As new developments emerge about the coronavirus outbreak daily, companies around the world are preparing for the impact on their businesses. We’re hearing major announcements from some of the largest global brands projecting how broken supply chains and halted manufacturing will impact their inventory levels and stunt their earnings. 

While this blog post cannot supply all the answers to the challenges your business will face as a result of this outbreak, the tips below will help put your email program in the best position possible to respond to upcoming inventory hurdles. While there are still many unknowns, there are a few areas within our control as marketers that should be your point of focus. Your email program is a great place to start if you want to get ahead of the upcoming inventory challenges that will impact your subscriber experience.  

 

Author: Mike DeBella, Director, CRM & Email at Tinuiti

 

Let me start by laying out the worst-case scenario for your email database: Your subscribers have numerous bad experiences after clicking through your emails only to land on a site with minimal available products, limited sizes, or out of stock items.

The highly engaged subscribers that you have earned over time through paid prospecting and effective email onboarding and engagement efforts start to become less engaged or unsubscribe. They’re confused, they’re unhappy, and they’re most likely a lost cause for your email program.

The best-case scenario is a much brighter outlook. Your brand has sent an honest and candid message to your subscribers letting them know the challenges ahead and how it may impact their experience. You’ve made it easy for subscribers to sign up to be notified when items are back in stock. You’ve also made several internal changes to your planning process that will allow for continued email communications that will keep engagement levels as high as possible during the upcoming months. Your subscribers feel valued, have their expectations set, and are more understanding and engaged with your brand as a result.

Tips for Email Strategy Through the Coronavirus

So how do you achieve these ideal results?

Coronavirus Email Tip #1:

Send an honest and candid message to your subscribers; set their expectations by being transparent about the temporary inventory challenges your business may face due to the Coronavirus and that you appreciate their support and understanding. You may also consider incorporating this message into your welcome series, order confirmation emails, and any other appropriate trigger messages. When adding these messages to your automated campaigns, consider how to do so in a way that will allow for easy updates once issues are resolved, such as a banner that can be easily added or removed.

Coronavirus Email Tip #2:

Plan for a flexible email template that will allow you to swap unexpected out of stock or low inventory items with in-stock products. Having the wrong template will make this a chore for you and your team, and prevent you from being nimble when it matters most.

 Coronavirus Email Tip #3:

Plan for contingency emails. Tinuiti’s CRM & Email team always recommend this approach during the holiday season or during your brand’s peak season, but it’s really something you should be doing all year to be ready for unexpected shifts in your business. This is as simple as planning a few ever-green emails that can be moved into place when needed when you have unexpected shifts, or building out a text-based letter format email that is easy to manipulate for an apology, back in stock notification, or other important, time-sensitive updates.

Coronavirus Email Tip #4:

Get your Out Stock Trigger program up and running or optimize your current approach. It’s critical to make it easy for your subscribers to sign up to be notified when items are back in stock, but it’s equally important to touch base with them and keep them updated when things are delayed for a longer-than-expected period. And if you know that an item will not be back in stock, send a follow-up email offering alternatives or at least close the loop with them and let them know if the item will no longer be available. 

Remember that your email subscribers are human beings – the best approach is to be honest and transparent with your customers to build trust with the brand and reset their expectations in the face of this uncertainty. It’s better to give them a heads up if you expect lower inventory levels, fewer new products, or other temporary changes to your business that will impact their experience. They will be more understanding than you think! And as any good email marketer will tell you, you’ll see it in your engagement rates.

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