COVID-19 & eCommerce: How Brands Are Leveraging Consumer Trends & Pivoting Their Messaging

14 Aug
COVID-19 & eCommerce: How Brands Are Leveraging Consumer Trends & Pivoting Their Messaging

You are resilient. 

If this strange time in the history of the world has taught us anything, it’s that humans as a whole are a pretty adaptable lot. For most of us on the West Coast, we’ve been living through some form of COVID lockdown for over five months. 

It’s frustrating. 

HOWEVER, there is a silver lining, and that’s what we’re going to focus on today. 

Obstacles are the breeding ground for opportunities only if the right people are willing to embrace the vision of the future.  

But the data has made it clear that eCommerce is here to stay. 

In the US alone, eCommerce revenue as a whole increased by 68%, and online shopping jumped up by 50% nationwide. Even if your brand has been hit with unforeseen complications due to COVID, you’re in a market with an extreme advantage that won’t go away after the dust has settled. 

Everyone’s habits have now shifted to the convenience that direct-to-consumer online shopping delivers, and brands are using that knowledge in their email marketing to set themselves up for success.

You can too. 

Our case study today will take a closer look at significant trends and lessons from brands and conversations from our eCommerce customers.

Essential Data and Trends During COVID

As much hardship as COVID has created, there are many recent studies and findings into our current situation that reveal a lot of interesting data and areas of opportunity. 

Here are some key insights to take note. \

Global eCommerce Spending is Up, and it’s Going to Stay That Way

As soon as the pandemic hit the US, Salesforce went right to work digging into the data to find how this would impact commerce for the long haul. 

Their findings offer eCommerce brands a light at the end of this tunnel.

Salesforce surveyed more than 3,500 people and found that while 44% were turning to eCommerce for their shopping, a whopping 68% said they’re likely to keep buying essential goods online after COVID subsides in the US.  


And in Q2 of this year, global digital spending took a sharp uptick growing by 71% when compared to the same time as last year

Consider the timeline of Q2. 

While stores were opening up in some US areas due to loosening restrictions, digital sales were still surging

People have now built the habit of online shopping, including baby boomers who are starting to see the benefits that come with this way of purchasing. 

While there may be a slight drop in online sales once we’re clear of COVID, these spending trends show that online shopping isn’t going anywhere soon. 

The world is primed for eCommerce. Now is the time to double down in areas like email to make the most of it. 

As Ad Spend Shrinks, Personalized, Localized Messaging Takes The Forefront

With brands feeling the hit of the pandemic, 69% of brands were highly likely to cut their ad spend throughout the rest of the year as they try to ride out the storm. 


And Statista shows that’s happening with predictions of a 20+ billion drop in ad spend. It makes sense to see this happening since many brands are trying to allocate funds into the areas that help them keep going. 

Customer acquisition is often costly, which is why many brands are cutting ad spending but doubling down on keeping past and current customers happy. 

Salesforce found that with all the changes and updates to the way people shop, the new interest in delivery time or pickup options has made personalized operational messages from brands vital to consumers. 

85% of US consumers agree that messaging around things like shipping and delivery updates and updates regarding how your brand is operating is important. 

If you’re not personalizing and segmenting your emails yet, take this as a clear indicator to get this ready, especially with the holidays right around the corner. 

There are quite a few segmentation strategies, but here are a few of the best ones to start you off: 

  • Create segments based on various product purchases. 
  • Create segments around average order value. 
  • Build segments based on the website activity of your subscribers.

You can learn more about the technical side of how to create these right here. 


Taking advantage of the opportunity to get very tactical with your segmentation and personalizing email messaging to your customers is a smart way to generate revenue from current customers without ad spend. 

Consumers Are Trying Out New Brands Due to Limitations of Preferred Brands 

While customers want to be loyal to the brands they’ve always used, due to many brands being short of stock, they are trying new brands.

The CPG data from Oracle showed that 40% of weekly buyers for consumer-packaged goods were new to the various brands. 

And what’s Oracle’s suggestion to marketers who want to take advantage of this uptick in sales for new brands? 

To use behavior-based product recommendations so you can build on the interests of past purchases. 

The Data Has Spoken

Online shopping is here to stay, and the brands who personalize communications, empathize with customers, and offer the best customer service are the ones who will be around for a long time. 

But what does taking advantage of opportunities during COVID look like? And how can you use email to give a great customer experience and keep selling? 

Here are some lessons from brands that managed to do this. 

