Black Friday email envelope with red fractures.

Black Friday Email Disasters and How to Avoid Them 

By now, if your Black Friday email marketing strategy isn’t already locked in, it should be taking shape.

You know the plan for promotions like the back of your hand. Email copy is being written, designs are being created, and the countdown to the biggest shopping weekend of the year is ticking away quickly.

Email is one of the most important marketing and communication channels for brands during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and throughout the holiday season. The last thing you want is a costly email marketing mistake that derails everything.

Let’s look at some of the Black Friday email pitfalls and common missed opportunities to make sure your plan goes as expected. But first... Why is this such a big deal anyway?

Why Black Friday email marketing matters

Some retailers spend the entire year planning for Black Friday. While the rise of omnichannel communications means brands are reaching shoppers in a variety of ways, the inbox remains one of the most important and effective holiday marketing channels.

According to analytics from Adobe, which tracks most of the top 100 online retailers in the U.S., shoppers spent more than $20 billion on Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone. You can see the huge spikes in the chart below. (The smaller spike in October is from Amazon Prime’s Early Access Day.)

Line graph showing spending spikes around Black Friday
2022 online consumer spending stats from Adobe

Adobe also reported that email marketing drove 17% of website traffic from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. That’s a sizeable chunk when you consider all the ways consumers can reach a retailer’s website: search engines, paid search ads, social media ads, display ads, mobile messaging, push notifications, QR codes, deal websites/affiliates, etc.

Email has some nice advantages over these other marketing channels. Namely, you’re not paying for advertising when you reach out to your own list of customers and subscribers. Plus, these consumers are already aware of your brand. They signed up to receive your marketing messages, and they are waiting to see what you have in store for Black Friday. So, don’t mess it up...

10 Black Friday mistakes email marketers must avoid

While there are plenty of ways to make Black Friday mistakes with email marketing, we’re going to focus on 10 of the issues that could be disastrous. Before you hit send on your Black Friday campaigns, make sure you’ve addressed these possible problems.

1. Unresponsive Black Friday emails

Once upon a time, there was a difference between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Online sales held off until after the holiday weekend. These days, it feels like it all blends together into one massive shopping event.

People used to swarm the stores on Black Friday. U.S. shoppers even ditched out on Thanksgiving gatherings early to hit up deals at big box retailers. Not so much in 2023. More stores are staying closed until it’s actually Black Friday, and the frenzied mobs of yore are more focused on their smartphones.

That’s why mobile-first email development is key for those coding Black Friday email campaigns. This includes using media queries to prioritize email code for smaller screens and expanding the layout for desktop viewing.

According to statistics from Adobe, 55% of online sales during the 2022 Thanksgiving weekend and 51% of sales during Cyber Week could be attributed to mobile. Plus, Salesforce reported that 78% of overall web traffic around this time came from mobile. Even when people made a purchase in-store or on a desktop, a mobile device (used to view your emails) may still be part of the shopping experience for many.

If your Black Friday email campaigns don’t look good or function as expected on mobile devices, you are at risk of losing out on significant sales.

2. Generic Black Friday email subject lines

Of course, your brand is far from the only one targeting the inboxes of consumers with Black Friday emails. Standing out and getting your emails opened is harder than ever this time of year.

If your Black Friday email subject lines sound the same as every other special offer out there, your campaigns will be easily ignored. So, you’ve got to get creative. Maybe that means personalizing subject lines, using emojis, or taking advantage of preheader text. But “Our Black Friday Sale Starts Now” may not do the trick.

Here are a bunch of clever Black Friday subject lines we like:

  • Crate & Barrel: Leftover turkey can wait. Black Friday can’t.
  • Groupon: The Black Friday VIP List 👀 Use code BLACK30
  • Gap: TGI-Black Friday — 50% OFF EVERYTHING. ALL. WEEK.
  • Victoria’s Secret: Black Fri-YAY 🙌 Buy One, Get One 50% OFF
  • IKEA: [Firstname], escape the Black Friday chaos
  • Timberland: 👇Better Than Their Deals☝️ Up To 40% Off

Keep in mind the fact that everyone is going to write Black Friday email subject lines with urgency. And they’ll all be talking about sales, discounts, BOGO offers, and limited supplies.

Your goal should be to generate some curiosity. Consumers are smart. They know that nearly every brand to which they've subscribed is having some sort of sale. You need to entice them to open your email with a subject line that makes them wonder what’s inside.

