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Black Friday 2016 KPIs: Volume Up 50% and Open Rates Higher, but Inbox Delivery Down

“I think that e-commerce has allowed for Black Friday to start whenever Amazon wants it to start.” (Simeon Siegel, Nomura Analyst, as quoted in the New York Times, 11/24/16)

When we published our Black Friday preview two weeks ago, we focused on the previous thirty days of related email activity.  We reported modest activity increases versus the comparable year-ago period, somewhat improving read rate engagement and seriously eroded deliverability.  This report looks at the fourteen days since, through Cyber Monday.  The patterns we noted in the previous report have only intensified.

Black Friday Email Volume

bf-campaigns-deployedThe graph on the left shows daily Black Friday themed email activity (campaigns deployed) for 2016 and 2015, counting down from ten days before Black Friday, through Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday.  It shows the expected sharp peaking on Black Friday itself, followed by a steep fall-off through the weekend.  Year-over-year increases were steady, and Black Friday itself shows a 55% volume increase.

In all, more than 35,000 Black Friday themed campaigns mailed during this period, a 50% increase versus last year.

Cyber Monday Email Volume

cyber-monday-email-volumeThis graph shows daily Cyber Monday themed email activity (campaigns deployed), with the same time array as the graph above.  It shows relatively minimal activity until the Thanksgiving weekend, at which time volumes begin increasing strongly.  There is a consistent daily year-over-year uptrend, and Cyber Monday itself shows a 42% volume increase.

In all, almost 24K Cyber Monday themed campaigns mailed during this period, a 36% increase versus last year.

Performance Highlights

Read rate engagement with these emails continued improving over last year:

  • For Black Friday emails, about 20% of these emails had a read rate exceeding 20% in 2016, versus 13% last year.
  • For Cyber Monday emails, about 19% of these emails had a read rate exceeding 20%, versus 12% last year.

 

And deliverability continued to erode sharply:

  • For Black Friday emails, only 19% of these emails had an inbox percentage exceeding 90%, versus 44% last year.
  • For Cyber Monday emails, 18% of these emails had an inbox percentage exceeding 90%, versus 45% last year.

 

major-retailers-bfcm-campaignsMajor Retailer Mailing Trends

The major full-line multi-channel retail brands continued to support these events with varying degrees of intensity.

  • Of these brands, Amazon mailed the largest number of related campaigns, with significant year-over-year increases.
  • Versus 2015, Walmart decreased its Black Friday themed campaigns modestly, and its Cyber Monday themed campaigns much more strongly.
  • The other major retail brands mailed related campaigns with much less prominence than Amazon or Walmart. Which is not to say that they weren’t actively mailing during this period; only that their mailing activity was more focused on general Holiday themed promotions than on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

 

Top-performing Emails

Below are examples of top-performing emails themed to Black Friday or Cyber Monday. They’re ranked in order of their read rate performance. Some factors to note:

  • They’re almost all very aggressively promotional.
  • Their mailing quantities suggest relatively targeted audiences.
  • They all extend the offer and impact of Black Friday and Cyber Monday well before or beyond the specific days.
  • Amazon demonstrates their usual custom of including specific merchandise focus within the subject lines.
  • J Crew, Sephora and Toys R Us each communicate some form of explicit or implicit exclusivity in their subject lines.
  • Delta Airlines is one of many air carriers we saw hooking their fare sale to the identity of a major retail shopping event.

 

DateBrandSubjectQuantityRead Rate
18-NovJ CrewFor Cardmembers: Early access to our biggest Black Friday sale ever222K46.73%
22-NovAmerican ExpressWe couldn't wait: Cyber Monday starts early!447K38.99%
27-NovSephoraToday is Sunday, but for you it's Cyber Monday308K38.16%
23-NovNikeBlack Friday Sale: 30% Off Right Now247K33.33%
25-NovNordstrom80+ free gifts with purchase for you to choose from! | Extra 20% off selected sale items for Black Friday234K30.30%
26-NovToys R UsSneak Peek! Cyber Monday Deals!304K30.00%
22-NovLampsPlusBlack Friday Starts Early! Blowout Design Deals344K28.71%
22-NovAmazonBlack Friday Week | 20% Off Clothing, Shoes & More1.0M27.88%
22-NovDelta AirlinesWhy Wait? Black Friday Deals Start Now1.9M27.70%
28-NovAmazonCyber Monday Deals: 30% Off Shoes4.5M27.28%
27-NovCompany StoreCYBER SUNDAY and MONDAY!225K26.74%

The Black Friday nomenclature is now so engrained in the consumer consciousness that it is used to support or denote practically any major promotional event at any time.  Black Friday references appear with summer events, and begin their run-up to the day itself as early as September.  And Cyber Monday really begins during Black Friday and is increasingly turning into “Cyber Week” and beyond.  All of this will gradually merge back into the usual robust Holiday promotional tempo that will carry us well into January.

Look for another Holiday update in mid-December.