by Anna Wybieralska Nov 4, 2020

It’s been months since we started navigating through a new pandemic normal. We got used to working from home, distancing ourselves and maintaining good personal hygiene. In other words, we started to accept that the pandemic is not going anywhere, and even if a cure will be found, we might change our ways forever.

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Various businesses had to adjust and find new ways to attract customers. It’s highly possible that some of the established tactics will stay with them for a long time. While finding new ways to communicate with consumers, it seems that email found itself a safe spot in one of the most used marketing channels. But it is not the same as it was pre-COVID. Today, we will explore how email marketing actually changed in the social distancing era and what are the most effective tactics that were used during this time that could be converted for the future.

Email Marketing in the social distancing era

But in a good way! People crave connection and during the social distancing, where you simply can’t go and visit a cafe you really like or buy some fall-scented candles, they want it even more. And they get it from the next best thing. Email. 

Creating and maintaining relationships with businesses was at an all-time high during the pandemic. The highest increase in engagement via email was actually noted among small businesses and it led to interesting observations. One of them is the realization that seemingly uninterested people were actually looking for opportunities to find a connection among smaller communities. Instead of locking themselves up, they actively tried to check on their favorite business and look for new ones to support and engage.

We also observed an interesting connection between the engagement and the sending of emails. There were fewer campaigns sent as companies adjusted to the new normal and opted for a less invasive approach. They decided to send more relevant content but send it less often. At the same time, as we mentioned before, people were intensely clicking on the content. They are looking for the opportunity to talk with companies they like and are interested in. So even though businesses sent less, they actually received more positive results.

Based on the information above, we reached an interesting conclusion that just might be exactly what you need to still maintain the same email campaign performance.

Social distancing Email Marketing - what changed?

While in quarantine, not only people changed their behavior - businesses did too. They started sending different content, experimenting with new advertisement techniques and opted for a changed, more human-like approach towards their customers. 

Empathy got a second chance

In the modern world, everything concentrates on consumption. It’s either the obsession of getting something new or the addiction to having more. However, with the fear of the pandemic striking in society, we observed that people switched their priorities and focused on the community and their families. Companies picked it up as well and decided to switch their existing email campaigns for something more genuine. 

Instead of showing off their newest product, they sent a heartfelt message. Emails about sales turned to emails about safety. There was less pressure to consume and more focus on what matters. To sum up, brands started to show that they care about much more than just themselves. 

Personalization got a makeover

If you’re here, you already know about the importance of personalizing your emails. Things like merge fields, using the person’s name in an email and using localization to ensure relevant content are currently the base of a good email campaign.

However, due to social distancing, email marketing during pandemic got an important update in the personalization department. Companies took it upon themselves to be fully transparent and honest. They started sending personalized emails where they talked about their current situation and the steps they are taking to be safe and to keep their customers safe. It’s a new approach that makes people recognize that brands are not just services and products, but real living people that - just like them - need a bit of support and understanding.

Fun and responsibility go together

Everybody knows the importance of social distancing. No matter if you’re meeting daily, going shopping or just running errands, there are rules that people got used to and are following to keep themselves safe. 

Sadly, following rules that essentially alienate you can have horrible repercussions. Simply put, they can make you depressed. So far, being numb was something people battled on their own but when the pandemic started, and the scale of anxiety-ridden users got high, companies took an interesting approach. They got compassionate. Some companies started sending emails with tips on how to manage the world alone. Some included help resources on their website to ensure that their customers are accommodated. Others even decided to take the matter into their own hands, and create a safe space - helpline, chat, or forum to assist during these times.

Companies started spreading awareness and at the same time showing that not everything is as bleak - that there is a connection and it’s much bigger than it was before. 

The consequences

All of the mentioned elements made people see companies differently. They too decided that some things matter more than others and that empathy and compassion are much more valued.

Companies that included some sort of message about the pandemic showed their humane side, were interested in their community and got much more appreciation than the ones who decided to “sweep” the issue under the rug. In conclusion, the brands that took the responsibility to care for their customers got themselves much more loyal customers.

