Adapting Your Retail Communications to Coronavirus

As COVID-19 continues to change people’s everyday reality, it’s more important than ever for brands to ask themselves, “Are we helping, or not?”

At a time when customers are experiencing high levels of uncertainty and anxiety, the last thing you want is to be remembered as another stressor in their lives during a crisis. However, through thoughtful messaging that prioritizes consumers’ needs, it’s possible to become a source of trust during this challenging moment. In that spirit, Movable Ink is sharing industry-specific insight for retail brands to offer value and support to customers.

Let customers know you’re in it together

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve noticed a shift in tone in emails coming from leadership. Earlier messages followed a more businesslike approach, outlining the steps each organization was taking to address the situation. But now we’re seeing more companies reassuring customers that they’re in it together, positioning themselves as partners in navigating a challenging time.

In this email from Urban Decay, Founding Partner Wende Zomnir strikes the right balance between sensitive and conversational, sharing her personal experience and speaking to customers as fellow members of the community. And by describing Urban Decay as a place to take a break from reality, she positions the brand in a way that feels genuine to its roots and relevant to the moment.

Communicate brand value in this new reality

It can feel really tricky to sell to customers during such a precarious time. One way we’re seeing brands effectively and sensitively communicate their value is by directly addressing the new reality of working from home. Speaking to this shared experience, marketers can make the message about the customer and the value the brand brings them. Of course, subtly here is key. It’s important to acknowledge the situation without adding more gloom — or alternatively, coming off as tone-deaf. But with nuanced messaging that makes customers’ needs the priority, you can show them how you’ll make their lives a little bit better.


Nodding to the fact that more of us are staying indoors and likely spending more time in leisurewear, this email from Mack Weldon shows how their sweatpants will make life at home more comfortable. The images and copy are straightforward and simple, creating a sense of transparency and ease.

Provide real-time inventory and shipping information

Unfortunately, many retail brands are facing supply chain challenges due to store and supply warehouse closures. Depending on how long this lasts, we may see widespread shortages in inventory and an increase in delayed orders. Given these realities, it’s important for companies to keep their customers in the loop about stock levels and delivery status. You don’t want someone to add an item to their shopping cart only to discover it’s unavailable at checkout, or wait around for a package that arrives weeks after the expected delivery. However, you can leverage technology — such as inventory APIs and shipping trackers — to showcase in-stock items and provide transparency around delivery time. People understand that we’re all facing challenges right now and will appreciate you keeping them informed and saving them time.


By marrying an inventory API with tracked website behavior, this email highlights new, in-stock arrivals that align with the customer’s search history. And an easy-to-read shipping tracker lets them know that their recent order is on its way.

Build trust by highlighting social responsibility

Corporate social responsibility is a powerful way organizations can offer support during the pandemic. Many companies have used email to keep customers updated on ways they’re giving back, such as equipment donation, socially conscious policy, charitable giving, and volunteer work. And with 73% of consumers saying a brand’s response to a crisis will affect future purchase decisions, it’s important to showcase any and all efforts your company is taking on.

Burton let their customers know that they had paused snowboard production in order to make face shields for hospital workers. Their email gave customers a chance to learn more about their efforts and also encouraged them to help flatten the curve, making it easy to purchase a face mask if they needed one.

About the author

Julio Lopez

Prior to joining Movable Ink to oversee North America and EMEA retail strategy, Julio worked across multiple SaaS companies whose integrated solutions focused on driving digital innovation for retailers. At Experian CheetahMail (now Cheetah Digital) he worked on strategic email program development and deployment. At RevTrax he worked closely with the executive team to manage the evolution of the product, define go-to-market strategies, and led the Customer Experience organization in delivering ROI targets for the client base. Julio joins Movable Ink from Eversight, where he led strategic engagements that leveraged the software to create and deliver smart, dynamic pricing and targeted promotions.