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By Stephanie Kirschner

The strategy behind email marketing is straightforward: a company builds a database of potential customer email addresses and then sends emails to those potential customers with a regular cadence to promote special items or sales. The goal is simple: alert a customer who deliberately opts in to make a sale.

Simple, and yet, some companies thrive when they throw the rule book out the window and embrace empathy over overt sales tactics.

For example: handmade and vintage eCommerce site, Etsy, sent an email out on March 25 with the subject line, “Don’t want Mother’s Day emails?” It read as follows:

We understand that Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for some. If you’d rather not receive emails from us about Mother’s Day this year, let us know by clicking on the button below. We’ll still keep you in the loop about one-of-a-kind finds we think you’ll love, just without the Mother’s Day messages.

In acknowledging that Mother’s Day may be painful for some people, those who’ve lost mothers, those who have a difficult relationship with their mothers, or those struggling to become mothers, Etsy opted to humanize the upcoming holiday, and in the process, itself. The brand doesn’t claim to have ‘been there’ with a false sense of sympathy, but instead acknowledges that its upcoming ‘IN-YOUR-FACE-MOM-CONTENT’ might be a trigger for some. While offering the option of opting out of receiving Mother’s Day promotions could lead to a decrease in potential customers for Mother’s Day-specific offerings, Etsy put empathy ahead of profits, increasing a repeat sale, based on brand preference.

Similarly, pet eCommerce giant gained popularity because of its convenient two-day shipping, low prices, and wide selection of products. But mostly, it gained popularity when the company created its cult-following through empathetic marketing tactics, It encouraged customers to tell Chewy about their pets – including ages, likes and dislikes, and birthdays. This enabled Chewy to send personal emails, recommending specific products and even mail out yearly birthday cards. Chewy knows that its customer base, pet owners, shower affection over them, and Chewy made a decision to “dote” in the same way.

But the company goes even further than that… When a customer contacts Chewy to let them know of a pet’s passing, Chewy refunds any recent food purchases that have been made for the animal and then suggests local shelters where items can be donated, and even sends the pet owners flowers and a condolence card. also offers perks in pet products and two-day shipping, but pet owners prefer Chewy for its empathic tone. As Chewy CEO Sumit Singh said on CNBC’s Closing Bell in 2019: “We’re engaged with you through the highs and lows of pet parenting. Nobody else is doing that.”

Shipping great products in the shortest amount of time is no longer the key. Today’s consumers are looking for companies to interact with them on a human level. And the companies that are meeting customers on a human playing field are reaping long-term brand loyalty and customers for life.

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