A man shops on BFCM. A man shops on BFCM.

6 ways to make your emails stand out on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) have become the cornerstone event for eCommerce retailers. Last year, they were the two biggest online shopping days of the year, collectively generating $14.1 billion in sales in the U.S. As a result, there’s a lot of pressure on eCommerce brands to grab a piece of that huge pie—and, subsequently, there’s a lot of competition.

Odds are, as an eCommerce business, you’ll be leaning on your email marketing on BFCM. But… so will your competitors. Last year, one study found a 43 percent year-over-year jump in marketing emails on Black Friday and a 37 percent year-over-year jump on Cyber Monday. 

So with that huge spike in email volume and frenzy of competition, the big challenge for eCommerce stores is… how do you stand out?

This article provides six examples of winning strategies for BFCM email marketing that can help your emails rise above the fray and lead to the conversions you want. 

1. Promote the exclusivity of your discounts

A large part of BFCM’s ascension in popularity is the quality of the deals; this is the time of year when most stores make their best possible offer. So if your BFCM offering is a once-a-year or never-before-seen deal, you need to promote that. Your email subscribers have been getting your marketing messages and seeing the other offers you’ve made over the course of the year—but, odds are, they don’t have a database in their heads of all the deals you’ve offered. If you regularly run 20 percent off sales but now, only for BFCM, you’re running 30 percent off—you need to spotlight the rarity and exclusivity of that deal.

Check out this email from Farmaesthetics from Black Friday 2018. The subject line makes it clear this isn’t an everyday sale: “Our Best Offer of the Year = 25% Off + Free S&H!” That helps this email stand out in the inbox—and a customer who’s been subscribed to the list and has been waiting to make a purchase (or a repeat purchase) knows that this is the absolute best time to do so.

Farmaesthetics makes it clear they're giving a great deal.
Via: Milled.

2. Clearly convey a sense of urgency and scarcity

One of the iconic images of Black Friday (for better or almost certainly for worse) is a chaotic crowd of people storming into a retail store, trampling each other in a wanton effort to grab items at incredible prices before anyone else. While that doesn’t exactly cast a great light on society, it is a window into a hallmark of BFCM that you can capitalize on: Scarcity

The great deal you’re offering? It’s going to expire. The amazing products you’re offering at those prices? They’re going to sell out. Use your email marketing to let your customers know they need to get over to your store and shop ASAP before they miss out on the product they want, the deals you’re offering, or both.

This email from BREDA Watches hits on both the scarcity of the products and the urgency of the deal. This was sent out on the Sunday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday to promote the store’s big offer: 50 watches for $50. The subject line creates the sense of scarcity with “Limited stock remains,” and that point is reiterated with the short, to-the-point headline, “SELLING OUT FAST. GRAB YOURS NOW.” Then, to create even more of a sense of urgency, the email features a countdown clock, ticking down to when the sale will end. All the elements of this email are designed to drive a customer to the store immediately to take advantage of the deal before it expires and/or the stock runs out.

3. Keep it bold and simple

Put yourself in the shoes of an average consumer: it’s Black Friday weekend, everyone is offering great deals, and you need to make some quick decisions about what to prioritize. The last thing you need is an overly complex email to wade through. Instead, an email that’s visually bold while getting straight to the point is going to resonate the best—it catches your eye, gets its point across, makes its offer, and doesn’t waste your time.

Casper gets it right with this bold but simple BFCM email. The blue background stands out, as does the bright image at the bottom. There’s a quick headline with some personality; a succinct summary of what the deal is, how to get it, and when it expires; a clear call-to-action button; and a picture reinforcing that the products would make great gifts.

4. Utilize personalization and segmentation

It may be tempting to ignore personalization and segmentation on BFCM. After all, you’re making a great offer—just shoot out that offer to your entire list and you’ll be all set, right? But in a scenario with tons of competition, like BFCM, that’s when personalization and segmentation can work the best as differentiators. 

