How Covid-19 Has Affected the Email Marketing Industry (And Tips for Remote Working)

Written by: Chris Donald

Published on: 03-30-2020

Chris is Managing Partner at InboxArmy and has more than 25 years of experience in email marketing

The world as we knew it has changed.

Yes, all because of Covid-19 – the plague that has swept over the world.

And businesses are also feeling the brunt of the pandemic.

Speaking of businesses, how are they faring as the world goes into a lockdown?

A Snapshot Look at Covid-19 – From a Marketer’s Perspective

For businesses, particularly SMEs, navigating the treacherous waters of Covid-19’s impact is tricky. A look at the chart below will give you a picture of how Covid-19 has affected website traffic:

Impact of COVID-19 on Traffic


With many businesses relying heavily on online traffic to successfully attain their goals, a decline in traffic is worrisome. Unfortunately, most industries are experiencing a 20% decline in traffic on average. Sectors like travel are the hardest hit with traffic plummeting by as much as 50%.

The impact on traffic to e-commerce sites is mixed – it all depends on what the sites are selling.

It’s not all doom and gloom though as a number of sectors are still enjoying an increase in traffic in these dark times. These are sectors such as:

  • Media – 33%
  • Finance – 29%
  • Food – 21%

With website traffic taking a hit, many businesses are in panic mode. And that’s understandable. However, there’s no need for panic, neither do you need to stop marketing. You just have to adapt your marketing strategy to suit the times.

One marketing strategy that you can bank on in these times of uncertainty is one that has been around the longest – email.

Email Marketing in Times of Crisis – To Scale Down or Ramp Up

One of the biggest questions businesses are asking is whether to continue marketing or not. If you’re wondering about that, our advice is to keep marketing. One reason for that is you need to keep in touch with your customers.

But the question still begs to be asked – should you scale down or ramp up your email marketing efforts.

In a nutshell, it all depends on the sector you’re in. However, whether your traffic (online or offline) is tanking or shooting up, you still need to re-strategize – no matter which industry you’re in. This is the perfect time to sit down with your email marketing strategist and chart a new course for your campaigns.

4 Reasons Email is the Best Marketing Channel in Times of Crisis

Every business, no matter the vertical, needs to pay more attention to their email marketing campaigns at this time more than ever.

And if you’re wondering why email is the best marketing channel in times of crisis, let’s me give you 4 good reasons.

1. Email Gives You Direct Access to Your Customers

Of all the marketing channels available to you, email is the only one that gives you direct access to your customers. That’s because a person’s inbox is the equivalent of their home – access is only granted to people they trust. This means when you send emails to your customers, their more likely to see them than they would your social media posts (or other messages delivered via other channels).

2. Consumers Trust Information in Emails More than Other Channels

Another reason you need to put email on the frontlines of communication in times of crisis is that people tend to trust email more than they trust pother channels. Let’s face it, social media has so much information it’s difficult to separate fake news from that which is genuine. That’s why you need to communicate with your subscriber base during times of crisis.

3. Provides a Relief from Social Media Fatigue

While social media is a great place to get news in real-time, it has one disadvantage – social media fatigue. In other words, after watching events unfolding or scrolling through your feed for some time, the brain will need something refreshing.

And this is where your email will come in handy.

One thing people do when they tire of scrolling through their social media accounts is to check their email. This is why you need to make sure to provide your customers with valuable content – even in times of crisis.

4. Likelihood of Engagement Increases

One of the ramifications of Covid-19 is the swift shift to remote working. Taken as a measure to promote social distancing, remote working has almost become the norm. While others have been, sadly, laid off or been placed on indefinite leave, the result is that more people are online now than at any other time in history. That, of course, means your engagement rates are likely to increase.

Email Marketing in the Midst of Covid-19 – 5 Factors to Consider

Now that you know it’s ok, no, a great idea to continue with your email marketing campaigns during the Covid-19 pandemic, let’s quickly look at a few things you need to consider as you do so.

1. Don’t Take Advantage of the Crisis

First and foremost, now is not the time to take advantage of your customers. It’s not the time to be greedy or take advantage of people’s vulnerabilities. Doing so will make you the bad guy, Covid-19’s minion if you will.

2. Communicate with Empathy

Communicating with your customers in trying times needs to be done carefully. You must empathize with them – and your emails need to convey that empathy.


A couple of ways you can pull this off include:

  • Acknowledging the situation
  • Letting your customers know what you’re doing to help
  • If applicable, suggest products that can help in the crisis

People need a lot of reassurance in challenging times, even from their favorite brands. Meet that need and you’re bound to convert your customers into brand ambassadors.

3. Improve Consumer Confidence – With Email

If there’s one thing that has taken a hit in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, it’s consumer confidence. Use your emails to improve consumer confidence by:

  • Using positive language
  • Giving regular updates (of the situation and your products)
Improve Consumer Confidence – By Using Positive Approach

If there’s one thing your customers may appreciate in these trying times is a distraction from all that is going on. While they may not necessarily click on your offer, the fact that they engage with your emails will pay off after this all blows over.

4. The Economy May Slow Down – But You Shouldn’t

It’s a fact you can’t escape – the Covid-19 pandemic (and other global crisis) impact the global economy in a huge way. Businesses, like in this instance, grind to a halt.

