To say that the COVID-19 pandemic has been disruptive to life as we know it would be a profoundly underwhelming statement, to say the least.
Email marketers, while understanding that a new normal now exists, are also trying to grapple with the best way to communicate how COVID-19 is affecting their own company or supply chain preparation to their subscribers.
How to effectively communicate those preparations is obviously a delicate process, and with the influx of messaging that so many millions of people are seeing now in their inbox (or spam folder), we wanted to provide four concepts that senders should keep in mind if considering coronavirus email campaigns.
4 Things to Consider Before Sending Another Coronavirus Email
1. Avoid Sudden Spikes in Volume
As any casual browsing of social media or one’s own mailbox could easily find, companies have been clamoring to inform their user base of how COVID-19 has impacted their business, employees or customers.
And we certainly don’t blame them, because for many businesses, engagement has never been higher. Between February and March, Iterable’s customer base as a whole increased its email send volume by 12.3% and achieved a 21.2% increase in opens and 13.7% increase in clicks.
Most importantly, all that activity is improving the bottom line: Purchases attributed to email have also increased by 8.5% for our customers in aggregate.
However, with that messaging, the challenge always becomes which recipient audience to target. In cases like this throughout my career, I have seen email marketers send along both ends of the segmentation spectrum, from their hyper-engaged recipients all the way to every single address they have ever collected.
We’re not going to get into the deliverability implications of that latter decision (spoiler alert: don’t do that) here, but instead, we’re going to first caution on that sudden volume spike. If you find that this target segment is more than 50% larger than what you would mail to normally, then it probably makes sense to stagger the sends out over the course of a couple of days.
If staggering throughout a week or more isn’t an option, then at least try to spread volume out over a day separated by hours, not minutes. Many mailbox filters rightfully watch for sudden, drastic increases in volume, which can indicate many things, including account compromises.
2. That Said, Keep the Lights On
However, many senders don’t feel like a “here is how we’re adjusting” coronavirus email campaign is necessary or warranted and are actually dealing with a decrease in volume. Although Iterable’s customer base experienced double-digit growth in email send volume between February and March, there are strategic ways to deal with a reduced quantity of email, too.
Strictly from an infrastructure perspective, you want to be able to at least maintain volume that can sustain the reputation of your IPs and sending domains. If the volume drops off significantly, you may be at the email equivalent of running on fumes in the tank of your car.
If you typically send a newsletter or promotional content every day, or every other day, then maybe move to a model that deploys twice per week by combining some of the content. The point is to keep the volume consistent to maintain some sort of predictability, which is another quality that filtering algorithms favor.
If your volume falls below the radar, so to speak, for as little as even a few weeks straight, you may find yourself with a ‘cold’ infrastructure and could hinder a return to normalcy.
3. Relevance Still Reigns
Regarding the content itself, while some of your recipients may be interested in hearing how your business is making sure that your employees are being taken care of, most probably won’t be—unless your message relates to a service that they themselves are being provided.
In other words, if an event that was scheduled is being postponed or canceled because you have made the decision to move to a remote workforce temporarily and therefore will not be able to manage it, then it makes sense to inform your audience. Another common example would be a supply chain disruption that will impact when, how or if a recipient will be receiving something that was purchased.
While these messages are not necessarily the happiest that someone could get, they’re important, nonetheless. If your messaging isn’t explicitly relevant to your audience, potential alternatives to email campaigns could be banners on your website, articles on your blog, social media posts or other corporate communications.
4. Don’t Race to Return to “Normal,” Whatever That Becomes
And lastly, when we hopefully return to a somewhat recognizable future, sooner rather than later, as a marketer you’ll probably be chomping at the bit to get back to those profitable campaigns, which are accompanied by your previous message cadence and sending volume.
We want to caution, however, against jumping right back into old habits, which we alluded to earlier regarding volume increases. If you’ve found that the volume during the lean times was less than half than what you normally would be sending, then you’ll probably have to go through a period of re-warming your infrastructure.
And of course, looking through the deliverability lens, this also means that your regular segmentation logic that was used before—good or bad—probably won’t include the same amount of recipients as it used to. AND THAT’S OK.
We talk to our customers about using situations like this, when none of us can control the markets or how people are even behaving in the most basic sense, that in the long term turmoil can be used as a way to rethink the way ‘things used to be done’ and focus more on testing and improving your marketing programs.
Lead With Empathy and Don’t Be Afraid to Ask the Experts
Ultimately, there are many uncomfortable things about this marketing reality that we all find ourselves in, very few of which we can control. But it’s important to keep in mind that, at the end of the day, empathy through relevant, timely messaging is still key.
Though consistency is something that each mailbox platform values, being measured in reactive behavior will definitely benefit email marketers during this time. Filters do understand that there are external influences on email programs right now, but recognizing agency over volume, cadence, content and segmentation will always be in a sender’s best interest.
Need a helping hand navigating coronavirus email campaigns? Learn more about Iterable’s Deliverability Services and contact an expert today to discuss the complexities of email engagement during COVID-19.