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Early Peek at Black Friday Emails

A Quick, Early Peek at Black Friday Emails
By John Landsman, Director, Strategy & Analytics

 

At this writing, there are less than two weeks until Black Friday, historically the peak Holiday shopping day falling on the day after Thanksgiving.  Yet the retail email campaigns we see — and the timing of sales promotions they support — would appear to belie that timing.

The trade press thinks so, too.

 “’. . . (W)e’re seeing more and more retailers offering their actual Black Friday deals early,’ said Courtney Jespersen, consumer savings expert at NerdWallet. … Retailers are trying to get consumers to shop all month long, as opposed to only on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.” (CBS MoneyWatch, 11/10/17)

This logic is questionable.  Pushing early sales “borrows” from later sales, often with limited net lift for the total period.  But we took a topline look — at the emails from fourteen* major retail brands, representing a range of types.   And there is some truth to the impression we’re getting.

  • For the thirty days ended November 13, we’ve seen 103 Black Friday themed campaigns from these brands. While that number is down sharply from the 150 we saw in the comparable period last year, estimated related send volumes increased year-over-year from 3.9M last year to 9.0M this year.  But average read rates appear to be unchanged:  about 14.7% for both years.
  • Black Friday references also appear in emails being deployed internationally (where “the Friday after Thanksgiving” is wholly without meaning) by these brands; e.g., from Walmart, “ALERTA: Esquenta Black Friday] Máquina de Lavar, Smartphone e MAIS!” No matter:  Black Friday long ago ceased being solely about the Friday after Thanksgiving.
  • Virtually all of the noted activity supports current sales promotions, well in advance of Black Friday. There will certainly be ongoing promotions through the actual Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) period, but the Black Friday reference is such a familiar and powerful attention-getter, that it’s now routinely employed to announce major sales, regardless of the selling season.
  • Examples of the top-performing Black Friday themed emails are in the table below.

  

  • Most are to highly targeted audiences, in relation to the respective brand’s total estimated email audience size.
  • Amazon keeps its usual position in (and atop) lists of this kind.
  • Most support current sales promotions.
  • The Kohl’s example perfectly typifies the “early promotion” pattern we see: A campaign with the subject line, “Just a few hours left to shop Black Friday Deals!”  It deployed on November 1, which was 26 days before the actual Black Friday.

 

Stay tuned for our post-Thanksgiving recap of Black Friday/Cyber Monday email activity.

(*) 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