Empathetic Marketing: Tips for eCommerce Brands to Write Sensitive Emails

Share this post

Mastering Sensitivity in Email Marketing Effective Strategies for Tackling Difficult Topics with Empathy

In any face-to-face job or brick-and-mortar store, sensitivity is a must. Yet we often forget that with email, we’re face-to-digital-face with readers. Empathetic marketing is a key skill that every email copywriter, designer, and email-using online store owner should work on developing. It helps to bridge that digital divide and connect with your audience in a way that engages your audience and gets results.

Empathy can be a make-or-break thing for brands. If your brand comes across as if it doesn’t care much about the reader, you’ve already lost them as a customer. But show empathy for the person, their needs, wants, and situation, and you’re on the right track to becoming a brand known for their people-centric approach. 

Empathetic marketing can be a tricky thing to nail down when doing business online, whether you’re a business-to-consumer (B2C) brand or business-to-business (B2B) brand. Let’s dive into the topic and cover some of the ways you can cultivate a sensitive approach in your marketing strategy when needed. 

What Exactly is Empathetic Marketing

The basis of sensitivity is remembering that your readers are humans and not bots. They have emotions, fears, and stress. You can’t separate the human from their feelings, so mastering empathetic marketing is a must if you want to connect with customers human-to-human, and not just seller-to-buyer. 

This kind of marketing—known as empathic or empathetic marketing—is essential in times of crisis. The pandemic, natural disasters, tragedies like shootings or the recent Palestine, Ohio train accident all call for sensitivity in your emails. 

But don’t make the mistake of forgetting smaller, more “everyday” topics that could be potentially sensitive. You need to meet the reader where they are, NOT where you are—which means things like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and cultural days may be a painful occasion for some that requires an empathetic approach. 

empathetic marketing partnering with ONG email example

The Challenges of Empathetic Marketing 

Mastering empathetic marketing isn’t as simple as it may sound. It comes with a variety of challenges, including getting your timing right when responding to a sudden crisis, crafting your emails in the right tone to convey your message genuinely, being sensitive to different cultures, and including everyone… Except when they don’t want to be included. 

Nobody wants to anticipate a crisis and it can be hard to step into the shoes of everyone in your target audiences. While the majority of them tick certain boxes—a particular gender, age, interest, etc—in reality, they’re a vast group of people with different lives and varying situations. 

So how do you get sensitivity right… To nurture that human connection instead of coming across as a cold, unfeeling brand only interested in making an online sale? Here are a few tips to understand your customers and tackle email sensitivity effectively. 

faith topics in email marketing

Best Practices for Writing Empathetic Marketing Emails 

Empathy is often closely linked to thoughtfulness. Being considerate of your audience and their pain points is the first step to crafting emails with appropriate levels of sensitivity. 

1. Provide an Opt-Out 

This is an excellent idea for those occasions that are generally accepted but may be difficult for some people, eg. Mother’s Day. There’s no need to avoid the celebrations and online shopping promotions entirely, but offering a subtle opt-out is considerate and can smooth things over with certain subscribers. 

It doesn’t have to be complicated. Something like “Don’t want to receive Mother’s Day promotions and news? Click here to opt-out. We’ll still send you regular emails, but you won’t get anything related to Mother’s Day.” 

It’s simple but thoughtful. It’s an amazing way to show sensitivity and the best part is, the rest of your list still gets their normal emails, so they can still get excited about occasions. 

Sensitivity in Email Marketing Provide an Opt-Out Mothers Day

2. Keep It Short  

If you do need to send out a sensitive email regarding something that’s just happened, don’t use your email as a chance to share your deep thoughts about the occurrence. Keep it short and to the point—express your heartfelt feelings but don’t waffle. 

Address the issue, share your feelings, and send support to those who need it. Avoid going into deep philosophical content. Keep it as short as you can while getting the point across. 

3. Use Positive Language 

As difficult as the sensitive situation may be, avoid using negative language or sounding like a downer. Be careful, though—maintaining a positive tone doesn’t mean being upbeat or cheerful. You do need to tone down your tone to a somber one, but maintain an undertone of positivity rather than focusing on the negative. 

Your language should focus on support in these times. Remember, you’re dealing with humans who may have been immensely affected by whatever crisis has occurred. Empathetic marketing is about choosing your words carefully. 

giving back newsletter email example

4. Avoid Jargon 

It’s hard to console someone using business language. If your brand voice is more on the formal side, we recommend putting the jargon and formal language aside and being more conversational in your emails when writing about difficult topics. 

Showing sensitivity and the human side of the brand in your marketing campaigns can display empathy to your subscribers. It can help them to feel supported, cared for, and understood. On the other hand, addressing sensitive topics in formal language can come across as insincere. Show your human side! 

5. Use Plain Text With Very Little Design 

Difficult topics don’t need fancy designs. Plain text emails are appropriate for these kinds of situations, perhaps with a simple but meaningful picture as a banner. Tone down on colors as well—muted colors are more appropriate for sensitivity. 

sensitivity in email marketin cancer


Overdoing it on the design can make your message come across as phony and insensitive instead. There’s no need to deviate from your brand, but tone it down during these times, particularly if your brand design is typically bright, cheerful, and fun. 

6. Add a Personal Note From the CEO or Founders 

Consider sending an email from your CEO or founder. Once again, you’re humanizing your brand and helping to create a deeper connection and build trust with your readers. They feel more cared for, more supported, and more understood when there’s a personal message coming through. 

7. Consider Toning Down the Selling For a While 

We’re not saying you need to avoid sending out emails during difficult times. We know… Business goes on, bills must be paid, and families need to be taken care of. But empathetic marketing can also mean toning down on the selling during difficult times, in the spirit of sensitivity

Sending an empathic email in hard times can be undermined if you continue on with your regular happy emails afterwards, like nothing happened. That doesn’t mean you need to halt all emails, but continue to monitor your tone, design, and content to make sure it retains a spirit of empathy and support for the foreseeable future. 

Avoid a hard sell and reevaluate your campaigns so they don’t sound insensitive. For example, sending out a campaign about the importance of great skincare when there’s been a natural disaster might seem out of place and insensitive.

Find ways to promote your products in a timely and sensitive manner, while maintaining a sense of respect, and refer readers to your customer service for more information if they need it. 

Ready to prioritize empathetic marketing

We’re here to help you every step of the way.

Book a call today and let us guide you in tackling difficult topics and adding everyday empathy. 


Share this post


Want Your Paid Ad UGC Content to Actually Convert?

Download our free ebook for a fast, actionable guide on briefing UGC content. (Your UGC creator AND your ROI will thank you!)