2017 Black Friday/Cyber Monday Recap
By John Landsman, Director, Strategy & Analytics
By many accounts, this past long weekend incorporating Black Friday and Cyber Monday had happy results for retailers, even including a welcome boost to national multi-channel merchants struggling with large brick and mortar presence. Following-up our event preview two weeks ago, we’ve tracked three representative cuts of the retail universe:
- Online Retailers: Those identified by our platform as having ecommerce only. We track more than 400 brands in this category.
- (What I’m calling) “The Big 14:” These are all high-profile national or international retail brands, including: Amazon, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Toys R Us, Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, Kmart, Sears, Kohl’s, Macy’s, JCPenney, Staples, Office Depot and Best Buy.
- Amazon: A break-out of Amazon only. Amazon is included in both categories above, but we also show it separately, in order to demonstrate its scale within the two others.
We screened for related email campaign activity using subject line keywords.
- With few exceptions, only the Online Retail sector deployed more related campaigns this year than last.
- Inbox placement appears to have improved dramatically versus last year.
- Amazon consistently shows the strongest read rates. Overall, year-over-year read rate performance is a mixed bag. We saw an uptrend in the pre-Thanksgiving period, but — depending on the day and sector — most year-over-year read rates did not improve in the daily observations from Thanksgiving through the day after Cyber Monday.
Online Retailers substantially increased their related campaign flows for the comparable year-over-year periods. The “Big 14” and Amazon were down slightly. Inbox performance improved for all but Amazon, which was flat, but at a very high percentage of deliverability. Read rates improved for all reported sectors. (*) Amazon, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Toys R Us, Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, Kmart, Sears, Kohl’s, Macy’s, JCPenney, Staples, Office Depot and Best Buy
Campaign Volumes By Day
Daily campaign flows by theme behaved predictably throughout the event period. Deployment for the respective themes peaked on the days for which each is named, and continued prominently for 1-2 days thereafter.
Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday
Activity levels — as expected — considerably intensified on Thanksgiving Day from their earlier tempo, and they show increases versus last year. However, the YOY read performance differentials are positive only for the Online Retailers and Amazon breakouts. Daily campaign volume increased for all cuts of these data on Black Friday itself, but the “Big 14” and Amazon saw reduced campaign activity YOY, the latter by over 50%. Both Online Retail and Amazon sectors show improved YOY inbox and read rate performance on Black Friday.
Black Friday Plus One
Daily Black Friday-related campaign volumes tapered off following Black Friday itself, but continue to exceed last year’s for the Online Retailers, and be less than last year’s for the other two sectors. Inbox performance continues to exceed last year’s for all, but read rate performance is considerably less robust, YOY, for Online Retailers and for the Big 14. Amazon’s improved. Retailers in these same categories began ramping up their messaging Cyber Monday themed messaging. YOY: Online Retailers mailed more; the other two categories mailed less. Inbox performance improved for the Big 14 and for Amazon, while read rate performance outperformed last year’s only for the Big 14 group.
Black Friday Plus Two
Black Friday related campaign volumes continued to taper off following Black Friday itself. YOY, campaign activity increased for the Online Shopping sector and the “Big 14;” inbox performance improved for all three sectors; read rates eroded for all three Retailers in these same categories continued to ramp up their messaging with Cyber Monday themes. YOY: Online retailers mailed more; the other two categories mailed less. Inbox performance improved for all three sectors, while read rate performance outperformed last year’s for the Big 14 and Amazon.
Black Friday related emails continue to taper off sharply, and with fewer YOY campaigns for all sectors. Inbox placement maintains its strong uptrend across the board, but read rates are down YOY for all sectors except Amazon. Cyber Monday themed mailing flows have peaked, with continuing strong inbox uptrends. Read rates show downtrends for all sectors except Amazon.
Cyber Monday Plus One
Cyber Monday themed mailings continue, but at much lower incidence than the day before, and we will see continued “Cyber” themed mailings as the week progresses. These references have more and more evolved for many brands into ongoing promotions with a “Cyber Week” theme. Inbox performance remains strong. Read rates were flat YOY for the Online Retail sector, but down somewhat for the others. Black Friday themed mailings have slowed to a virtual trickle for all three sectors. All sectors show some YOY increase in campaign flow. Earlier inbox and read rate trends continue.
Examples of Best Performing Campaigns
Below are ten examples of strong performing Black Friday and Cyber Monday emails, ranked in order of read rates. Highlights:
- Virtually all feature explicitly promotional subject line themes and wording, some with very aggressive discounting.
- Amazon — as usual — owns the top performance numbers.
- Amazon’s top-performing campaign (on this list) deployed eight days before Black Friday, promoting “Early Black Friday deals continue” (emphasis mine).
- Note Amazon’s third subject line, referring to “Cyber Monday Week,” which clearly demonstrates the pattern we noted above.
- Walmart’s subject line fronts a message containing an embedded video.
- For most, the relatively small mailing quantities. compared to estimated email audience sizes, suggest a significant degree of audience targeting.