The Ultimate Email Marketer’s Guide to Recovery in 2021

We can’t talk about recovery in 2021 without mentioning Covid-19.

The pandemic and 2020 in general had a drastic impact on businesses of all shapes and sizes. All over the world. Many were forced to close entirely, whilst others battled with reduced sales and/or a reduced workforce.

Brands all over had to get creative. Pivoting their businesses, making the most of small teams and small budgets, and sometimes completely changing their target audience.

But as lockdown is lifting, brands can begin focusing on recovering and rebuilding.

And email marketing is going to be key to this process.

That’s because conversion rates for emails are higher than social media, direct traffic, and search. And 31% of marketers say that email is the highest performing way to nurture leads.

So to help businesses, we have put together the ultimate email marketer’s guide to recovery in 2021.

Because better starts here.

Step 1. Focus on building strategy

In 2020 many brands were forced to think on their feet. Reacting to the latest news, restrictions, and lockdowns. And quickly changing their business as necessary.

As brands begin making the transition to some kind of normality. Now is the time to take a step back and focus on strategy, both short-term and long-term.

Be less reactionary

Being reactionary may well have saved businesses over the past year. But this tactic simply isn’t suitable long-term.

By being reactionary, brands cannot set goals, measure success, make forecasts, or justify new investments and technology.

Instead, brands need to look at the bigger picture. And start planning accordingly to reach their high-level, longer-term business goals.

Review personas

The past year has disrupted consumer buying habits drastically. Which means carefully crafted personas which used to be ‘spot on’, may not be so accurate right now.

Therefore, an essential part of building strategy is reviewing marketing personas.

This doesn’t necessarily mean starting from scratch. For many brands, their target audience may well remain the same. But need a little tweaking.

Brands can start with industry research to help them understand general buying habits in 2021. They can speak to their customer-facing teams to understand common goals and challenges that are surfacing. Or even send out a survey to their audience to dig into specific questions.

Review results

For many, it may seem like they’re starting their entire marketing strategy from scratch. Which can be a daunting prospect.

To make things a little easier, they should start by reviewing email marketing results. Identify the campaigns that have previously worked. And those that have failed. And consider how these can be fed into email strategy moving forward.

And with 2021 being such an important year for recovery, this is something that should be done regularly. Brands should frequently review their results to identify if any campaigns or KPIs are slipping, and address them asap.

Test, test, and test again

Similarly, if brands are going to be rolling out a new email strategy, it’s important to test different variables so they can quickly learn what works and what doesn’t.

A/B testing is perfect for achieving this, allowing brands to test different variables against each other to see what produces the best results.

And there are so many elements of email that can be A/B tested. Here are just a few:

  • Subject line
  • Call to action
  • Images
  • Products
  • Personalisation
  • Message layout
  • Headline

Step 2. Utilise automation

Marketing budgets have been cut and many teams have been reduced. But that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s less work to be done for brands this year.

This means marketers need to make the most of the resources they have.

Fortunately, automation can help.

Marketing automation can take care of the time-consuming, manual tasks in the background. Leaving the marketers to focus on strategy, growth, and recovery.

Here are some ideas to get started:

Welcome emails

Welcome emails have an open rate of 50%. This makes them 86% more effective than regular emails.

They should be focused on impressing the recipient and giving them the essential details. So try not to overwhelm them by squeezing in your entire company history.

Instead, focus on a “thank you” for signing up, key contact information and social channels, and setting expectations such as email frequency.

Product recommendations

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to product promotions.

Instead, brands should help customers to discover the specific items that suit them the best.

They can achieve this by tailoring product recommendations based on previous purchasing and browsing behaviour.

This could be done with a variety of automations, including:

  • Upsell at checkout
  • Cross-sell and post-purchase
  • Replenishment campaigns
  • Frequently bought together
  • “People like you bought” recommendations
  • Trending products

Abandoned basket

Abandoned basket emails are one of the most profitable automations that a business can put in place.  And they can increase sales by up to 8%.

Triggered when a customer doesn’t complete their purchase, abandoned basket emails remind the recipient to checkout, and offer incentives to encourage them to do so.

To offer that final nudge to conversion, consider including customer reviews, support information, or a personalised discount code.

Social proof

76% of UK consumers research or get inspiration online before they make a purchase.

Brands can use social proof to assist their customers in this process. And help them gain confidence in purchasing a product or service.

This could simply involve a campaign featuring the most popular products with current customers.

Alternatively, the use of dynamic content to offer live ratings and reviews. Or popularity and scarcity messaging to add a sense of urgency to in-demand products.


Acquiring new customers is up to 25 times more expensive than retaining existing ones.

That’s why it’s so important to keep customers engaged.

However, sometimes they will fall off the radar. Stop engaging with communications. And stop purchasing.

These customers can be warmed up and tempted back with the use of a re-engagement email or campaign. Including the latest news from the brand. Tailored discounts, offers, and promotions. Or simply telling the recipient that they are missed.