You can include some personalized products in your BFCM emails based on a customer’s past purchase history or preferences. You can segment your emails—like one version to male customers with men’s clothes at the top and another version to female customers with women’s clothes at the top.

Or, like in this example from Guitar Center below, you can buck the trends of splashy, overstimulating BFCM emails and send a stripped-down pitch that feels like a personal message. Guitar Center is a big box store, but this email feels like it comes from a local mom-and-pop operation. The email comes from a specific person, the customer is addressed directly by first name, and the phone number that’s provided is for the customer’s local store. Additionally, the email is mostly plain text, giving it the visual feel of an email between friends or colleagues. While no products are highlighted in the email’s body, the discounts on offer are clearly conveyed with no unnecessary embellishment. The result is an email that feels highly catered to the individual, making them feel important and recognized.

Guitar Center's personalized BFCM email.

5. Be true to your brand to stand out

For some brands, Black Friday might provide an opportunity to take a completely different but brand-appropriate approach. Brands with a social mission may find that their loyal customers appreciate a break from sales-driven communication, particularly if that social mission is deeply connected to the customers’ identity and values.

REI provides a fairly extreme example of this strategy: Not only are they encouraging their customers to do something besides shop on Black Friday, but they’ve also committed to closing their stores altogether. While this may seem counterintuitive and even contrarian on the surface, it’s a wise strategy for a brand that appeals to folks who value the outdoors and physical activity. The unspoken goal of this type of campaign is to deepen the customer’s sense of loyalty and get them back in the mood to shop when store doors are open. (It’s also gotten them a ton of press which, though this isn’t quantifiable, very well may have lead to more revenue than a Black Friday sale ever could.) 

6. Be persistent (but don’t overdo it)

It’s natural for any brand to feel pressure to stand out in inboxes, and there are many ways to achieve this: effective subject lines, personalization, good timing, and more. The trick is to strike a reasonable balance so your attempts to reach customers don’t feel like overkill or harassment.

This becomes especially challenging on BFCM when email volumes increase—and you may feel the need to increase yours in parallel, to try to have at least one of your emails hit your customers at the exact right moment. But there’s a fine line between ramping up your frequency and totally inundating your customers.

Carter’s skirts the line between appropriate and overboard, with 19 BFCM emails sent over the course of nine days. However, they’re a giant national brand that sends out one or even two daily emails normally. They’ve increased their volume here—but not from, say, three emails in a week to 19.

Carter's sends a lot of BFCM emails.

So while it’s smart to be a little more persistent than usual on BFCM, scale up proportionally. If you normally send two emails a week, send four or five during the BFCM week, not 20 or 25.

Key takeaways

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are much more than two single days of deep discounts—they’re a sizable portion of the larger holiday season with the potential to drive significant profits. But since every brand knows it, there’s a ton of competition—especially in the email marketing space.

As a result, brands can and should take special measures to ensure that their emails are successful in turning customer loyalty into timely conversions.

  • Promote the exclusivity of your discounts. You’re probably making your best offer of the year—let your customers know it. Convey the rarity of the deal in your subject line and throughout the body of your email.
  • Create a sense of urgency and scarcity. Let your customers know that your deals are only good for a limited time—and your products just might sell out at any moment.
  • Keep it bold and simple. Your customers are getting a large volume of emails on BFCM. Create bold emails that quickly get to the point to make things easy on your customers—and to avoid wasting their time.
  • Utilize personalization and segmentation. Yes, you probably want to send out your BFCM offer to your entire list—but there are still effective ways to work in some amount of personalization and segmentation.
  • Be true to your brand. If BFCM isn’t really in line with your brand, figure out a way to spin that into a positive. 
  • Be persistent (but don’t overdo it). You’ll probably want to ramp up your send frequency on BFCM, but make sure it’s not too wildly different from your normal cadence to avoid turning off your customers.
Matt Maggiacomo
Matt Maggiacomo is a writer, digital fundraiser, and musician with over four years of executive-level experience in nonprofit management. He has been utilizing digital technology to promote his creative projects since 2001 and is the founder of the creative consultancy Pitch & Prose.

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