Lessons from Brands Who Shifted Their Messaging During COVID

Homesick: Leverage Emotion and Connection Correctly 

A few weeks into the US lockdown, consumers grew tired of COVID ads and messaging. That’s what the data said. 

People realized there was no avoiding this, but it seemed they grew annoyed by the same “we’re in this together” that every brand was pumping out. Still, brands have been unsure how to navigate messaging during this time. 

That’s why candle company Homesick, sticks out as a shining example. 


Image source 

True, a scented candle wouldn’t be considered an essential item, but that didn’t stop Homesick from carving out a desire for their product. 

When COVID hit, they made a shift in their message and email sequence. However, their angle was much more empathic and spoke to the emotional needs of their subscribers. 

In their email above (first one on the left), they did a few notable things. 

  • “Stay Safe.” With this headline, they spoke about the world situation without actually talking about it. And with only two words, mind you. 
  • Tapping into desire. Humans need to connect, and when you can’t be together, that desire to be close only grows. So when they speak to the need to “feel close” and “connected” and then use images of candles with the names of places around the US, they give people access to satiating desire. 
  • Offer a discount right off the bat. Times were and are uncertain. So the discount automatically lowers friction for purchasing. 
  • Get some, give some. Homesick offered to donate 10% of proceeds to those who need it most, which helps make people feel really good (again, pulling at that emotion) about their purchase. While they could have talked themselves out of it, that little added touch of humanity helped with conversions.

The emails led people to a very specific landing page that built on the messaging and tone that the emails had. The copy was similar and continued to aim at giving people comfort. 

What was the result? 

Customer Acquisition Costs dropped from $19.65 to $13.17, and revenue increased by more than 127%.

There is a lot to learn from studying the tone and messaging that Homesick has taken. 

But more than just a shift in tone, they didn’t stop marketing and selling products. The biggest lesson here is that they looked at their products and connected it to a desire (connection) and emotion (loneliness and hope). 

Once they had that, they built on it with empathy. Homesick acknowledged the feelings of people without reminding them that COVID ripped the rug out from under us. 

Mixing that level of emotional intelligence with excellent copy and a funnel aimed to convert earns their team a round of applause in our book. 

White Horse: Let Your Brand Voice Shine, and Aim to Help

Should you keep selling through this crazy time in the world? 

Yes. Absolutely! 

Internally, we know this. But we all also know that what you say and how you say matters — now more than ever. 

So did White Horse, a wine and spirits brand. And to address this, they decided to do a couple of things with their email. 

They let their personality shine through while being helpful.  



In this email, you notice how they do this.

  • “Let’s face it, staying home is hard.” Again, a fine example of addressing the situation of their subscribers without talking about COVID. 
  • We’ll bring it to you. Granted, not every brand can ship locally, but direct-to-consumer options have taken a massive jump in recent months. They didn’t offer this before COVID, but since they had a local audience, they personalized and localized communications to give local customers that option. While this is a food and wine market, it’s not a large food chain with deep pockets like other brands. However, they adapted quickly and used email to inform their customers of that. 
  • Here are all the ways we can help you. They do the shopping. They do the delivery. And they do curbside pickup. As Salesforce data showed, these details matter a lot to customers. This sort of updated information and helpful nature attracts people to brands and keeps them sticking around long after life goes back to whatever we’ll call “normal” in the months ahead. 

Now, you may be thinking, “Easy for them. They sell wine and food.” Even with that being the case, they’re not a large brand. They’re a small local market with a small local customer base. That’s a disadvantage when competing with large brands with the resources to change quickly. 

However, they had made changes to their content and procedures that made them valuable to customers. They stuck to who they are and offered things they knew were important. 

Overnight, they had to go from being a retail market to an eCommerce brand that sells online and delivers. That’s no easy feat. And many retail stores are in similar situations. 

Email marketing helped White Horse communicate effectively in their transition, which customers needed. 

They served that need and continued to offer value, which has helped them keep their small local market open. 


A Lot Has Changed. But Opportunity in eCommerce and Email is Booming

There’s a ton of opportunity in eCommerce and email marketing right now. Even with that happening and the uncertainty of what’s to come, consumers are shopping online, opening emails, and still purchasing. 

Yes, a lot has changed, and many of us have had to change course with it. But you are resilient, and this time in our history is going to keep teaching us ways to grow and thrive in the face of challenges. 

We’ve been hard at work with our product to make it even easier for eCommerce brands like yours to take advantage of the new opportunities opening up in the world of online shopping and email. 

Feel free to start your free 14-day trial of our email marketing automation platform. 

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