7 Best Practices for Sending Emails as Businesses Reopen After COVID-19

CM Commerce Team

Our lives have changed during the pandemic, and it’s no wonder—COVID-19 has surfaced fears, anxieties, and changes in how we run our companies. 

Businesses have started to reopen, but it’s still important to remain mindful of customer concerns and needs. 

Many people are still struggling: overcoming changes, working from home, out of work, homeschooling, or a combination. 

In ecommerce, stay-home-stay-safe orders have led to a surge in consumer spending, as folks look for new ways to pass their time indoors and relieve anxieties. Here’s a look at how ecommerce searches shifted during lockdown:

Emails to send after business reopen: Ecommerce under COVID-19
Source: SEMrush

But there’s a catch. The widespread boost in ecommerce means that smaller businesses are now competing with ramped-up ecommerce strategies from big-box stores. 

Use the tips and strategies below to show customers that you’re with them, that “we’re in this together” isn’t just a marketing tagline—but rather something you’re willing to prove. 

7 best practices for sending emails after businesses reopen

People worldwide (not least of all, Americans) are experiencing high-pressure circumstances for the foreseeable future.

Now, this isn’t intended to promote doom and gloom. However, it is important to consider the general state of society as you create emails to send after businesses reopen. 

1. Avoid tone-deaf images and graphics.

Traditional marketing best practices tell us that images of social gatherings work well for boosting engagement. Right now though, they come off as tone-deaf, given social distancing guidelines. 

Try to avoid images depicting:

  • Holding hands, kissing, or physical contact
  • Activities still under restriction in certain areas like swimming pools, classrooms, gyms, playgrounds, or amusement parks
  • Planes or resorts
  • Asian people wearing masks (to avoid contributing to racial hysteria)
  • Affluent homes or yachts (consider your audience and their living situations)

Targeting your ideal demographic can help you send the most relevant emails.

2. Don’t use COVID-19 as a reason for sending campaigns.

Between inflexible landlords, price gouging, and public companies gobbling up small business PPP support, people have had their fill of capitalist greed. It’s important to avoid using the pandemic as a pretext for contacting your subscribers. 

Gartner recommends asking yourself four questions to avoid virtual signaling or appearing desperate/greedy:

  • Are you telling customers something different than other brands or just saying the same thing everyone else is saying?
  • Are you telling customers something they don’t already expect from your brand (like reminding them about your app or website)?
  • Are you clearly explaining in the subject line and opening paragraph how subscribers will benefit from opening the email?
  • Are you offering subscribers something in the email that’s relevant and useful to them right now

3. Be careful not to sow fear or anxiety.

Common marketing phrases like “don’t leave home without…” take on a whole new meaning post-pandemic. Your subscribers are exposed to sensational news stories about the coronavirus everywhere they look. 

Instead, provide a friendly voice with reassurance. Now, for many ecommerce companies, this might involve switching your brand voice when you write emails to send after businesses reopen. 

If your default voice is comedic, in-your-face, or cheeky, consider taking a calmer route. But don’t completely shift to the opposite either. A dramatic shift could be equally unsettling. 

4. Draft email copy from one person at your company.

Even as businesses reopen, people might still feel a sense of isolation. Instead of speaking to subscribers from your brand, write a letter from your CEO or head of sales to build a connection.

5. Personalize as much as you can and try to help.

Everyone’s current situation is 100% unique. 

Personalization is key to ensuring everyone gets the most relevant messaging in your emails to send after businesses reopen. 

While it’s especially important to keep everyone’s situation in mind, you can also gather specific information about your customers by using custom fields.

If you’ve collected specific information through custom fields, you could potentially segment based on:

Different members of your audience might need distinct types of help from you right now. For example:

  • At-risk groups may need free delivery to avoid leaving the house.
  • Students may need tools to help them with online classes.
  • Parents need resources to help them manage homeschooling or working from home without daycare.
  • Restaurant workers and anyone unemployed might appreciate freebies or free shipping. (An estimated 75% of independent restaurants won’t reopen.)