Or not... That’s why Black Friday email subject lines are the perfect opportunity for A/B testing. Your email list might respond better to subject lines that are direct and super clear. In fact, sometimes the subject line and preheader text alone are enough to send people directly to your website to shop. (So, go ahead and claim credit for some of that Direct traffic.)

3. Dark mode color inversion

A lot of Black Friday email templates contain... well, the color black. A little on the nose, sure. But according to color psychology, black is also a good way to convey luxury and exclusivity.

If you’re familiar with dark mode email development challenges, you already know that some email clients will automatically invert the colors you’re using in your HTML email background. That means it is possible that a dark background could be inverted into a light background when a recipient has dark mode turned on.

That’s not the effect you wanted, and it’s not what subscribers using dark mode want to receive either.

Now, most email clients will recognize that you’re already using a dark theme. However, Outlook 365 may not, and Gmail may mess with some of your colors too.

One way to handle this problem is to make use of the media query prefers-color-scheme: dark. This detects if the email recipient has dark mode turned on, and lets you tailor your CSS styles for dark mode.

However, be aware that Gmail does not support prefers-color-scheme. For some expert advice on how to handle dark mode and Gmail, check out these tips from Rémi Parmentier.

4. Inaccessible holiday email designs

We are big proponents of email accessibility around here. People with disabilities may be even more likely to do their holiday shopping online. So, it’s the responsibility of email marketers to ensure that the inbox experience is inclusive to all.

That includes coding accessible emails for those using screen readers. But another important consideration is color blindness.

Red-green color blindness is the most common. It impacts 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women. And what are two of the most popular colors to use during the holidays? Yep – red and green.

Black Friday email campaigns don’t have to be holiday-themed, but many are. While you don’t need to eliminate red and green in your email designs, try to avoid using those colors to convey meaning or in a way where important information gets lost. Get more tips on designing accessible holiday emails for people with color blindness.

Santa Claus cartoon seen through color blind filter.
How red-green color blindness affects holiday designs

5. Image-only Black Friday emails

Another accessibility issue with Black Friday marketing campaigns is an abundance of image-only emails. It’s a bit shocking to see how many big brands are sending promotional emails that are one giant graphic with no live text.

Screen readers can interpret the alt text of an image. But it’s highly unlikely you’ll be communicating an entire email campaign in image alt text (not to mention it’s a bad idea).

According to acccesiBe, more than 7 million Americans use screen readers. That’s around 2% of the population, which may not sound like a lot, but it could represent a sizable chunk of your list that can’t engage with image-only emails.

Besides accessibility, some subscribers may have image downloading turned off. That happens by default in Outlook inboxes. If your entire message is in the image, campaign performance could be disastrously disappointing.

6. Blasting instead of segmenting

A Black Friday email blast to every subscriber on your list might make sense in some situations. However, in most cases, you’ll be able to deliver more relevant holiday shopping promotions with segmentation.

Take advantage of the zero- and first-party data you’ve collected through your website and online forms to understand what kinds of Black Friday email promotions and products different segments will find engaging. Don’t forget that lots of people are shopping for others rather than themselves.

Can you segment for parents and grandparents buying gifts for kids? How about spouses trying to find the perfect presents for their significant other? Past purchase behaviors can also inform what subscribers are interested in buying this time of year.

Even geographic locations can help you decide what to promote in Black Friday emails. For example, subscribers in Florida and Arizona may not be as interested in warm and cozy winter sweaters compared to the Minnesotans on your list.

7. Black Friday email and landing page mismatches

What happens after online shoppers click on a Black Friday email CTA? Sure, you did your job as an email marketer. But if the website experience doesn’t jive with the email campaign, your results in terms of online sales may suffer.

Emails and landing pages need to work together to effectively earn conversions. Now’s the time to make sure the assets you’re using in Black Friday emails match what subscribers see when they land on your ecommerce site to shop. Here are a few quick tips:

  • Use similar or complementary graphics, imagery, and messaging.
  • Reiterate the coupon code or offer from the email on the landing page.
  • Make sure your landing pages are mobile-friendly and accessible too.
  • Continue the personalized experience from the inbox on the website.

If your email and web teams work separately, this is a good time to break down those silos and start collaborating on Black Friday digital marketing strategy together.