Proactive Approach Towards Situation

However, the fact that the economy has slowed down doesn’t mean you should pack up and close shop. Instead, take this as an opportunity to work on aspects of your business that will help you survive the crisis and thrive afterwards. These are aspects such as:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Creating valuable content to foster continued engagement
  • Growing your email list
  • Building stronger relationships with customers
  • Driving traffic to old but relevant blog posts using email

One advantage of marketing in an economic downturn is the fact that most brands are doubling down and cutting marketing spend. As a result, you have less competition than normal. So, even though the economy is slowing down, it’s no reason for you to slow down your marketing efforts.

5. Think (and Plan) Long-term

It’s easy to lose focus when the world is fighting a global pandemic. In a state of panic, individuals and businesses alike, tend to look at what is happening around and fail to think for the future. Terrible as Covid-19 maybe, this is not the end of the world.  The world will continue after Covid-19, and it’s only businesses with visionary marketers that will come out of it and command a big market share.

Email Marketing Best Practices in Times of Crisis

It goes without saying, the way you market in times of crises is different from the way you’d market at any other time. That’s why as an email marketer, you need to consider some email marketing best practices to follow in times of crisis. Here are a few:

Honesty is the Best Policy

Everyone appreciates honesty at all times. In times of crisis, it becomes even more valuable. Communicate with your customers and let them know:

  • Your limitations and capabilities
  • Know when a product is out of stock (and when you hope to have it)


Honest Response To the Client


Don’t worry about losing customers during this time. With everything from production chains to supply chains crawling, people will understand if you take longer to fulfil orders.

Segmentation – Couldn’t Be More Important

Segmentation is the foundation of successful email marketing campaigns. In times of crisis, ultra segmenting your list is a great way to communicate with your customers at a more intimate level. This will help inspire confidence and increase engagement.

Refresh Your Campaigns

If there’s one thing subscribers love (as observed by open rates) it’s new campaigns. Refreshing your campaigns is essential in such trying times as a number of factors your current campaign was based on have changed. These are factors such as people’s:

  • Moods
  • Expectations
  • Spending patterns

Adapt your email campaigns to accommodate these.

Know Your Audience – And Put Them First

It’s during crisis times that you really need to know your audience. Use every single piece of data you can gather on your customers and use it to understand any shifts in their interests and concerns. This will help you:

  • Craft the right message
  • Avoid words that trigger negative emotions
  • Tailor content and promotions that are hyper-relevant

Campaigns that are run in times of crisis should be done so with careful consideration of your audience’s feelings – be sensitive.

Lock Down Got You Down? Here’s How Email Marketers can Be Effective Even Working from Home

While we’ve spent most of the post discussing how to handle your business on the client front, this pot would be incomplete without touching on a critical aspect of the new norm of working -remote work.

With mandatory lockdown being enforced in many parts of the world, remote work has become unavoidable. Here are a few tips and ideas to help you out:

Build a Remote Team – The Right Way

While working remotely is a temporary solution, you still need to ensure that you build your remote team correctly. To do that:

  • Prioritize communication. Whether you choose to meet on Zoom, Slack, or any other platform, ensure you establish a robust communication system. Also, ensure to foster meaningful connections that will help your team feel truly connected.
  • Invest in collaboration tools. Technology has made it possible for teams to collaborate in real-time on projects. With tools such as Asana, Monday, Trello, and many others in your stack, it will work as usual for your remote team.
  • Design a system for measuring results. Working from an office has the advantage of direct supervision, therefore it’s easy for employees to produce the desired results. With remote work, that can be a challenge. You’ll have to design a system that will help you measure important metrics and milestones realistically.

Building an effective remote team can be a challenge. However, if you consider these (and other factors unique to your business model), you’ll soon have your team up and running in no time.

Culture Still Matters – Foster It

Culture plays an important role in the success of any business. And even though your team has shifted to remote work, it should be fostered. Use your online meetings to encourage teammates to keep up with company culture. Other ways to foster company culture in remote teams include:

  • Regular communication
  • Have virtual meetups/ build community
  • Include personal development programs for your employees in your calendar

Developing and fostering your brand’s culture is a great way to keep employees motivated and productive as they work away from the office.

Productivity – How to Ensure You Meet Your Deadlines

One of the greatest fears team managers have when it comes to remote work is maintaining the productivity standards they’re used to. However, there’s no need for productivity levels to take a dip simply because your workforce is now working from home. Here’s how you can ensure your team remains productive during a lockdown, isolation, or any other situation that has led to remote working:

  • Establish daily check-ins or use an attendance app to measure your team’s productivity
  • Set up efficient collaboration systems
  • Set expectations
  • Supervise your teams

A well-designed remote working structure can actually help you get better results from your team. So instead of dreading it, embrace it. Who knows, you may just love remote working so much that you’ll embrace it for good.

Email Marketing in Times of Crisis – Now’s Not the Time to Throw in the Towel

While the world is reeling from the impact of Covid-19’s impact, we need to remember that life must go on. And as an email marketer, you play a critical role in connecting people to their favorite brands as they’re stuck in their homes. So, now’s not definitely the time to throw in the towel. Simply revise your strategy and continue giving your audience valuable content.

About Author

Chris sent his first email campaign in 1995. He’s worked directly with Fortune 500 companies, retail giants, nonprofits, SMBs and government agencies in all facets of their email marketing and marketing automation programs. He’s also a BIG baseball fan, loves a good steak, and is mildly obsessed with zombie movies. For more information follow him on linkedin

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