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BizReport : Email Marketing : April 27, 2020

Expert: What consumers want in their inbox during pandemic

From promotional messaging to advertising, what consumers want from businesses has changed over the past four weeks. And it will likely change again once the COVID-19 virus is under control and life turns to its 'new normal'. In the meantime, though, brands need to know how to reach their customer base. Here are a few tips.

by Kristina Knight

Kristina: How has email changed the business/customer relationship since many states 'shut down' because of the pandemic? 

Guy Hanson, VP of Customer Engagement, Validity: There has definitely been a shift away from a more promotional approach toward a more informational approach. Right now, email programs are strongly focused on providing useful information to their customers - changes in opening hours, how to find them online, etc. There has also been a big rise in service and transactional messages as many companies have had to send out messages around travel re-bookings, mortgage holidays, and so on.

Kristina: What is it that customers seem to want from email messaging at this time?

Guy: There are several things customers are looking for, including:
• Accurate and reliable information. If you're a retailer, up-to-date details around stock availability. Another example would be Dunkin' Donuts letting their subscribers know they will have an extended period in which to redeem their rewards.
• Service & support. Try hard to understand your customers' concerns, and demonstrate you're doing your best to address them. The Healthy Home email, which provides its subscribers with ideas and suggestions for how to stay fit at home, does this well.
• Community/connection. Messaging that reinforces we're all in this together, and how we can help each other. Yankee Candle's "share your toast with us, and we'll share ours, too" provides a lovely illustration of this.
• Positivity. It's a tough time, and people are appreciative of good news stories. This is why the Telegraph example, with a newly introduced feed of good news stories, was so well received.

Kristina: The changes we're seeing in email - do you expect these to be long-lasting or is this a blip strictly because of the COVID19 pandemic? 

Guy: We would like to think so, because it's a better way to build relationships. In normal circumstances when consumers are asked what single thing they would like to see changed in their marketing emails, the answer is often "send me less offers, and send me more useful information." This is absolutely what is happening right now, and it would be great to see some of this philosophy continue. Good email marketing recognizes the principle of "value exchange," and relationships are in equilibrium when both brand and customer feels they are extracting equal value from the relationship. For customers, that value can have a financial element (money off, discounts, free delivery, etc.), but it can also take other forms such as useful information, helpful instructions, and even simply acknowledgement/recognition.

Whether this trend actually continues is another matter. In post-GDPR Europe there was a hope that email programs would have learned their lessons about panic-sending mass mailings to everyone on their lists, most of which ended up in the spam folder. Unfortunately, there has been a distinct sense of déjà vu over the past few weeks, as companies have blindly felt the need to be seen to "say something!"  

Kristina: What are three things marketers should be doing right now to engage with their customer base? 

Guy: • Be ultra-focused on your sender reputation metrics. If you're not even getting delivered, you're falling at the first hurdle of trying to engage with your customers.
• Now is a really good time to be authentic and credible. Sending "we really care for you" messages to subscribers who have not responded for months/years is the wrong approach.
• Think very carefully about what genuine value you can provide. What do your customers need most from you right now, and how best can you provide it?

Tags: advertising, content marketing, covid-19 marketing, ecommerce, email content, email marketing, email marketing tips, email marketing trends, Validity

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