By now, you’ve already adapted email best practices for your ad hoc communications during a crisis. Once you have rethought your crisis communication segmentation and targeting strategy, don’t forget to take a look at your triggered communications through this new lens. Because nothing is business as usual right now, there are likely some updates that need to be made to your “set it and forget it” triggered and transactional communications.
Review Your Send Volumes and Sender Reputation
Hopefully you have a list to reference all your triggered communications, everything from your onboarding series to your password resets. If you do not have a comprehensive list, consider tasking your team with creating and managing this important documentation. This will also tell you at a glance what might need to be turned on/off in times of crisis. It is common for companies to have separate IP addresses (the method by which inbox providers monitor your brand’s reputation) for marketing communications vs transactional emails. It is important to maintain consistent send volume to maintain a positive sender reputation score and ensure deliverability into your customers’ inboxes. If a crisis necessitates that you turn off a number of emails on one IP, consider balancing that by moving some of your continuing emails over so that all of your IPs remain “warm” and your deliverability isn’t impacted.
Audit: Your Welcome Series
You can still acquire new customers during this time, and first impressions still matter. That said, the content in these emails may need a coronavirus refresh to remain relevant.
Rather than simply turning off things like your welcome series, consider how you can adapt it. For operational ease, employ dynamic content that can easily be switched on/off rather than creating a completely new email.
Audit: Reward Emails (extend the expiration date to accommodate for changes in demand and shopping habits during this time)
Reward, loyalty and birthday-type communications may need to be revisited. If your physical stores are closed, is there a way to redeem the reward online? For birthday redemptions which require an in-store visit and showing your license, is there a way to adapt your policies while still recognizing/celebrating a customer's birthday? Can you offer helpful perks like redemption extensions? I applaud Starbucks for their sensitivity in their birthday email. They extended their usual 1-day offer by two months and acknowledged the challenges of redeeming a birthday reward during a pandemic in a subtle way.
Audit: Your Statements
If you send monthly statements, consider boosting open rates by suppressing people who have not had any recent activity. Not only is this a good practice in general, it’s particularly important to keep engagement up for deliverability’s sake.
For example, Delta Air Lines’ monthly statement was adapted by removing typical content focused on booking new travel and adding in helpful content for company efforts.
Audit: Update Transactional Emails - Have your retail operations changed?
Several brands are experiencing shipping delays and have extended the window for product returns. Do you have relevant information on your website that should also be included in order confirmations and shipping confirmations? Do you have a new process or policy customers should be informed of?
Have Store Procedures Changed? Are there adjusted store hours? This is an excellent time for dynamic content if you can show the customer store hours for most frequented or nearest location to them. Especially for consumers who are utilizing the “buy online pickup in store” feature; personalize this communication with their local store’s hours. If store hours are likely to change, even linking to a website to check for the most up-to-date information is a nice gesture.
Same goes for Changes to Pick Up Process: Can the customer call from the parking lot and have the items delivered to their trunk instead of having to come inside? Tell them that! Even better, provide them with the number to call and give them clear instructions. Home Depot in particular has done a great job in highlighting these types of changes to standard operating procedure for their buy online, pick up in store orders directly in their pick-up confirmation emails.
Audit: Post-Purchase Journey -- and consider adding Order Confidence Comms
You may also consider new transactional triggers, such as a shipping update notices or order confidence communications (i.e. we haven’t forgotten about your order). Some brands are adding a new shipping delay communication entirely (see H&M example). Given the extended lag time between order submissions and order processing, consider adding an Edit Your Order button -- but only if you have the operational ability to support this.
Shoppers may have a lack of confidence when it comes to return policies, as several companies have adjusted or even revoked their return policies. Consider highlighting your return policy (even if it hasn’t changed) in a new Shopper Confidence customer journey surrounding their first order since the pandemic. Consider dynamic messaging for customers who have previously purchased vs. new customers.
In addition to checking that the content of these communications is tonally appropriate for the current situation, consider adding a note about the coronavirus to the newsletter. Inform customers of changes to hours, operations, shipping, etc. — even if this information has been communicated in a one-off message, it’s still helpful to reinforce.
Consider: Leveraging Vendors
To operationalize some of the changes mentioned above to existing comms quickly, it is worth looking into any offerings your vendors have available. For example, if you use Movable Ink, their critical messaging app makes it easy to keep communications timely and accurate. Even better, they are making their app free for customers through the end of the year. This functionality will come in handy as it will allow you to share critical information and to dynamically target these alerts accordingly based on customer location. As we mentioned in our previous article on segmentation during a crisis, location-based targeting will allow you to communicate in an appropriate way with customers who, depending on where they live, are at different points in the COVID-19 curve, and may be under varying levels of social distancing protocols.
In every aspect of your brand’s relationship with your customer, from message to tone to offers and everything in between, there is a need to be agile and flexible. What works today may not be where your brand needs to be tomorrow. Now is the time to look at all of your comms and make sure that every single brand communication is providing relevant content and value for customers whose lives have been turned upside down.