Take these marketing lessons into 2021 to ensure you are prepared for any circumstances.

2020 taught us just how powerful email is. Globally we experienced a year of significant and — dare we say it — unprecedented change for brands. Alongside this, demand meant business operations changed massively, along with consumer behaviour. Email teams were at forefront throughout, being reactive to market changes, reassuring customers and keeping marketing going, where usual marketing activity was paused.

Covid-19 changed how email teams had to operate, and also what customers expected of brands. We learnt a lot. And what can we take into 2021 which we learnt from the past year?

Here are some considerations you could have a think about:

Tailor your strategy to your 2021 based on what happened in 2020

Some industries managed to be successful in 2020, though others struggled. Planning for 2021 will therefore be based on how they performed in 2020. This could have multiple outcomes, but can be based on two separate assumptions.

Brands that did well in 2020 will have more of a platform to build upon in 2021. They could put more resources into increasing and perfecting your dynamic content such as personalisation, segmentation and feeds. Also, adapting content to reflect the new world will ensure they remain relevant, and empathetic, to their customers. Plus, they could work on more advanced design and creative — such as animated backgrounds, hover effects and interactive content — to help boost engagement.

However those that found 2020 difficult may find jumping straight into more advanced email techniques isn't a priority. It may be more productive to spend time improving how you make email, and optimising what you already have. For example, last year saw a lot of message-only emails, and a focus on the tone and emotion of the copy, as email teams reacted to new situations for themselves and their customers. It highlighted an age-old truth that the message is the crucial part of any email. Get that right and you have a great base to build on.

Prepare to react to more change

2020 taught us the value of reacting quickly to the unexpected. Basing your working processes around agility could prove to be very effective. With this in mind, here are a few ways your team can prepare for change in advance:

  • Get messaging prepared for when Covid-related restrictions change. It's a lot easier to be reactive if you have ready-to-send, approved messaging drafted up in advance.
  • Prepare alternative messaging — for different regions and audiences Regional lockdowns and restrictions were common in 2020, so one set of marketing copy may not work for a whole geographic region. We know a lot about restrictions and lockdowns now, so prepare text that reflects this, then use segmented data (see below) to ensure every receives their own appropriate messaging.
  • Keep up with remote working practices. Remote working is likely to continue through 2021, and it's important your team have the right tools to do their jobs. Have they got everything they need?
  • Check your automations. Automated emails are often handled by teams outside of the email team e.g. IT departments. It's important to check these emails have the correct information, and any last minute changes are communicated to all teams. E.g. if an event is cancelled, if store opening times have changed, or delivery options have been affected.

Keep your data up to date

This is true for any year, but for 2021 it is vital. Ensuring your data is up to date will mean you are confident in its reliability if you need to use it with minimal time for checks. Which will be crucial if you need to quickly send a reactive email.

Also, knowing who manages data and keeping good lines of communication open with them will be key too. This person may not be in your immediate team, but establishing a good relationship with them will pay dividends.

A quirk of 2020 has been the regional lockdown and restrictions—your customers may experience different restrictions to one another. This could result in your messaging either not applying to them, or causing them upset (no one likes to be reminded that they can't visit shops or restaurants to take part in your offer!) Checking if your data can be segmented by geographical location - both national and regional, as localised restrictions become more common - will help you send the most appropriate message for each person.

Manage what you can do with lower budgets

Marketing teams will likely have smaller budgets going into 2021. Where large marketing projects might take a backseat, you have the chance to focus your effort elsewhere — such as on creating powerful messaging, making changes to your workflow, or adapting the channels you use.

With this in mind, here are just a few things your team can do:

  • Look at what you can do to extend your ROI further. Email marketing is already the highest marketing channel for ROI (42:1!), but just by including simple personalisation in your emails can increase ROI to 44:1. Making your email even more relevant, increases this further.
  • Concentrate on your messaging. Creating more technically advanced emails naturally takes longer, and if they're usually made by external services you may not even have access to these resources anymore. 2020 taught us the power of copywriting in email, so perfecting this can help compensate. Check out our article on using emotional intelligence in your copy. It's especially powerful - and necessary - for global situations like Covid-19.
  • Perfect your workflow. Having an efficient working process is vital, if you are to maintain results on a smaller budget. Ensure your team has a well planned QA process, and everyone understands what they need from one another to get email done.

Start using an Email Design System

Email Design Systems provide an easier, more modular approach to creating email. This makes it quicker and simpler to produce better email, both ad-hoc and planned. We've talked about preparing to be reactive to the market, and Email Design Systems are your secret weapon to do this. They enable you to build email easily, and with in-built controls that prevent mistakes from happening — by controlling what content creators can do whilst staying on brand.

Email Design Systems also support your wider email team - because code is reused, there isn't any need to build the same emails over and over. This means there is a lot more time to focus on content, and developers can spend time improving the Email Design System further.

Matt Parsloe

Content Marketer at Taxi for Email

And finally.. Remember every brand will have a different experience

As with everything in email, things might be different for your team, your company, your audience and your market. So a 'one-size-fits-all' approach won't work. 

Tweak what you can and use what suits your situation. It might be that you get back on track in 2021 faster than expected, or continue to see growth when a slowdown was predicted. Your competitors may also be under different stresses and situations to you. Choose what approach fits your current circumstances the best, and continually analyse it so you can change approach if you need to.

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