email marketing is one of the lowest cost, highest ROI digital channels, you’re likely leaning heavily on your email program to keep lines of communication open with your existing customers.

We shared tips to help you address the crisis early on, but with the economy partially shut down for the foreseeable future, it’s important to establish a new normal for the tone and timing in which you’re communicating with customers and prospects.


Be Mindful of Your Language


Sometimes it’s what you say, but more often it’s how you say it. Words we marketers would typically use without question can be perceived differently now. We need to evolve the language we’re using to be sensitive to the current climate.

cleancult coronavirus email marketing campaign

Source: Cleancult


  • Be cautious of insinuating what is an essential or a necessity. Although we would love for our subscribers to think of our products as a critical part of life, the new normal is changing how people define “essential.”


  • Focus on how your product or service can fulfill a different type of need. Rather than speaking to general ‘spring essentials’, or BBQ must-haves’, ask how your product or service will make the purchaser feel. Will purchasing your product brighten the recipient’s day? Will it make them more comfortable? Will it make them feel beautiful? Everyone is seeking comfort and positivity in this otherwise dark time. Convey how your product might bring them that little bit of relief.


  • Ask yourself if your content comes across as positive, yet aware. Find a balance of being uplifting without coming across as overly-bubbly or naive. Plain and simple: don’t create more fear or negativity, but don’t act as if everything is okay.


  • Avoid using ‘stock up’ or any other type of messaging around urgency. With essentials like toilet paper in scarce supply, consumers are likely to be sensitive to messages around sell-out risk and we don’t want to instill any more fear or feelings of uncertainty.


Consider Your Content


What type of content makes sense right now? How will you get your subscribers to continue to engage, and hopefully purchase your products?

COVID updates are important, but they shouldn’t be the only thing your brand is talking about for the next several weeks. 


  • Before sending a dedicated COVID update, ask yourself if it warrants a full dedicated email OR if there’s another way you can communicate this update (on-site, in email banners, at checkout, etc.) while providing other content that will benefit your subscribers. Reserve dedicated company updates for when they’re truly needed.


  • Avoid focusing on individual products if there is any possibility that the product could be out of stock. Feature more category-specific CTAs and landing pages if inventory is unpredictable.


  • Have a slew of new products coming? Space out the release schedule so subscribers have something new and exciting to look forward to. This strategy has the added benefit of distributing revenue over a longer period of time.


  • Having a sale? Keep in mind that people are thinking twice about whether or not they actually need your product. Some otherwise-interested shoppers might not be in the mood to buy during this time of uncertainty, regardless of how steep the discount. Also bear in mind that offering up huge promotions now may do your brand a disservice in the long run, as it has the potential to train your subscribers to wait for splashy promos. 


  • Keep an eye on what story your images are telling. Avoid images that feature large groups of people or travel.


  • With this time of year typically so focused on gatherings and planning social activities it may be challenging to utilize a similar editorial calendar to past years. Use this Content Calendar to help establish a solid calendar for Q2.


  • Consider the messaging being sent to the new customers you’re acquiring right now as in-store shoppers are shifting to online. Ask if your onboarding experience makes these new online purchasers comfortable with your company.


  • Haven’t done an audit of your transactional or triggered emails yet? Now’s the time! Be sure every touchpoint you’re sending out is meaningful and supports the current state.


Re-evaluate Timing


For the majority of people, there’s no more morning commute, there are no more appointments, and the work-from-home climate is changing how and when people are shopping online. Schedules have been flipped upside down, so think about how this will impact email timing:

chili coronavirus email example

Source: Chili

  • Consider testing into what send time works right now. With users being mostly home-bound the previous send times you’ve tested may not be the optimal times to send at the moment.
              • Keep in mind that any testing you do now will likely need to be re-visited once things settle down a bit and people begin to return to their normal routines.


  • Have any product replenishment triggers in place? Consider how the shift to so much time at home is impacting how quickly someone is using your product. Will they need more or less than they typically do? How will that impact trigger timing and follow up?


Be Transparent & Communicate


Many of us have had to notify customers of shipping delays or out of stock products after a big sale (flashbacks to Black Friday / Cyber Monday anyone?).

Right now, this is to be expected, so notify your subscribers upfront of any anticipated issues so they can plan for it.


  • Communicate potential delays or inventory issues on-site before they make the purchase. By giving customers a heads up, you’re building trust and paving the way for a long-term relationship. If you wait until after – although you may have landed that one purchase – the customer won’t have a great experience and will not be inclined to come back for additional purchases down the road. 


  • After the purchase, reiterate delays in order confirmation emails. Be sure you have email notifications going out with every shipping update; people are looking forward to getting the product so they’ll have a positive experience if you’re updating them when it’s getting closer. 


Don’t Forget About the People Behind the Emails


While we’re all taking the necessary precautions to stay healthy and slow the spread of the coronavirus, everyone is at risk.

It’s important to have a back-up plan for coverage if the person or people running your email program become directly affected. Be sure you’re planning in advance so your team can be ready to jump in and cover in order to keep the lines of communication with your customers open:


  • Establish a Buddy System
    • We at Tinuiti have established a buddy program so if anything is to happen to one of us, we already know who’s going to step in and take over. Now is the time to cross-train staff to cover for one another if anyone needs to go out unexpectedly. 


  • Planned Content Bank
    • Spend some time getting an evergreen bank of content together that anyone else can quickly pick up and evolve. 


Email & Coronavirus: Final Takeaway


The way in which a company operates in this time of uncertainty will directly impact their ability to retain their customers in the future.  Brands that are mindful and empathetic of this current state will fare far better in the long term. 

This way of life is temporary, but it will have a lasting effect on all of us and it’s going to take some time to get back to how things were ‘in the good ‘ol days’.

In the meantime, stay safe and healthy, and visit the Tinuiti COVID-19 Resource Hub and Marketing During Coronavirus: Your Top Questions Answered for more expert tips to navigate this crisis across digital channels.


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