Email envelope on a Black Friday shopping bag

Double-Check Your Black Friday Email Strategy for 2023

It's right around the corner... Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the onslaught deals for the rest of the holiday shopping season are about to land in email inboxes. Marketing teams have been busy planning, writing, designing, and reviewing campaigns, hoping their brand stands out. Now, it's almost the moment of truth.

There's a lot riding on the performance of your emails this time of year. So, let's take a closer look at your Black Friday email marketing strategy. We'll make sure you've got all your bases covered with a Black Friday email marketing checklist.

Why email matters for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Yes, consumers spend billions and billions of dollars from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. But what you really need to know is the best way to reach the people who are interested in your Black Friday promotions.

As part of an upcoming survey on email engagement, Sinch asked consumers in five different countries how they preferred to hear from brands about Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. The answer came through loud and clear...

68.9% of consumers say they prefer to hear about Black Friday deals in their email inbox.

What's more? More than 75% of consumers are open to hearing about Black Friday promotions quite early. The Sinch survey found that 35.5% of holiday shoppers in the U.S., UK, France, Germany, and Spain want to hear about those deals ASAP. Another 21.2% want to know about BFCM promotions a month beforehand.

So, if you've been waiting patiently to let your subscribers know what to expect this Black Friday - you may want to rethink that strategy. Check out even more Black Friday marketing stats in the infographic below.

Black Friday consumer preferences infographic

Notice that consumers also place a lot of importance on transactional messages during the holiday shopping season. That includes the order confirmations, shipping updates, and other notifications that are often delivered to the email inbox.

So, if email is the most important channel for connecting your brands with consumers this time of year, what should you be double-checking to make sure your Black Friday email game is top-notch?

Your Black Friday email marketing checklist

When it’s peak marketing season and you’re competing against thousands of other companies vying for consumer dollars, sending expertly-crafted emails with irresistible offerings will help you stand out among your competitors and capture your readers’ attention. 

But there’s more to a great Black Friday email strategy than sending out stellar emails. In this checklist, we’ll cover 11 important questions to ask before you launch email campaigns for Black Friday and Cyber Monday:

  1. Are you building your list for Black Friday? 
  2. Do you have the right sending cadence? 
  3. Are you optimizing send times? 
  4. Do you need a holiday IP warmup? 
  5. Have you checked email list hygiene? 
  6. What’s your Black Friday subject line strategy? 
  7. What’s your Black Friday CTA strategy? 
  8.  Are you taking any big swings this Black Friday? 
  9.   What’s the plan for personalization and segmentation? 
  10.  Are you split-testing content and design?
  11.  How will your Black Friday emails look when delivered? 

1. Are you building your list for Black Friday?

It's not too late to start adding new subscribers to your email list. The excitement around Black Friday and Cyber Monday can prompt potential customers to signup so they can take advantage of what you're offering for the holidays. Here are some ideas for growing your list of Black Friday shoppers:

  • Use social media to drive signups. When posting on your social media channels, instead of linking to your website homepage, link directly to your email signup form or a landing page specifically geared for capturing subscribers.
  • Refresh your website opt-in forms. On your website, change up the language and offers used in your opt-in forms. You might reference Black Friday specifically, offer a free download, or entice signups with the promise of special VIP discounts. Use fresh imagery and A/B test offers throughout the weeks leading up to Black Friday.
  • Make sure website visitors have the option to subscribe from multiple places. Email signup opportunities don’t have to be restricted to pop-ups and landing pages. A few other places you can offer visitors the chance to sign up are:
    • Contact forms
    • Checkout pages
    • Account registration forms
    • Comments sections
    • Blog posts
    • Product pages
    • The footer of your website

Want to learn more about how to build your email list the right way? Check out our article, How to Grow Your Email List Organically for Better Deliverability.

2. Do you have the right sending cadence?

When should you start sending Black Friday emails and how frequently should you send them? Our survey of consumers found there's quite a spread among people's opinions about the right time to start talking to them about holiday shopping.

Two weeks before Black Friday might be a good sweet spot. But, if you've strategically segmented your list based on email engagement, you could try sending to your most-engaged subscribers even earlier. They're likely the ones hoping to hear from you sooner rather than later.

