Using email to connect with moms, dads and grads during COVID-19

COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down and impacted the way we do almost everything—from working, caring for our families and schooling, to shopping and entertainment. Business as usual has become business as unusual, requiring us to think differently about what customers care about and how to reach them. While many restaurants have closed their dining rooms and are only offering takeout or delivery, and many retailers are surviving by selling only online, many others have been forced to shut down completely.

One constant, however, is that email continues to be a powerful connector between brands and their customers. In fact, Epsilon’s PeopleCloud Messaging stats as of April 1 show increased email engagement during this crisis. Retail is seeing an 8% increase in unique open rates month over month, increasing 50% from the beginning to the end of March, while unique click through rates have increased 350%.

Another constant is the importance of celebrating special moments with the people we love—even if we have to do it virtually. This year’s Moms, Dads and Grads season will be marked by change and uncertainty. We don’t know if we’ll be able to celebrate these occasions in person, so it’s important to plan ahead and be flexible. Fortunately, there are still ways restaurants and retailers can employ email campaigns to strengthen relationships with customers, and as a result, boost sales.

Read more: How restaurants can adjust operations and marketing amidst uncertainty 


Before creating your emails, here are 6 tips you should consider:

Put your customers first

Social distancing and quarantining at home have taken a toll on your customers. They’re concerned about the health and safety of their families, and are battling fear of the unknown, loneliness and boredom. Be authentic and show empathy, care and concern. What your customers need now is genuine comfort and support. Act selflessly and your customers will not only appreciate it, they will remember it.

Add value

Make sure your emails add value. Keep in mind that many of your customers have lost their jobs or are on much tighter budgets. Now more than ever, they’re looking for savings. So, offer them deals and free shipping. Deliver substance in your emails and solve your customers’ problems. Offer how-tos and educational content for beating boredom, tips for working from home while juggling kids, or deliver a hot, delicious meal to those who are tired of cooking or unable to cook for themselves. Be sensitive to the fact that many moms or dads might be in isolation, lonely, miles away or in a nursing home. Help your customers celebrate these loved ones in creative and appropriate ways.

Make it personal

Personalize your emails to make them more relevant and engaging to your customers. This shows them that you understand their needs and concerns and offers a higher level of service. Data-driven emails featuring personalized product recommendations, discounts and newsletter content can go a long way. Consider sending your customers emails based on their website activity. Have they browsed graduation gifts? Send them unique gift ideas based on price. Are you running low on an item they browsed? Let them know how many are left using live inventory. Out-of-stock of a high-demand product they wanted? Send an email alert when it’s back in stock. Have they placed an order? Thank them and alert them about its status with real-time shipping updates.

Give purpose to their purchase

Help make a difference by offering your customers support. Consider donating a portion of your sales to COVID-19 efforts or to a fund for displaced employees. If you’re in the food business, deliver meals or special discounts to frontline workers, or partner with a local food bank to help feed the hungry. Do what you can to do good and it won’t go unnoticed. Your customers may choose you vs. your competition because of it.

Make it engaging

Your customers are bored and isolated at home. You have a captive audience looking for distraction, humor and entertainment. Engage them by adding innovation and interactivity to your emails. Then continue the connection and conversation on your social channels.

Serve up solutions

A crisis like this is unprecedented. Help your customers navigate these uncharted waters by giving them ideas and solutions for celebrating their loved ones and staying connected in new and unique ways.

Here are some ideas for restaurants and retailers to build relationships and make the most of the Moms Dads & Grads time period through email campaigns.

Make Moms’ Day extra special

  • Your customers may not be able to take Mom to brunch at your restaurant this year, but they can bring brunch to mom. Send an email promoting a special Mother’s Day brunch meal package complete with special touches like dessert, mimosas and flowers from a local florist.
  • Offer a discount for delivering the same brunch to multiple family members, so they can all enjoy the same meal together virtually via Skype or Zoom.
  • Include a recipe for one of your popular menu items in your email and encourage customers to make it at home for mom and drop it off at her doorstep. Or, offer wine deliveries from your bar as a unique gift option, where available.
  • Feature your restaurant gift card in your email as the perfect gift for mom, when she doesn’t feel like cooking and wants to order in.
  • Retailers can promote a Mom’s Day gift guide in their email featuring gifts relating to comfort, staying at home or nesting, like books, Bluetooth speakers, gardening supplies, outdoor/patio furniture or décor, comfortable loungewear/activewear, cooking or home goods. To add engagement, use an interactive product carousel to feature each product.
  • Promote your retail e-gift card so mom can choose her own gift online.
  • Include a countdown clock in your email to help with last-minute gifts.

Honor dedicated Dads

  • Restaurants can offer a BBQ meal kit via email, complete with everything Dad needs for a delicious BBQ, including an instructional video from your chef. Or, offer up special Dad’s Day drink concoctions from your bar and deliver all of the ingredients and instructions to his door.
  • Promote your restaurant e-gift card as a great gift for Dad when he wants to eat out in. Have a physical gift card? Consider offering card delivery with purchases of $25 or more.
  • Retailers can email a Dad’s Day Gift Guide featuring items Dad can enjoy while at home, like grilling gear and equipment, sporting equipment, home improvement projects, car accessories or car wash kit, garden/patio accessories, tech or loungewear/activewear. To add engagement, use an interactive product carousel to feature each product.
  • Include a live poll in your email, where customers can weigh in on the Dad’s day gift they would like most, or vote for their favorite, or worst, Dad joke.
  • Feature an animated GIF in your email to engage customers and get their attention.
  • Continue the conversation on social channels by having customers share what makes their Dad the greatest.

Celebrate hard-working Grads

  • Restaurants can offer graduation meal packages via email that include special touches like a cake or decorations for a virtual graduation ceremony or party.
    • To promote online purchases, encourage gift registrants to include information about their registry on their virtual grad party and have a gift-opening session, so virtual guests can watch them open their gifts.Retailers can send an email inviting grads to create a graduation “wishlist” or “gift registry” to select gifts for their “virtual graduation party”
  • Include video in your email to honor and celebrate special grads and drive engagement.
  • Promote your restaurant e-gift card as a great gift for Dad when he wants to eat out in. Have a physical gift card? Consider offering card delivery with purchases of $25 or more.
  • Continue the conversation on your social channels by getting customers to nominate their hard-working grad for a chance to win a cash prize to make their future a little brighter. Then in an email, announce the winner.

In these trying times, your customers shouldn’t have to miss out on celebrating their special Mom, Dad or Grad. And as a restaurant or retailer, you shouldn’t have to miss out on opportunities to help your customers make these special holidays as meaningful as possible. Think differently by helping your customers celebrate in new and unique ways. Nurturing your customer relationships today could result in more loyal customers tomorrow.

Restaurant marketers: want to learn more ways you can leverage digital to help stabilize your business during challenging times?  Check out our whitepaper with FastCasual.