E-commerce brands faced a holiday shopping season filled with uncertainty — uncertainty around when the shopping season would start in earnest, inflation’s impact on consumer spending, and the costs and performance of paid marketing channels. And with good reason.
Throughout the year, the cost and performance on channels such as paid social and paid search fluctuated, raising questions and concerns about holiday marketing spend on the channels. And if consumers just shopped less in general, how else might brands generate the sales they needed?
As it played out, Black Friday and Cyber Monday e-commerce sales were up slightly from the previous year's unusual dip. Accounting for inflation, however, indicates the increase in sales was due to the cost of goods rather than an increase in shopping. Cost effectively securing early holiday sales was important, and when it mattered most, brands seemed to shift back and rely more on established and consistently performing opt-in channels like email and SMS — and it worked.
Consumers Turned to Email Marketing When Shopping
According to a new holiday marketing report by Omnisend, year-over-year, email marketing was responsible for a 13.8 percent increase in orders on Black Friday, and a 34.4 percent increase during the Cyber 10, a 10-day span beginning on the Sunday before Black Friday through Giving Tuesday. The increase in sales was accompanied by a greater reliance on email marketing.
Brands sent 28 percent more promotional emails in November and 27 percent more during the Cyber 10. Automated, behavior-triggered emails, like shopping cart abandonment messages, also increased by 45 percent in November and 73 percent during the Cyber 10, significantly impacting sales. Automated messages in November were responsible for 30.4 percent of all email orders and only 1.8 percent of email sends.
On the busiest days, consumers turned to email to shop. Black Friday saw the highest email conversion rate of the month. Promotional emails finished the day at 0.13 percent compared to 0.09 percent for November as a whole, and automated messages ended the day at 2.5 percent compared to 2.05 percent in November.
The email inbox should be considered the new Black Friday storefront.
SMS Became a New Holiday Marketing Heavyweight
Email marketing wasn’t the only opt-in channel to grab consumers’ attention and increase its share year-over-year. SMS marketing, which saw large gains in the 2021 holiday season, continued to play a major role in increasing holiday sales.
In the first six months of 2022, brands sent 47 percent more promotional SMS than the year before. In November, brands relied on SMS more heavily, sending 64.5 percent more compared to 2021. And during the most critical shopping days, brands sent 68 percent more SMS on Black Friday and 47 percent during the Black Friday weekend (Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday). This resulted in a 57 percent and 23 percent increase in orders, respectively.
Interestingly, though promotional SMS increased year-over-year, automated SMS decreased by 34 percent in November. However, even with the decrease in sends, these behavior-based automated SMS generated a whopping 1600 percent more orders compared to the year before.
Add the increase in SMS orders to the increase in email marketing, and it becomes more evident that consumers look for and engage with these opt-in channels, especially during the holidays.
What This Means for Brands in 2023
Brands have been leaning more heavily toward email and SMS for some time, and the performance of these channels during the holidays shows they play a significant and increasing role in the shopping journey. Expect this to continue in 2023. But beyond using them, brands would be wise to make their email and SMS campaigns as effective as possible. They can do this in two ways.
First, by using behavior-based automation for email and SMS to enhance the customer experience. Automated messages drive a significant number of sales with very few messages sent. These messages cater to the shopping intent of the customer, making them relevant and valuable.
Second, by incorporating email and SMS data into paid retargeting efforts, therefore improving performance and reducing retargeting costs. Knowing which customers browsed products, opened and clicked messages, purchased, and became lapsed allows brands to automatically sync these segments directly to retargeting platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Google properties.
The sales and engagement potential with opt-in channels like email and SMS is significant — if used smartly. By investing a little time and effort into growing subscriber lists and setting up and optimizing essential automated messages, brands will be able to increase sales, provide a more engaging shopper experience, and improve retargeting results while lowering costs.
Greg Zakowicz is a veteran marketer and the senior e-commerce expert at Omnisend, the all-in-one e-commerce marketing automation platform.
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Greg Zakowicz is a veteran marketer and the Director of Content at Omnisend. With 15-plus years of experience in email, mobile, and social media marketing, he’s helped over 100 DTC companies around the world, including numerous from the Internet Retailer Top 1000, maximize sales through their email marketing programs. Zakowicz is a frequent speaker at ecommerce events, often shares his ecommerce insights across various industry media outlets, has been retained as an ecommerce expert witness for trial, and is the host of Omnisend’s Cart Insiders Podcast.