Zenni personalized their email based on subscriber location:

Emails to send after business reopen: Zenni
Source: Zenni

6. Explain how you’re accommodating a world during and after-COVID-19.

Even if a customer’s local government gives them the green light to attend big parties, that doesn’t mean they’ll be comfortable doing so.

People want to know how you’ve shifted your daily operations before they enter your physical shop or purchase from your ecommerce store. Inform them about your:

  • Social distancing policies
  • Whether you’re limiting the number of shoppers inside
  • Disinfecting protocols at your warehouse 
  • If you’re providing workers with proper PPE
  • No-contact deliveries

American Apparel let subscribers know how they’re protecting their workers:

Emails to send after business reopen: American Apparel
Source: American Apparel

7. Stick to the facts.

People get enough opinions from the news, Twitter, and family members. Be careful not to let any opinions slip into the emails you send after businesses reopen. 

Now, this is easier said than done. 

Even something simple could rub subscribers the wrong way if they’re concerned about the safety of your workers and community, so be smart and work with a trusted PR professional on messaging if you’re unsure. 

How to write thoughtful email subject lines after COVID-19

Your subject line is your first impression. Stay mindful as you write copy to stand out.

Avoid alarming language.

While marketers should always strive to grab attention in a crowded inbox, it’s important to avoid sounding alarmist.

(An example of this would be using subject lines like “RE: Your order” when the subscriber hasn’t placed an order.) 

Preview(opens in a new tab)

It’s okay to directly mention COVID-19 in your subject line, however (as long as it’s relevant to the content). Grubhub noticed a 12% increase in open rates when they used the word “COVID-19” in their subject line compared to “A Message from our CEO, Matt Maloney.”

Be clear and concise.

Around 30 characters are still ideal. Use the preview text to your advantage for elaborating on the subject line copy.

Use a recognizable “From” field.

If you usually send from your brand’s official name, keep doing that. People are already navigating enough uncertainty and will just scroll past or delete a message from an unfamiliar name. 

CEOs or heads of sales can still sign off at the bottom of the copy but keep the From field consistent with past campaigns.

Say something different.

How many times have you heard “uncertain times,” “new normal,” and “in this together” from brands over the past several weeks? Probably more than you could count.

Stand out by saying something unique. Grab attention by relating to your audience and being conversational. 

How to encourage safe shopping habits after COVID-19

Just because businesses start reopening after COVID-19, that doesn’t mean everything suddenly jumps back to normal. 

The CDC still has its recommended social distancing guidelines in place to prevent a second wave of COVID-19 infections. Plus—if you run a brick-and-mortar store in addition to your ecommerce shop—customers might not feel comfortable standing in crowded lines and navigating packed aisleways.

It’s essential for businesses to maintain safe shopping policies for their workers and customers, even if they’re not required to by law. Of course, how you shift your operations depends entirely on your business. 

It’s generally a smart idea to:

  • Keep signs on the floor of your checkout lines spaced six feet apart.
  • Place arrows on the floor and signs at the end of each aisle to encourage one-way traffic.
  • Delegate a worker to continuously sanitize shopping carts. 
  • Assign a worker to sanitize touch points throughout the store, like keypads. 
  • Distribute proper PPE to your workers.
  • Install plexiglass barriers to protect cashiers.
  • Set up hand sanitizing stations throughout the store.
  • Take measures to disinfect the entire store after closing and throughout the day as needed.

Wrap up

Drafting emails to send after businesses reopen following COVID-19 isn’t easy. It’s critical for ecommerce brands to delicately balance their tone and offerings to connect with customers.

  • Take steps to avoid appearing as an opportunist. 
  • Avoid alarmist or fearful language.
  • Get to the point and explain what your business is doing specifically.
  • Segment your audience to personalize communications.
  • Look for unique ways to help your different segments by making their lives easier.

Looking for an all-in-one tool to automate every step of your ecommerce emails? Check out the full range of CM Commerce features like optimized receipts and abandoned cart campaigns.