Prior to March 2020, email marketing trends in the e-commerce landscape were mainly geared towards hot topics like artificial intelligence, subscriber control, or user-generated content. E-commerce email marketers could rely on the usual pillars of the retail calendar by following the natural rhythm of yearly events such as back to school and holidays.
Yet, once the pandemic entered the picture, it’s as if those trendy conversations were ancient history.
📍When the COVID-19 crisis hit
When marketers started noticing the real changes brought on by the pandemic, their response necessitated an immediate pivot in email strategy, at least in the short-run, in order to quickly adapt to the changing environment. They had to act fast, as it was a matter of time before all competition hopped on the digital bandwagon.
A Change in Routine
Peak times for email opens and clicks shifted with the change in daily schedules and habits. With less time spent on office commute, checking emails became more circumstantial and based on the hourly activity occurring at home.
More Time to Read More Emails
In the early days of the pandemic, one of the primary trends of email marketing concerned the high send volumes and open rates of covid-related emails. Consumers wanted to be as informed and prepared as possible, which resulted in email becoming the best way for many companies to communicate with their customers.
According to Mailchimp, click-through and open rates in March and April 2020 were through the roof.
CEO Check-ins’ vs Campaign Messaging
A popular use of email was to have a “CEO check-in” where an executive representative delivered real-time messaging on corporate announcements and safety measures or call on segmentation by location for store closings, reopenings, and any other top-of-mind news for customers.
Other companies used a more subtle approach by shifting their campaign messaging from holidays and promotions to embracing the quarantine lifestyle.
Old Shopping Habits Are Out the Window
Another important trend following the arrival of the pandemic was the increase in first-time online shoppers. As businesses without a digital storefront quickly created one, consumers were switching brands at an alarming rate towards, to their great fortune, ecommerce shops. This scramble to build an online presence was, in essence, the trigger for the exponential e-commerce growth curve marketers still witness today.
As the number of online transactions has exploded, so has the number of emails sent.
Though not pandemic related, with Google’s phase-out of third-party cookies, it’s important now more than ever to keep in mind to collect emails (first-party data). If your advertising strategy has historically always relied on third-party data, you should start actively searching for alternative solutions. Read more on How to Prepare for Google’s Third-Party Phase-Out.
With two years of having the pandemic embedded into the consumer’s daily routine, marketers have adapted email marketing campaigns to meet the new realities of a public still living under certain constraints of a global pandemic.
Flattening of the Curve
Even if email volumes remain high and are expected to grow, there has been a massive dial back on covid-centric messaging and email engagement has returned to pre-pandemic levels. At this point, the pandemic made a lasting mark on the psychology of customers and their expectations have changed forever.
Putting your Brand in the Customer’s Shoes
Every person has been affected by the pandemic in one way or another and it’s crucial, now more than ever, for brands to empathize and support their customers in a considerate way. More and more people align themselves with brands that can meet their values authentically, so those capable of demonstrating humanity will always have a leg up on the competition.
Personalization is Key
Many companies see enough return on email marketing that they don’t go the extra mile to personalize and segment their campaigns. For instance, consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a suggestion based on their purchase history rather than seeing a new product launch or a random selection of products. By knowing which emails to automate and which to segment, your business will always have the competitive advantage.
Since the reliance of smartphone shopping during the pandemic, brands are recognizing the value in text-based marketing. Not only does it cut through the “noise” for consumer attention, but the data and insights enable brands to continually improve customer experience, develop demand-based products, and grow their direct-to-consumer sales platform.
Today, marketers can look back at over two years of turmoil and learn some valuable lessons:
- Disruption leads to higher email engagement;
- More companies are investing in email, making it harder to break through;
- The importance of staying agile, you never know what will happen tomorrow, you have to prepare to act quickly;
- There is value in testing different sending times to note what world best for your customer base;
- People are seeking more personal connections via email which can be accomplished through personalized messaging.
Now, while the effects of the pandemic have not completely disappeared, it’s important for e-commerce companies to reflect on how their email marketing has changed over the last couple years and plan for a future where subscriber expectations are at an ultimate standard.
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