Let's get tactical... Divide your email campaigns into three phases: pre-holiday, during-holiday, and post-holiday. Use a marketing calendar to map out your sending schedules.

How often should you send? When Sinch Mailjet surveyed marketers in 2021, they found that a combined 60% of them planned to send Black Friday emails multiple times a week or even several times a day.

Black Friday email cadence chart

If you're increasing sending frequency over the holidays, pay attention to your email marketing metrics as the season progresses. When unsubscribes start climbing and open rates start declining, it could be a sign you've pushed things a bit too far.

3. Do you need a holiday IP warmup?

If your normal email frequency is more like once a week or once a month, now is a good time to warm up your sending IP before ramping up your email volume for the holiday season. Failing to do so could send the wrong signal, make you look spammy, and cause deliverability issues.

Dramatically increasing your send cadence can make your IP reputation look suspicious when you haven’t warmed it up. There’s no point in spending hours of effort on extensive Black Friday email marketing campaigns if those emails go straight to the junk folder, or – worse yet – are blocked entirely by mailbox providers. 

4. Have you checked email list hygiene?

Warming up your IP isn’t the only pre-holiday checkup you should do. BFCM campaigns are some of the biggest efforts of the year – make sure they make it to the inbox with a solid deliverability strategy

While email list hygiene is important all year long, you should pay extra attention to it before starting any big email campaign pushes. In Sinch Mailgun’s State of email deliverability 2023 survey, almost 39% of email senders said they rarely or never practice email list hygiene. If you’re in that 39%, you may want to carve out a few days to dedicate to this task before your pre-holiday campaigns start.  

5. Are you optimizing send times?

In a perfect world, your Black Friday email campaign would hit consumers' inboxes right before they decide to check their email. That would mean your message is sitting right on top, ready to be opened and clicked.

If you can segment your list by location, you can optimize sends for different time zones. However, different people have different email-checking habits. That's why machine-learning technology like Send Time Optimization (STO) gives you a real advantage during a time when inboxes are filling up like stuffed stockings over the fireplace.

STO is an automated method of delivering emails based on when subscribers are most likely to engage. Mailgun’s users experienced an average of a 5-10% increase in clicks by using STO

STO services are also much less time-intensive than manual scheduling, giving you more time for designing, testing, and optimizing other aspects of your campaigns.

6. What’s your Black Friday subject line strategy?

With all the competition in the inbox, you’ll need to invest more time in copywriting a catchy, attention-grabbing subject line.

You might be inclined to think Black Friday is the time to go over the top in your email campaigns. But if you don’t usually use all caps, emojis, or exclamation marks, now is not the time to start. Not only can they trigger spam filters, it just seems like you’re yelling. 

So how do you get people to open your BFCM emails? 

  • Stay on-brand, but get creative within your brand identity. 
  • Create a sense of urgency (FOMO). 
  • Position your subject line as a question.
  • Put the hook or a cliff-hanger in your pre-header.
  • Keep your subject short and to the point.
  • Lead with an enticing, personalized offer.

You don’t have to stoop to the lows of “one weird trick,” but think about the value you’re offering. Is it a discount? Something exclusive for subscribers? A limited-time offer? 

Put the most important information upfront, and leave a little room for the imagination. Ask questions, start a conversation, and focus on the emotional connection first, rather than a “Me, me, me!” message.

Need some high-quality ideas for subject lines to test? Check out our Best of Black Friday email examples.

7. What’s your Black Friday CTA strategy?

High open rates are great, but you also want your Black Friday weekend email recipients to click through to the product page where they’ll, hopefully, make a purchase. Most of us are used to seeing offers with a “buy now,” “shop now,” “get X now,” “learn more,” or “download your free ebook” call-to-action button – boring.

Try thinking of creative ways to emotionally hook your audience with your call to action while staying true to your brand. Use catchy phrases that might resonate with the culture of your customer base. Don’t be afraid of puns, pop culture references, memes, or industry jargon if you think your subscribers would “get it.” 

The actual words may not even be as important as eye-catching visuals. Using roll-over or hover effects on buttons, animated GIFs, and bold color schemes can also increase engagement.

