The impact of Covid-19 on my inbox (2)

The lockdown weeks

My last blog ended with a quote from P&O Cruises. I do feel sorry for them. Overall, P&O’s campaign during lockdown has been quite good, but the cruise industry’s reputation has been hit badly during this coronavirus pandemic and there’s little one company can do to negate it. Doing something is probably better than hiding away and licking your wounds, though. So well done, P&O Cruises!

Generally the early lockdown messages fall into several categories.  I’ve called them:

  • ‘thank you for your support – we’ll be back soon’,
  • ‘we’re here for you’, and,
  • ‘doing our duty’.

Emirates’ first email is short and to the point, summarised as: ‘Flights are cancelled. Sorry for any inconvenience. Hope to welcome you back on board again soon.  Stay safe, please, from Adnan’. The Airbnb team send a similar factual and brief email ending with an exhortation to us all to do our part to keep everyone safe. I don’t hear from either of these for some time.

Estée Lauder is the first to send me a ‘we are here for you’ note. ‘…our hearts and thoughts are with you.’ What a lovely sentiment to offer to someone who has only bought from them once! (Well, twice, but don’t tell my husband!).

My M&S ‘family’ advises that ‘we’re all in this together’ and warmly reminds me that ‘…the kindness and support we show each other will get us through this’. Like most food retailers, they explain what they have put in place to ensure everyone’s safety. Plastic fabricators must be doing a roaring trade with the amount of ‘sneeze guards’ being installed at the moment.

M&S, 2020

Boots are quick off the starting blocks after the lockdown announcement and there are echoes of the third category in the MD’s message. (His name is Seb, by the way). ‘We have an unique role to play during this time, and our duty and focus is to ensure that pharmacy, healthcare and a wide range of the essential products that we sell are available to those who need them and to take care of our colleagues.’

Dave from Tesco’s is sending longer emails now filled with information about how we can navigate their stores and also assuring us that they are supporting their own staff and employing new staff. ‘It’s a challenging time for the whole country’, he notes, ‘but we are committed to playing our part in feeding the nation and to keeping everyone safe.’  Mike from Sainsbury’s sends a similar text heavy email and encourage us to do our part by buying food for those who can’t get to shops.

By the end of the first week of lockdown, there is evidence that some organisations have worked out what their lockdown strategy is. On day four, Boots send ‘a message for our Boots X Tribe’.  I’m not sure what the X Tribe is and how I became part of it, but basically they tell me that we are all in this together and they want to send ‘nothing but positive vibes into your inbox’. Twice in one email, they tell me that they are here for me. That’s nice. I wonder if they would nip out and queue for me at Tescos?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is boots-x.jpg

M&S subtly promote home and garden essentials as well as loungewear and pyjamas. They also share that they are donating food and clothing to NHS workers. By mid April, M&S is encouraging me to buy fancy glassware and tableware to make ‘dinner special tonight’. I think my spag bol needs more than new crockery to make it taste better!

Boots continues to find ways to sell skincare products by suggesting at home facials ‘we’re seeing staying in as an opportunity to go all out with skincare’. You can’t blame them for trying to boost sales as retailers approach their third week of lockdown. They are doing some good work, though and let me know that they are running 20 Covid-19 drive-through testing centres for NHS workers. Good stuff!

As Easter looms, P&O invite me to a virtual egg hunt.  But their attempts get better. They share interviews with ships’ captains, recipes from around the world, including banana cake and virtual sightseeing.

It’s 15th April and Boots are really getting into their stride now.  First, an email about dealing with stress followed by another about how to break a habit, getting better sleep and clearing out the make-up bag. Remember Marc? He’s Boots chief pharmacist and he makes a comeback with answers to some new COVID-19 related questions.

Premier Inn has been quiet during this time and when I received their email on 19th April, sporting the strapline  ‘We’re INN this together’, I’m quite pleased they were. Is that the best they could come up with after 4 weeks?

Premier Inn’s strapline

We enter our fifth week of lockdown. The supermarket emails are mainly informative at this stage. I’m sorry, Dave, but I’ve stopped reading the Tesco emails. At least Sainsbury’s have the big night in to promote for a while but then they too go back to the long informative prose from Mike. At this very dark time, no one attempts to add humour in their email messages.

In the meantime, Boots are encouraging me to believe that ‘staying in is the new going out’ and that I should dress up for virtual cocktails. To be honest, I can’t remember when I last bothered to dig out my make-up let alone tried the ‘ultimate pastel look this Spring’. I do appreciate Boots’ more informative emails, such as why vitamin D is important as I trust them to give sound medical related advice, unlike some of the stuff doing the rounds on social media.

I’m now halfway through lockdown and at the stage where apparently I should have decluttered my home (whoops!). M&S continues to promote items that fit in with the lockdown narrative – new bedding, calming fragrances etc. Estée Lauder starts a feel-good Friday event with a special offer. Boots alternative between informative messages about ‘navigating COVID-19’ and trying to entice me to buy make up and toiletries I won’t use. P&O Cruises teaches me how to cook Chorizo al Vino and gives tantalising glimpses of scenery to whet our appetite for our next cruise. To give them their due, they don’t even try to sell cruises at the moment – it’s just about maintaining brand awareness.

The late May Bank Holiday marks the beginning of heavier promotions and discounts from most retailers.

Emirates send their second email to advise me that some flights are now being planned, Premier Inn becomes more active and offers rooms from £35 and encourages people to make flexible rates bookings. This activity increases during the first weeks of June and with the expectation of a relaxation of lockdown.

While I sometimes feel inundated by emails from businesses trying to entice me to buy from them, I am also aware that many have not really engaged with me at all. Is it better to have engaged and not quite hit the mark than to not engage at all? Only time will tell, I suppose.  Will I ever hear from Seb, Dave, Mike and Marc again? And will I be bothered if I don’t?

My next blog on this topic will be on ‘Unlocking Lockdown’.

What email campaigns did you particularly appreciate? Were there any that misjudged the situation?

Images used are taken from emails referred to in this blog.

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