They enhanced their brand voice by simply addressing the issue.

Tips for maintaining the relevancy of your email marketing campaigns

You already know how the social distancing era impacted email marketing. But even though the above practices emerged from the pandemic, it doesn’t mean that they need to pass with it. 

After showing care and consideration, you simply can’t go back to the way things were. It will show you as an inconsistent business that took special care of their recipients while they had to, but returned to their indifferent ways as soon as the situation got a little better. And that’s a mistake you shouldn’t make.

We can’t expect brands to continuously talk about the pandemic. It was important to address it, but people don’t need an ongoing commentary about this from everyone including businesses they like to shop with. At the same time we can’t accept the fact that companies will move on like nothing changed. 

That’s why we are sharing some tips that will help you keep up with the new normal, while staying relevant and interesting for your customers. Following just a few easy rules will make your users feel appreciated and let them understand that you care about more than just a sale.

1. Be honest

You’ve probably heard them say “Honesty is the best policy”. You probably heard it first from your parents when you made a mess and were scared to confess, or from a teacher when you cheated on an exam and got caught. 

However, the statement is very true. People appreciate honesty above all else and in all aspects of life. So it doesn't matter if you as a company messed up, if you’re changing the designs, switching prices or anything on that spectrum. It’s best to be upfront and honest, additionally providing steps on how to fix it or why it happened. 

Not everyone is gonna be pleased. But in what world do you say one thing and everybody agrees? Instead of waiting to address an issue or omit it completely, just show people that you are yourself a person and are allowed to make mistakes but then own up to them and show how you care.

2. Be supportive

Sending people updates about new products is fine. After all, you are a company that tries to make a sale. But it doesn’t have to be the only thing you show in your emails. If you want your company to get some positive PR and feel good at the same time, take an interest in charities and non-profits around you. 

Use the example of bigger companies during the pandemic. They started supporting other smaller businesses or got acquainted with a charity that could use their help. Brands recognized that while during the shutdown they will probably be fine for a while. However, the businesses that just started, or that are small could struggle and potentially close forever. The same goes for charities and nonprofits that took a heavy blow while COVID-19 was spreading. 

The obvious answer? Support them. Your customers will appreciate it, especially if you’re aligning the charity to their personal interests. On the same note, if you see that something wrong is happening in your community - protests, demonstrations or difficult times - you can support that too!

Keep in mind that you need to weigh your pros and cons before you do, though!

3. Chill with the fluff

Every company sends salesy emails -messages where you show your product or service as the best in the world. But a lot of people currently suffer from fatigue syndrome and are less likely to appreciate all the information you’ve included in your email.

Use a different approach. Try sending more minimalistic emails in design as well as content. See how your recipients will react if you strip all the fluff and only provide them with the essentials. You might be surprised how well they can respond and how grateful they will be that there is a company that understands the need to rest from too much information.

4. Get their feedback

When you’re launching something new, you usually ask around your company to feel out the opinions and figure out if this is something that will be beneficial in the long run. If you were the one who came up with the project, your judgement might be clouded.

But have you ever considered asking your customers? Sending a simple survey or a poll to your most dedicated users might be very beneficial! They will be the ones who will use your product in the end. While you might get some mixed reviews, it will help you understand what your customers are looking for. In the end, you might even find a better way to tackle your idea.

5. Include users in the process

Similarly to the last tip, you should also include your customers in the process. Launching a BETA to get the final results, sending updates from the creation process and even incorporating various social media to figure out how different users feel can help you create something that will be liked by many.

People will appreciate how invested you want them to be, and they will feel like they are the ones being a part of the whole process. It will make them feel like they created something with you. Attachment like that is hard to shake off.

Conclusion about Email Marketing during pandemic

Trying to navigate through the difficult times that we are currently in is no cakewalk. It requires you to think differently and take into consideration things you have never had to take before. But email marketing is constantly evolving anyway, even before the social distancing era came to be. Use it well to send even better emails and create a great company that is respected.

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Anna Wybieralska

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