With their Halloween decorations stuffed back in the closets, shoppers are turning their sights to the next big American shopping holidays: Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
These celebrations of commerce are woven into the American identity. The National Retail Federation reported that holiday sales during November and December 2017 increased by 6 percent year-over-year, the largest increase since 2010. Similarly, eMarketer reported that retail e-commerce grew by 18 percent in 2017.
While analysts predict more modest sales growth for the 2018 holiday season compared to last year (15.3 percent increase in retail e-commerce, and total retail holiday sales growth of 3.8 percent), email marketers still can’t afford to overlook this highly clickable time of year.
My company, Yes Marketing, has some insights into messaging and timing for Black Friday- and Cyber Monday-themed emails this holiday season.
Black Friday: Click-through deals replacing in-store steals
Black Friday has held the mantle of busiest shopping day of the year for more than a decade. E-commerce is a huge source of the holiday’s consistent growth; in 2017, American shoppers spent a record $5 billion online in 24 hours on Black Friday. This formerly brick-and-mortar shopping day has the potential to ride its digital hot streak and be your favorite day of holiday email campaigns.
The early bird opens the email. While many shoppers still associate Black Friday with the best discounts, a relatively new trend has emerged: “pre-Black Friday” sales, featuring limited quantities of discounted items. In 2016, Black Friday emails sent on the Tuesday before only led to a 2.5 percent conversion rate, while in 2017, they resulted in a whopping 9 percent conversion rate. Shoppers are becoming ever-more anxious to spend.
Email marketers looking to capitalize on these sales should emphasize the short timeframe of these early savings and the special value associated (in other words, don’t offer the same discount on Black Friday or Cyber Monday). Leverage fun promotions that generate excitement while stealing some of the holiday allure from the big days to come. Many shoppers have a set amount of money in mind to spend for the holidays, so why not get a piece of that pie earlier?
Free shipping = more conversions. Black Friday messages without an offer in the subject line had the highest open rate in 2017 (15.1 percent), and when it came to the best combined open-to-conversion rate, free shipping wins the day. Themed messages promoting a free shipping offer generated an impressive 14.9 percent open rate and a 14.7 percent conversion rate. By eliminating shipping costs, retailers also curb consumers’ desire to leave the house and buy an item at a brick-and-mortar store.
Cyber Monday: Putting a bow on your holiday week
While Black Friday’s digital sales have been increasing YOY aggressively, Cyber Monday remains the champion of the holiday week as the largest online shopping day of the season. The hard part for marketers is ensuring they get attention. Open rates for 2017 Cyber Monday emails were almost 2 percentage points behind those of business-as-usual (BAU) emails. Once opened, the shopping urge hits, and these emails were almost two times as effective in converting clicks to purchases (cha-ching!). To ensure your emails hit the mark to take advantage of the buying frenzy, here are a few friendly reminders to check off your list.
Make Monday (really) count. While trends in recent years have shown brands extending Cyber Monday into Tuesday, smart email marketers go out with strong offers limited to the day of. In 2017, marketers sent a little more than half of all Cyber Monday emails on the day of the event (53.2 percent), 19.3 percent on Sunday and the rest evenly throughout the week. Emails deployed on the holiday generated a 12.7 percent conversion rate, significantly higher than the conversion rate on any other day (no surprise here).
There is a limit to consumers’ attention spans — and wallets. Cyber Monday emails sent Tuesday promoting a one-day extension of the Cyber Monday sale generated a high 16.2 percent open rate, indicating they were effective in grabbing subscribers’ attention. Their 2.7 percent conversion rate, however, hints that these emails failed to meet consumers’ expectations, failed to extend the excitement of the holiday, or after a week-long spending spree, customers were low on cash. Marketers need to bring their A game on Monday — and if you’re extending your Cyber Monday sale an extra day, keep your Tuesday offer unique to bolster customer excitement.
Speak to the right emotions. Shopping on Cyber Monday can stir up a variety of emotions — anticipation, stress, fear of loss, satisfaction — all powerful action drivers. Whether their messages aim to speak to consumers’ fear of missing out (FOMO) on a deal or to foster feelings of exclusivity, marketers should review data prior the Q4 shopping holidays to determine which tone and emotion resonate best with key audience to tailor content accordingly.
Emphasize scarcity and urgency. No time for an emotional analysis? Urgency and scarcity are tried and true ways to motivate shoppers who may be indecisive about certain items. Last year, subject lines that conveyed urgency or scarcity generated more engagement than those that simply mentioned Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
Create this sense of urgency by displaying a countdown timer within the email creative or through a combination of time-sensitive wording and an action-oriented call to action (CTA). For example, messages could contain a phrase like “Time is running out!” with a CTA that links to specific sale items. This same FOMO also can be spun in a positive way — remind customers that if they finish their shopping now, they have more time to enjoy the holiday season.
Utilize the almighty percentage-off. “$25 off a $50 purchase” doesn’t look that exciting. But “50 percent off your entire purchase”? That will get shoppers’ hearts racing. While Cyber Monday dollar-off emails had a higher open rate in 2017, percentage-off emails had a significantly higher conversion rate, at 18.1 percent versus 5.6 percent. You do the sales math.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday emails will need to cut through A LOT more noise this holiday season. To do so, they’ll need to capitalize on shoppers whenever they are ready to buy. Marketers who start early, and cut into that brick and mortar shift to digital, diversify their offers and follow the simple tips above will be celebrating this holiday season.