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Today, people are more engaged online than ever before, and email marketing has continued to prove it’s one of the most effective marketing tools out there. At a time when communicating with customers is so important for small businesses, there are certain best practices and guidelines to follow for developing and sharing the right content.
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Why email is the channel of choice
Email has long proven it is one of the strongest performing marketing mediums and is seven times more effective at driving sales than all the major social media outlets combined.
Recent data from Constant Contact examined how email behavior changed when the pandemic hit, and how small businesses and consumers were adjusting to the new normal. The data showed that as the crisis hit in early to mid-March, email send volume from small businesses immediately trended upward, as did the rate that consumers opened their emails.
In comparison to data from 2019, overall email send rates in March increased by approximately 15 percent, reflecting the overarching trend that more businesses are adjusting their digital strategies to connect with customers, keep them informed of changes in business operations, and find ways to maintain revenue streams without the benefit of in-person contact.
Consumers are responding to these digital communications with equal enthusiasm, demonstrated by data highlighting above average open rates. For the month of March, Constant Contact data shows email open rates on digital campaigns were averaging at 34 percent.
In comparison to industry standards, any open rate between 15 percent to 25 percent is typically considered solid for a campaign. This data confirms that consumers are online and are looking to their favorite companies to understand how they are operating in this climate and how they can support them. As the internet continues to be the main forum for both social and business transactions, entrepreneurs should take advantage of email marketing to connect with their existing and potential customers.
Adjusting messaging and content
These are sensitive times, and small businesses should adjust their messaging and content accordingly. While there is no foolproof formula for creating the perfect email or marketing campaign, the best advice is to lead with honesty and authenticity in all communications because when business does return to (the new) normal, your customers will remember how they were treated and will show their appreciation accordingly.
In the age of social media, any tone-deaf messages or negative sentiment can spread like wildfire. With approximately 90 percent of consumers researching a company online before making a purchase, missteps can be extremely detrimental to your company’s reputation. This new reality calls for a total reevaluation of existing marketing collateral and visual assets.
There are a few key steps for merchants to consider when making these changes and planning for future content to ensure a smooth transition to this mode of communication:
- Communicating any changes in operations is essential. Let your customers know how they can continue to do business with you. Consumers are looking for ways to support small businesses right now, so these types of communications let you connect with your audience while also getting the word out on any important updates for logistics.
- From marketing content calendars to stock images, every element needs to be inspected with fresh eyes to prevent messages that could unintentionally anger consumers or be misinterpreted. Take the time to understand what your customers actually want, and develop content accordingly.
- Merchants should take the time to find the new best practices for email frequency and timing. Consumers now have totally different schedules that can impact their online behavior. Historically, it may have been effective to send emails during the morning commute period, but now with no traditional “commute,” businesses may find their emails are gaining traction during completely new times of day. Make sure emails are easy to navigate with an end goal to guide recipients down the path to purchase. The past few months have highlighted the importance of having online retail capabilities and shoppable landing pages that can help make up for the loss of sales from traditional retail stores.
- Above all, avoid any language that implies urgency or can be misconstrued as trying to take advantage of the situation. Conveying empathy and mindfulness will be key to making sure your brand’s tone is authentic and will prevent alienating existing or potential customers.
Across the globe, businesses of all sizes are experiencing product shortages and shipping delays because of disruptions stemming from the pandemic. At this point, many consumers expect some part of their online purchases to be impacted in one way or another.
Small businesses need to anticipate and plan for these communications so they don’t hurt their hard-earned customer relationships. To keep customers happy, small businesses should:
- Review existing and scheduled marketing collateral to make sure it does not promote any out of stock items or make promises that cannot be followed through during these times.
- If there are delays in order fulfillment or shipping processes, provide this information upfront so customers have the right expectations before making a purchase.
- If shipping delays pop up unexpectedly, keep customers in the loop so they feel confident these issues are being resolved and that your business is committed to providing a solution. When shoppers are blindsided with delays, this can create a poor buying experience – especially if they’re first-time shoppers and this has been the only interaction they’ve had with your company.
Setting expectations up front and being honest in every form of marketing collateral goes a long way in the eyes of a consumer. In the long term, all of these actions will help build bonds of loyalty and trust that will continue after the disruption ends.
While this current situation might not feel like there’s an end in sight, one day things will return to business as usual. The current crisis has proven the importance of email marketing as an easily accessible, high-return solution that can maintain business continuity even when the world goes remote.