AMA Session Recap: COVID-19: What It Means for Ecommerce


On April 2, Omnisend hosted our first AMA (ask me anything) session on the topic of ecommerce during the COVID-19 crisis. 

This session was a compliment to our blog post on marketing in a crisis. Even after we published this post we continued receiving questions from retailers on how they can maneuver different aspects of their business. We knew we had to do more.

That’s when the idea to host our first AMA session was born. First, we assembled an expert panel with wide-ranging backgrounds to assist retailers in all aspects of their business. Second, in the spirit of giving back, we pledged $1 for every registration and $10 for every attendee to Meals on Wheels America

The four-person panel consisted of: 

  • Ron Dod, CMO, Visiture
  • Paige Harris, Merchant Marketing Manager,
  • Philippe Roireau, Head of Partnerships, Gorgias
  • Greg Zakowicz, Marketing Strategist & Content Team Lead, Omnisend

During the session, we covered questions on a variety of topics, from how to appropriately approach your email and SMS marketing campaigns to ways to properly maneuver customer acquisition via different channels. Here are a few highlights from our COVID-19 AMA session. 

Email marketing: When it comes to sending email and SMS marketing messages, Omnisend’s Greg Zakowicz advised to continue to use it—but be mindful when doing so. This means to think about the person behind the email and take a softer tone with your copywriting than usual. Remember, unlike paid search and social media marketing, email marketing is an opt-in marketing channel—meaning customers expect to hear from you. 

Greg gave a real-life perspective on the trends he is seeing with email marketing. “Looking at my own inbox, and I am signed up for hundreds of retailer email programs, as each day passes I am seeing businesses get back to business-as-usual … It doesn’t mean it’s in-your-face marketing, but they are becoming more promotional.”    

Greg also advised auditing your automated email and SMS messages, such as welcome series and cart abandonment messages. Since these messages run in the background they are often overlooked, but the tone of these messages may also need to be adjusted. 

Customer acquisition: One retailer submitted a question asking how to balance traditional customer acquisition channels, such as social media, while still being respectful. As mentioned, paid search and social media marketing are not opt-in channels, therefore, you need to walk a fine line. 

Visiture’s Ron Dod weighed in on the subject. “People are going through tough times right now…I am not sure if there is any one-size-fits-all solution for that.” Ron went on to add that it might be a good time to test new channels, such as Pinterest and YouTube, since other companies are pulling back their spend—resulting in a lower-than-usual cost-per-click. 

Ron suggested, “Figure out what social channels match your target audience and try out new ways to advertise to them.” He also suggested brands try to test new technologies and tools. “Right now…you have all the leverage in the world, so try out new tools, technologies, and methods.” 

Paige Harris of expanded upon this topic saying, “If you are a small business, ask your members to support you right now.” Harris continued, “I think customers, right now, aren’t necessarily looking for new brands to shop from,” and added, “If you have a referral program…leverage your members to help acquire new customers.”  

Paige referenced the built-in trust that comes from using your customers as the messaging comes “from someone else’s mouth, not yours.” She also noted, maybe more importantly, that it is a great way for your top customers, who want to support you but maybe can’t afford to buy right now, to continue to participate and support your brand.  

Customer experience and service: The question around how to maintain, or create, a positive online customer experience is a very important one. Phil Roireau, Head of Partnerships at Gorgias, provided a great perspective on providing a personal touch, saying, “I think people are craving that right now,” before advising companies to “Be reachable and proactive.”

According to Phil, “You can’t hide behind the fact there is disruption.” He mentioned the need to be upfront with your customers on all channels is key right now, and to actively monitor your social media accounts for any customer questions that arise.   

He also recommended opening up new communication channels, like live chat, as a great place to start—even if it didn’t make sense to do so before. Advising on ways to do this he provided some great use cases. 

For example,  if someone comes to your homepage, you may want to welcome them with a live chat message. However, if they are looking at a product page you can have a slightly different message displayed. And if they’re looking at their account page, you can offer helpful messaging around account-based assistance. Phil concluded, “They want to be reassured you’re there, just like if they were walking into a retail store.”  

More AMA Questions, More AMA Answers

These were just a few of the questions discussed in this AMA session. You can view the entire AMA session here

Thanks to each of our panelists for their time and contributions, and to each of those who registered, attended and submitted questions—you made a difference! In all, we were able to donate over $1,500 to Meals on Wheels America.

We look forward to delivering more AMAs in the coming months. If you have any questions for us or specific topics you’d like to see addressed in future AMAs we’d love to hear from you. 

If you have a question for any of panelists, feel free to contact them directly: 

This article originally appeared in the Omnisend blog and has been published here with permission.

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Steve has entrepreneurship in his DNA. Starting in the early 2000s, Steve achieved eBay Power Seller status which propelled him to become a founding partner of, a contact lens and eyewear retailer. Four years later through a successful exit from that startup, he embarked on his next journey into digital strategy for direct-to-consumer brands.

Currently, Steve is a Senior Merchant Success Manager at Shopify, where he helps brands to identify, navigate and accelerate growth online and in-store.

To maintain his competitive edge, Steve also hosts the top-rated twice-weekly podcast eCommerce Fastlane. He interviews Shopify Partners and subject matter experts who share the latest marketing strategy, tactics, platforms, and must-have apps, that assist Shopify-powered brands to improve efficiencies, profitably grow revenue and to build lifetime customer loyalty.

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