The whole world seems to have turned upside down over the past few weeks. Every morning, we wake up to news bulletins about tighter travel restrictions, overloaded health facilities, and stores in our own neighborhoods running out of daily staples like sanitary supplies and drinking water. Major music festivals and sporting events have been cancelled, while organizations from Google to NASA have instituted mandatory work-from-home policies.
Our own day-to-day priorities have shifted dramatically, too. Even as we keep working to meet deadlines and deploy campaigns, we worry for the health and safety of our loved ones and for the food and medicine we’ve got stocked up at home. In the midst of such urgent concerns, the idea of shopping for non-essentials seems much less important than it did last month.
At the same time, this crisis presents a wealth of opportunities—not to push impulse purchases, but to connect with your subscribers on a much more personal level.
While many of your customers’ daily shopping habits have changed, their fundamental desires remain the same: to be understood, to stay well-informed, and to experience meaningful moments with the people they love. If you’ve taken the time to understand each of your subscribers at an individual level, you’re already well-equipped to deliver on all those desires.
Here’s how email can still be a powerful channel for connecting with your customers—creating bonds of loyalty that’ll last long after this crisis is over.
As customers avoid brick-and-mortar, the email channel is more crucial than ever.
Retail stores have been hit especially hard by this crisis. As many customers and employees choose to stay home, in-store traffic has taken a major dive. Some brands are offering shoppers free shipping. Some national retail chains have entirely closed their doors until further notice, to eliminate any possibility of their customers facing health risks—while others, like Walmart, have reduced their open hours to give employees more time to restock and sanitize.
While this plunge in brick-and-mortar traffic might appear dire, it also highlights the vital importance of the email channel for maintaining relationships with your customers. In the absence of in-person communication, email remains the strongest point of connection. And although shoppers’ day-to-day shopping priorities may have shifted toward essential supplies, they still harbor the same tastes and aspirations that drew them to your brand in the first place.
What’s more, many of your subscribers now have an abundance of downtime at home—and in that downtime, they’re actively searching for ways to stay connected to the emotions and experiences they care about. So take this opportunity to remind your subscribers of the values you share with them. Show them that even in the midst of uncertainty, you remain committed to building the kind of world they want to live in.
Right now, your brand’s main job is to convey understanding and support.
Tactful communication is particularly crucial in a time of crisis. Many retailers seem to have taken this principle to heart, and have hit the pause button on their everyday marketing campaigns—replacing those messages with emails proclaiming they’re committed to employee and customer health and are taking a stand to contain the threat.
L.L.Bean sent their subscribers an email with their response to the crisis that emphasized on their heritage as an outdoors, family-owned brand. The note announced the temporary closure of their stores for the safety of their customers and employees, who will receive pay and benefits during the downtime. L.L.Bean also offered a way for customers to stay connected to their brand: through their shared love of the outdoors. They stated they would focus their social channels on the “restorative power of the outdoors” and recommended their customers safely take solace in nature as a way to find balance in these challenging times.
While messages like these are undoubtedly well-intentioned, for some subscribers—particularly those who are not as brand-engaged or are more casual shoppers—they may only add to the daily background chatter of anxious negativity. What can your brand do to contribute calming, positive energy to your subscribers’ lives? It could be as simple as sharing guides and quizzes that remind them of their favorite hobbies—or providing a platform for them to share stories and offer emotional support to one another.
Look for opportunities to spark delight and cultivate joy for your customers, in ways that don’t require a purchase or a trip to your store. Create an email campaign that gives them something to look forward to. Give them reason to expect nice surprises. When the situation stabilizes and they’re ready to treat themselves again, you’ll be the first brand that leaps to their minds.
Below are examples from Anthropologie and Everlane who took more understated, values-based approaches. Anthropologie’s email suggested three ways subscribers could take care of themselves with subtle product editorials. Everlane sent a community-oriented message that promised regular communications with their customers and weekly surprise promotions. Both resonate with their brand values and seek to maintain connections with their subscribers through these trying times.
Personalized compassion builds lasting loyalty in the midst of crisis.
Understanding comes in many forms, on many levels. While tactful sensitivity is an essential baseline in these uncertain weeks, you’re not going to deepen any customer relationships simply by refraining from sales pitches. To reach that next level of trust and loyalty, you’ve got to demonstrate personalized compassion toward your subscribers.
For example, if you know a certain customer loves to cook, you could send them simple home recipes based on non-perishable ingredients. For those who are musically inclined, you might livestream a performance by an artist they adore. This isn’t just about showing you care for your customers—it’s about proving you care for them as the unique individuals they are.
Whether you keep up steady communication with your customers during this crisis, or choose to take a step back, restraint and understanding are more vital now than they’ve ever been. Approach your customers with tact and with a clear intent to support them through these challenging days—and when opportunity presents itself, demonstrate compassion in ways that feel just as personal as your product recommendations.
Most of all, remember that your health and the health of the people you love, are infinitely more precious than any product. Whether in business or in our personal lives, it’s meaningful relationships and shared moments of connection that truly make life worth living.