The effectiveness of your CTAs will largely depend on how relatable and interesting they are to your audience. Keep an eye on what others in your industry are doing with their email CTAs, push your creative boundaries, and if you’re stumped for ideas, we’ve got an article on how to write creative CTAs for Better Email Engagement that will definitely inspire you.  

8. Are you taking any big swings this Black Friday? 

Do you have new products, bigger sales, expanded services, or exciting features you’re launching as part of your Black Friday email strategy? Now might be the time to use some new techniques to add fun and excitement to your email campaigns. 

Experiment with creative elements like countdown clocks, inventory counters, animations, interactive content, or other elements like email gamification. Using these creative treatments can help them stand out from your other email campaigns and grab recipients’ attention. 

9. What’s your plan for segmentation and personalization?

As you put together your offers, think deeply about which subscribers they’ll resonate with, and why they’re receiving each email. Remember, in the days leading up to Black Friday, your subscribers are going to get hundreds of emails from a variety of brands – not just yours.

Before the holiday shopping season begins, think about what defines an active vs. unengaged subscriber. Starting as early as possible – ideally September – reach out to your disengaged subscribers by running a re-engagement campaign. Ask them their preferences for BFCM emails, and develop new segments around their responses and engagement.

Other ways you can segment subscribers include:

  • Demographics: Gender, geographic location, family/household
  • Behavior: Shopping preferences, average order value, purchase frequency, browsing vs. shopping, current cart profile
  • Early birds and procrastinators: Target based purchase patterns from previous years
  • Deal seekers: If a discount is what’s going to get them to purchase, look at what offers worked in the past, and segment that group accordingly

Don’t overlook your newest subscribers. They may not know your brand and offerings as well as some of your longtime customers, so consider adding a specific BFCM welcome email series, especially if you’re also running top-of-funnel marketing campaigns.

Once you’ve created your segments, don’t forget to personalize your emails. We’re not just talking about “Hi, <first name>.” There are a variety of ways to personalize your messaging. Here are just a few:  

  • Personalized product recommendations. For BFCM, personalized product recommendations are the name of the game. Mailjet’s survey found this was one of the most-used advanced tactics for Black Friday email campaigns.
  • Use survey responses to personalize email content and offers. During the holidays, your typical customers may not be purchasing for themselves – it’s a gift-giving season, after all. Send a survey ahead of time to your subscribers to figure out who they’re looking to purchase gifts for, and segment and message accordingly.
  • Use dynamic content. Dynamic content in email is an extremely powerful tool to improve engagement and conversions. Dynamic content is any information that displays conditionally based on a set of rules such as subscriber behavior, product availability, or even the weather. Just about anything in your email can be dynamic – subject lines, offers, recommended products, and more.

10. Are you split testing content and designs?

Without testing you won’t really know what offers, designs, and messaging work best to get your subscribers excited to open, click, and make a purchase. You can follow all the “best practices” you want, but every audience is different.

Sinch Mailjet’s Black Friday survey revealed that only 22% of senders split-tested their emails. The most successful email marketers are more likely to be implementing these tactics (32%), but that’s still vastly underusing one of the most helpful techniques for ensuring the success of your Black Friday email strategy.

To improve opens and click-through rates of your holiday email campaigns, try split testing your:

  • Subject lines
  • Email copy
  • Imagery
  • Offers
  • CTAs
  • Overall layout and design

Even if you’re not split-testing every single email for BFCM, make sure you have your A/B testing ready ahead of time. Know what works, and what doesn’t, so you can execute quickly and efficiently come game time.

11. How will your Black Friday emails look when delivered?

No matter how good your offers are or how compellingly you craft your subject lines and CTAs, if your email looks like a mess when recipients open it, they might not click through. 

Inconsistent rendering across email clients, browsers, and device types is a pain point that all email marketers face. It can derail your Black Friday email strategy if you don’t test your emails to ensure they display well no matter what platform they are opened on.

Test your email templates and campaigns ahead of time and ensure that CTAs work, images are optimized, and that your emails are accessible to everyone on your list – even your Outlook subscribers

Sinch Email on Acid offers unlimited testing on major clients and devices. That means that email teams can preview campaigns as many times as needed before launching. Find out more about why you should test every email campaign

Even Great Emails Need to Be Tested

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