How to Do E-commerce Marketing During a Crisis

5 January 2023 • 5 min read

COVID-19 owned the global narrative in 2020 and 2021 and changed the online retail industry forever. That meant getting your message out there and noticed was difficult for many businesses during the pandemic. The war in Ukraine suggests global crises will continue to be a part of our lives.

However, you must remember that your customers shop with you for a reason and they don’t expect you to deliver their daily news. But it wouldn’t be wise to ignore a global crisis when it presents itself.

Instead, retailers need to land somewhere in the middle, where the marketing messaging responds to what’s going on. With this blog post, we want to give retailers some crisis-specific marketing tactics that have worked for other brands during global crises.

While it can be challenging at the best of times, it’s important to look at the long-term position of your company during the crisis. Everything you do at the outset of a crisis will have an impact on how customers behave when it ends. Taking the initiative now helps you set your store up for success in a post-crisis world.

Here are our tips for marketing your e-commerce store during a crisis:

React to what’s happening. Don’t set-and-forget

Do you schedule your social media posts, emails, and campaigns long in advance? If so, you might want to double-check your posts to make sure they don’t come across as insensitive. Remember, many people are going through difficult times and might be feeling the impact of the crisis personally.

You don’t need to throw your plans out though. See what you can salvage with a small change to your copy. A simple change or note could ensure your customers don’t feel more alienated than they already are.

Look at what your customers are discussing and what’s important to them. Many brands are encouraging customers to reflect on better times or simply asking their customers what they’d like to see from them:

Asking your customers what they want to see and engaging with their responses can win you some fans.

Avoid hitting on a sensitive nerve

Taking the recent example of COVID-19, many brick-and-mortar stores were forced to close their doors to adhere to social distancing. Lots of retailers then introduced discounted shipping and promotional codes to encourage more online shopping. While this is a great way to keep your customers happy, it’s key that it’s not seen as your attempt to profit off the situation.

It might go without saying, but don’t set your promotional code as something like “COVID19” or “VirusPromo”, as this is likely to upset people.

Similarly, you should be cautious of what imagery you use across your email and social media marketing at this time. While they worked a few weeks ago, images showing crowds of people or people holding hands would now be considered insensitive. Often, it might be necessary to not use any image beyond your logo.

Vary your content format, as quality matters less

During a crisis, the format and quality of your content will matter less. It’s more about trying to be as helpful as you can. Brands that encourage people to get through this with their content are doing well. While it’s not feasible or possible for many retailers, examples like Chipotle could be effective:

Can your staff record videos of your products showing how your product can help people get through this time? Any kind of distraction you can provide for people from watching the news can lead to you winning loyal customers.

Even a short video or post telling your customers what proactive actions you have taken to have a positive impact on your community can help your business.

Life, like your marketing, must go on

Before the pandemic hit, you likely had campaigns and strategies in place to help you hit your targets in 2020. While it’s a different world now, the show must go on. See if you can alter, adjust, or delay your campaigns to see if they still work in the current context.

Just be as authentic, empathetic, and transparent as possible in what you say. If you had a product launch coming up, just let your customers know what was planned and how it has changed things. This transparency will be very reassuring to customers at this time and promotes the idea that everyone is in it together.


There are no set guidelines as to how to communicate with your customers during a crisis. The above tactics have worked for brands in the past and should continue to work during future crises.

The key thing to keep in mind is to always adapt and learn with your marketing tactics, while always listening to your customers. Being responsive and authentic is crucial to e-commerce success during any crisis.

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