3 Tips for Holiday Email on Black Friday and Cyber Monday
In my last post, “Merry Email Christmas in 3… 2… 1…,” I reviewed several trends from the 2017 email season along with some macro retail influences. Notable trends affecting holiday e-commerce include the massive rise in email volume during November and December, as well as the impact of subscriber behavior on deliverability and, ultimately, holiday campaign success. Looking back to glean learnings and identify patterns from 2017 is useful to plan your email strategy for 2018. However, with ever-increasing pressure to perform, let’s focus in more detail on the two most stressful days of the year for retailers: Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Over the last few years, many retailers, including giants such as Target and Walmart, have made a concerted effort to encourage consumer spending throughout the month of November. Some consumers have been swayed, but the vast majority of holiday spending still occurs in the days immediately before and after Thanksgiving.
This critical advertising period culminates with Thanksgiving. Email is largely leveraged to prime in-store shoppers and drive Thanksgiving Day website volume. As a whole, shoppers experience an increase in message frequency, topping 78 percent on Thanksgiving Day. This heightened activity in the inbox signals the start of the shopping season. Since consumers expect, and in many cases welcome, this seasonal rise, it’s not surprising to observe a similar increase in read rates. This critical metric averages 24 percent for messages sent on Thanksgiving Day, compared to 21 percent for the full year.
Tip: Give your email subscribers a sneak peek of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals to drive interest and loyalty from your existing customers.
Traditionally the peak holiday shopping day, Black Friday has an in-store focus that includes annual traditions for many shoppers (all-nighter, anyone?). In 2017, Black Friday racked up a record $7.9 billion in sales for U.S. retailers, up 18 percent from 2016. With early-morning hours and limited in-stock deals, it makes sense for email to be less enticing to consumers, and for email read rates to dip to 21 percent for Black Friday.
Tip: Get noticed by front-loading your subject line with the most compelling offer. Use action words and coupon amounts (50% off, Save $25, etc.) to grab attention of savvy shoppers.
This is the online equivalent of Black Friday. In 2017, Cyber Monday was another record-breaking holiday shopping day. With $6.59 billion in sales, consumers flocked to their computers and mobile devices to take advantage of holiday offers. Cyber Monday also saw more than twice the average email volume, with subscribers receiving 106 percent more campaigns than the norm. Read rates ticked up to an average of 22 percent, and complaints dropped to the lowest level of the holiday season, as consumers were looking in their inboxes for seasonal offers.
Tip: To optimize viewing, minimize image sizes for faster loading and leverage text as the primary message format.
One interesting pattern to note across all three of these milestone holiday shopping days is the rise of mobile transactions. A recent study from Return Path found that 52 percent of holiday email is read on a mobile device. In 2017, 40 percent of online purchases made on Black Friday were completed on a mobile device. And Cyber Monday delivered $2 billion in sales from mobile devices.
After a slow initial adoption phase, consumers are now not only reading email on their phones and tablets, they have become the primary way many interact with email and websites — and complete transactions. If you haven’t yet made the move to mobile-first or responsive design, now is the time to make the switch. Consider one of my previous articles on this topic for help, "3 Tips for Reaching the Mobile Consumer."
Bonnie Malone leads the consulting, client training, and knowledge and editorial organization of Return Path, an email data solutions provider.
Related story: 3 Quick Deliverability Tips Ahead of the Holiday Rush
Bonnie is passionate about excellent customer experience. With a background in marketing, merchandise buying and retail management, she helps companies stay relevant amid the changing digital landscape. Bonnie leads the knowledge and consulting teams at Return Path, the global leader in email deliverability. She is an active Email Experience Council committee member, featured speaker for events, and writes monthly for the Return Path blog and Total Retail.