Step 3. Improve the customer experience

In an uncertain climate and economy, customer experience has become a hot topic.

While many customers have had to move to online shopping over the past year. In many ways they have become more empowered than ever. They expect immediate communication, next-day delivery, and a seamless, personalised buying journey.

So to recover in 2021 and remain competitive, brands need to get their customer experience spot on.

Offer a smooth customer journey

One of the simplest ways to improve the customer experience is to make their journey as smooth as possible.

To achieve this, all email sequences and automations should be reviewed to ensure everything works. Including the logic, links, CTAs, image formatting, and personalisation.

Bands should review sequences and consider if the customers’ needs are met at every stage. Are new customers being welcomed? Do buyers receive adequate purchase confirmations? And is there enough post-purchase support?

Granted, this isn’t the most exciting task. But it’s important to get the foundations right before moving forward.

Personalise at every opportunity

80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that offers personalised experiences.

So to help brands recover in 2021, personalisation is going to be more important than ever.

And we’re not just talking first names in subject lines.

Here are some more engaging personalisation options for you to try:

Dynamic content

Automatically customise your email content, from images and copy, to featured products, based on demographic, behavioural, and purchasing data.

AI product recommendations

Serve up targeted product recommendations based on past purchases, related purchases, or browsing behaviour.

Behavioural targeting

Send highly targeted and personalised emails with customer purchase and browse behaviour. Such as abandoned basket or re-engagement campaigns.


Identify where in the world your recipient is and ensure your message, and the timing of your email, is tailored to them. From local store openings to information regarding lockdown restrictions.

Remember to be helpful

Brands should resist the temptation to send out communications for the sake of it. This will only become white noise in a busy inbox.

Instead, they should focus on being a helpful brand that supports their customers while we’re all recovering.

Content and communications can be used to help educate, build confidence, and empower audiences. Helping to solve their challenges and find solutions.

Helpful content and communications can come in many forms. Hacks, guides, live events, workshops, and even playlists.

VIP campaigns

VIPs look different from brand to brand.

RFM (recency, frequency, monetary) analysis can help brands to identify theirs. Are they the most recent purchasers, the most frequent purchasers, or the highest spenders?

Whatever VIPs look like, sending them a campaign or offer to make them feel special is fantastic for their experience.

This could involve personalised discount codes, upgrades to free delivery, or exclusive early access to the latest product launches.

Step 4. Keep in touch with reality

It’s been a year of change, to say the least.

And for brands to communicate effectively with their audience, they need to keep on top of these changes.

Ignoring what is going on in the world will never resonate well with those who are struggling or going through challenging times. And will only work to cause divides between brands and their customers.

So brands need to keep in touch with reality, particularly in the following areas. 

Messaging and positioning

Over lockdown, one thing that many brands failed to get right was their messaging and positioning.

Therefore for brands, a large part of recovery is reading the mood of their audience. Ensuring that their messaging and positioning is relatable and empathetic.

Key to this is listening to audiences. Monitoring sentiment and reactions on social media, forums, and communities. And not making decisions in a vacuum. Instead, brands should do their research and get a wide variety of honest opinions before they set your next campaign live.


Lockdown and ongoing restrictions strike some very specific pictures in people’s minds. Social distancing. Face masks. Staying at home.

For brands to show that they are relating to their audience, this all needs to be reflected in their imagery.

For instance, instead of showing a large group of people having fun, focus on one or two people. Or, instead of a busy shop, include images of shoppers wearing face masks.

If this becomes challenging with photography, then consider using illustration or graphics instead. This allows you to portray exactly what you want to in the image, without the added expense of new photo creation.

Product promotions

Brands should also consider the most appropriate products to promote this year.

Many consumers have been more budget-conscious than usual. Focusing on the essentials as opposed to making big purchases.

However, as lockdown is easing, there are certain items which are proving popular with consumers. Particularly clothing and makeup, which are seeing a surge in sales as people get ready to leave the house and socialise after a long period of lockdown.

Experts believe these purchases are signifying a shift to ‘spend mode’, which is reflected in far better-than-expected official retail sales figures for March 2021.

Brands should bear this in mind when decided on product promotions. They should have a clear idea of how spend-happy their audience is. And what their behaviour will likely be over the coming months.

Keep up to date

As a brand, it is your responsibility to remain educated and on top of the latest trends, themes, and challenges that your audience is going through.

There has been lots of backlash this year when brands don’t get their messaging quite right, such as the Dettol ad below. Keeping up to date is key to avoiding this mistake.

And there are lots of ways you can keep yourself updated. Monitor the buying behaviour of your audience using analytics. Simply asking their opinion via a survey or questionnaire. Or tracking social media keywords and brand mentions.

So keep your finger on the pulse.

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Is your business in need of recovery?

Then we can help.

Our all-in-one AI marketing platform and a Customer Success Team have helped many brands throughout lockdown. And will continue to help brands as they recover.

Get in touch with our friendly team of experts to find out more.

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