Most importantly, make sure your emails do not send subscribers to the wrong landing page – or worse yet – a 404 page.

8. Inaccurate Black Friday email metrics

When the insanity of Black Friday subsides, the next item on the agenda will be evaluating how your campaigns performed. You’ll want to attribute as much as you can to the email channel. But marketing metrics can get messy if you’re unprepared.

One important way to track email marketing performance is with UTM parameters on links in your campaigns. Make sure you’re on the same page with the web or data team about what those parameters should be, including how UTMs are formatted.

Beyond tracking the email channel, what else do you want to know? If you’re sending multiple campaigns, use parameters that help you identify the success of one email from another. You could even track whether subscribers are clicking on specific elements like buttons, text links, or product images.

Another challenge with tracking Black Friday email performance relates to increased privacy measures from mailbox providers. Yes, we’re still talking about Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP). These features can inflate open rates, making it unclear how well your subject line really worked. However, you may be able to use email analytics to see which subscribers are using MPP.

Discover how Sinch Email on Acid can help you find out which of your subscribers are using Apple’s MPP. Once you know, you can segment those contacts so you can review their metrics separately, giving you a clearer picture of open rates.

9. Ignoring abandoned cart emails

The holidays are hectic, and everything goes into full gear right after Thanksgiving. Black Friday shoppers are getting tons of emails, visiting loads of websites, and inevitably... some items will get left in their online shopping carts.

If you aren’t already using abandoned cart emails, now is a good time to start. And if you do send these reminder emails, you may want to adjust your strategy for Black Friday. That could mean different messaging that adds urgency to bring people back before a promotion ends. Or it could mean adjusting the timing of these automated messages. Maybe your abandoned cart emails need to be sent sooner – before the shopper makes a purchase somewhere else.

The cart abandonment rate (CAR) in 2022 was just over 77% around Black Friday. That’s actually a bit lower than average. But holiday sales are crucial to many retailers. So, do what you can to win back customers who left products in their cart without completing a purchase.

10. Transactional email deliverability

When your brand does earn those Black Friday sales, email comes into play once again. Transactional emails keep your customers informed with order confirmations, shipping updates, and more.

These messages can be extremely important during the holidays when getting a package on time matters more than ever. But what happens when transactional emails land in spam or get blocked from delivery? That’s a huge Black Friday mistake.

An important email deliverability consideration before Black Friday could be the decision to separate your commercial and transactional emails with different sending IPs or domains. When Sinch Mailgun surveyed senders for The state of email deliverability 2023, results showed 42% are doing this.

It’s even more common among high-volume senders (which are more likely to be major brands). More than 60% of those sending 100,000 or more emails per month separate marketing emails from transactional communication. This helps senders maintain a stronger IP and/or domain reputation for important transactional messages. And that means those emails are much less likely to end up in spam.

Send volume comparison chart on email infrastructure.

A sudden spike in email volume and sending frequency during Black Friday may also prompt mailbox providers to filter your messages into spam, especially if you’re using a new IP or domain. So, an IP warmup may be necessary first.

Get more Black Friday email deliverability advice in a free, on-demand webinar from Mailgun.

Don’t forget to test Black Friday email campaigns

Because Black Friday is such a big deal, email quality assurance (QA) becomes extra important.

That’s where Sinch Email on Acid really shines. Many of the Black Friday email mistakes we mentioned in this article can be addressed with our pre-send testing platform.

  • See how your Black Friday email templates render in 100+ clients and live mobile devices with Email Previews.
  • Use our previews to test how your Black Friday email campaigns look in dark mode.
  • Check out Inbox Display previews to see how your subject line and preheader text will look when your Black Friday emails arrive.
  • Improve engagement with Accessibility Checks, including a way to see how your email design appears to people with color blindness.
  • Double-check links to landing pages to make sure none are broken and add missing UTMs with URL Validation.

Plus, you can do a final spell check, catch accidental profanities, validate images for faster load times, and run basic deliverability checks. With unlimited testing for every paid plan, Sinch Email on Acid is here to help you put your best emails forward this Black Friday.

Even Great Emails Need to Be Tested

It’s true: Even well-designed emails can break from time to time. That’s why email testing is an important part of sending a successful campaign. Sinch Email on Acid tests your email code quickly and accurately, allowing you to preview your design across more than 100 of the most popular email clients and devices. Try us free and start delivering email perfection!

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