Rob Delijani
Rob Delijani 27 August 2020

Shopper Behaviour Has Pivoted – But Has Your Email Marketing? Exploding the Myths of Email in Covid-19

As we always say to critics of email; if you think it doesn’t work, it’s because you’re not doing it right. Here are 9 things you can do right now as retail gets back to some kind of normal, that will get results. Everyone says, when asked in polls, that they receive too many emails and as a result, the industry is weighed down with myths and misperceptions. But the too many emails rule only applies if the messages and content are not properly thought out.

1. Myth: I am sending too many emails

Some retailers made incorrect assumptions about how to act during the crisis, firstly that they needed to seriously reduce the number of emails they sent out because selling during a sensitive time might damage the brand.

However, our own figures showed open rates rose from 10-20% among a handful of top retailers from March onwards and even click and conversion rates were either flat or hardly decreased. Our conclusion is that retailers that acted on these insights by treating this week similarly to Black Friday or Cyber Monday, saw the highest performance.

2. Myth: Conversion falls everywhere

Another false assumption brands and retailers make is, falling conversion in one channel must replicate in another. Again, our figures show that for retailers who saw conversions fall by 30-50%, nevertheless saw email opens increase by 21-37%. And conversions through email only declined by a maximum of 22% to then recover in May to 8%.  This is stark evidence that email is beating other strategies post Covid.

3. Myth: I don’t like Mondays

Our figures show that Mondays is actually a top performing day right now, with spikes that can reflect big sales days like Easter or Black Friday. In fact, we have found that for many customers email has turned into their shop window, in the absence of actually being able to get out and shop. If you can catch customers interest with simple, compelling messages, then you have got their attention, just make sure you have designed a clear path for them to the checkout.

4. Myth: Google search is king

In one week during the lockdown, we noted a rise in ecommerce spend through Facebook, while Google saw a decrease, which suggests that both retailers and customers are making direct connections rather than going though search. The implications for email are clear – recognise that consumers are using new channels to reach their favourite brands.

5. Myth: ROAS and CAC are the best way to measure success

A crisis is a perfect opportunity to look again at the effectiveness of measuring success using 'return on ad spend' and 'customer acquisition cost'. One suggestion is to segment audiences into a small number of new cohorts based on behaviour around returns, spend, new to you etc.  Then analyse the performance of each against industry benchmarks and see how you stack up, allowing you to adjust ROAS and CAC on real performance, rather than simply assigning the same spend to all customers.

6. Myth: Great content keeps on delivering

What worked three months ago may now come across as tone deaf, such as pictures of large groups of people hanging out. Your content needs to reflect the mood, which will mean you need to experiment. You won’t get it all right first time, particularly as the mood changes so fast, so monitor and adjust.

7. Myth: Customers appreciate you doing your best

This may well be true, but only if you are honest and upfront with them. For instance, some retailers only accept orders between certain times knowing that their supply chain could not cope otherwise. Best to say that there will be a delay and work with the customer to make things easier for them. This is the perfect time to ask for their email so you can keep in touch.

8. Myth: Customers like formal, professional communications

They do, but not if the tone of voice is impersonal and particularly if you are sharing bad news about a delayed delivery. A very successful tactic recently has been personal emails from your employees in their voice explaining what is happening. This approach reassures but it also bonds you more tightly to your loyal customers, particularly if the actual delivery is then personalised. For instance, there has been a huge rise in kerbside delivery where a member of staff will put orders straight into the boot of the customer’s car, so they do not have to actually queue to come into the store.

9. Fact: Now is the time try something new

Many of the rules governing email marketing have been shown to be wrong during this crisis, so it’s time to break them. Try something new, be prepared to fail and celebrate when something you thought wouldn’t work goes stratospheric.

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