Email Marketing Best Practices for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Illustration by Rodrigo Fortes illustration of a shopping cart full of black friday bargains

Black Friday, the day when corporations’ finances go “into the black” for the year, and the ecommerce sales that follow on Cyber Monday, are the two biggest shopping days of the year. People show up online and in person ready to spend. As a business owner, it’s only natural to want to cash in on these major events.

Is it really worth it, though? And if so, how can you create effective campaigns for these events?

With these days quickly approaching—in 2020, Black Friday is on November 27th and Cyber Monday is on November 30th—it’s crucial to make your decisions now.

This article will give you all the information you need to create a plan for these massive shopping events.

Should you run a promotion for Black Friday or Cyber Monday?

At first glance, participating in these events seems like a no-brainer. They are, after all, the biggest shopping days of the year. Here are some quick stats:

  • According to the National Retail Federation, 174 million Americans shopped between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday
  • 58 million of those Americans shopped online only, while 51 million only shopped in stores
  • Analysts are predicting that Canadian shoppers will spend $29.5 billion during pre-Christmas sales events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday
  • German searches for Black Friday deals increased by 49.59% between November 2018 and October 2019
  • Searches for Black Friday deals in France increased by 306.6% between November 2017 and November 2018, followed by a further 49.5% increase between November 2018 and October 2019

In short, an enormous amount of money changes hands throughout the developed world during these events. However, that doesn’t mean every business should participate in them. In fact, you can sometimes make your business stand out by deliberately avoiding Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

I’ve compiled a list of pros and cons to help you determine whether or not participating in Black Friday/Cyber Monday is the best decision for your business.

Pros

  • Your business gets to be part of a major event and may be included in Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals roundups
  • These events are a great opportunity to clear out old inventory and make room for the new
  • Sales provide an incentive for potential customers to invest right away and make existing customers feel valued.

Cons

  • Black Friday and Cyber Monday are defined by massive sales, encouraging you to devalue your work
  • Retail stores can be incredibly crowded during these days, increasing the stress placed on your workers
  • There are so many promotions that it’s easy for yours to get lost in the noise.

Best practices for Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions

One thing is certain: if you want to stand out from the millions of other businesses running Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotions, you’ll need to do some clever email marketing.

There are several things you can do to increase your chances of success:

1. Plan, plan, plan

Planning is key to the success of any marketing campaign, and doubly so when it comes to events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The first thing you need to establish is the deal itself. What product(s) or service(s) are you going to provide a discount on? How much will that discount be? Will you run it on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or throughout the days between? Or does the sale end when you run out of stock?

If you run a service-based business and you’re not sure what to offer, here are a few ideas:

  • A free gift when someone signs up for one of your services during this time period. Ideally, this should be a tool or resource you already have rather than something you have to make.
  • A discounted bundle of your services made available for a limited time.
  • A discount for additional services purchased when a client hires you for your main service. Don’t discount your main service, as this devalues your work.

Once you’ve figured out those details, you can plan your email marketing campaign. This will include deciding how many emails you’ll send, when you’ll send them, and what your calls to action will be.

In the end, your plan should look something like this:

  • Deal: 20% off of everything from Black Friday through Cyber Monday OR when we run out of stock
  • Emails to send: One email to announce the sale a week ahead of Black Friday, one sales email when the deal goes live, and one reminder email twelve hours before the sale ends.

I also recommend drafting the emails in advance, but we’ll discuss that a little later on.

2. Give people multiple opportunities to take advantage of the sale

Remember those crowded inboxes? Stuff tends to get lost in them. To increase the odds of people seeing your promotions, you want to send out multiple emails about your promotion.

The key here is to give your audience multiple opportunities without overwhelming them. Sending an email every day in the week leading up to Black Friday is going to be too much for many audiences. You also don’t send out the deal too early, both because it can overwhelm people and because you don’t want customers to postpone purchases to gain a deal.

Of course, this varies based on what your audience expects from you. If they already get an email from you every day, mentioning your Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale every day might work.

In short, base the number of emails you send on your audience’s existing expectations, but make sure there’s more than one.

3. Perfect your subject lines

Most of our inboxes are flooded with promotional materials in the days leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, along with a second and third flood of emails on the days themselves. If your subject lines don’t captivate your audience, they’re going to delete those emails.

There are numerous ways to build an attention-grabbing subject line. You can use humor, ask a question, or promise a list of useful items (or deals, in this case). You can also focus on the time limit of your promotional offer or the excitement of major events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The key is to establish the value of your email in as few characters as possible. The length is important because the mobile versions of most inboxes only display 25-30 characters of an email’s subject line.

If you’re struggling to create awesome headlines, check out our list of the best email subject lines we’ve ever seen. You can also find a list of successful Black Friday email marketing subject lines at the Ecommerce Training Academy.

Pro tip: Never just choose the first subject line that comes to mind. Brainstorm 5-10 possible subject lines for every email instead. You might go back to the first one, but it’s always good to have multiple options.

4. Keep your content focused and short

Every sentence your audience has to read is a potential reason for them to move on to the next email. Ideally, you want to keep your email copy between 50 and 125 words.

However, your copy must still establish what you’re offering, why people should take advantage of that offer now, and how long the offer is available for. If people need to take a specific action, like entering a coupon code, you should make this clear as well.

There are many examples of companies doing this well. One great example is the following email from Oculus:

Black Friday and Cyber Monday email examples: Oculus
Image from Really Good Emails

This email from Baggu is even shorter, featuring just the discounts themselves:

Black Friday and Cyber Monday email examples: Baggu
Image from Really Good Emails

5. Craft compelling calls to action

The most important part of any email marketing campaign is the call to action. This is when you tell the reader what to do.

A good call to action is concise, easy to understand, and highly visible. If there is any confusion, most of your audience will simply move on to the next email.

One great way to accomplish this is to put your call to action in a button with a contrasting color to the email’s background. Code Academy has done this in the Black Friday promotion below:

Black Friday and Cyber Monday email examples: Code Academy
Image from Really Good Emails

You can also format your call to action as a full-width bar, like in this promotion from Email Tees:

Black Friday and Cyber Monday email examples: Email Tees
Image from Really Good Emails

6. Create personalized campaigns

Personalization is one of the most powerful tools in your email marketing toolkit. Specifically, behavior-triggered emails are marketing messages sent to people who have performed certain actions on your site.

The most common example of this is the abandoned cart email, but you can also set up personalized campaigns for Black Friday. For example, if someone purchased a certain item, you might send them a campaign focusing on discounts for related items.

This type of personalization is subtle but powerful. People won’t know that their emails have been personalized, but they’ll have a greater level of interest in the products or services they’re shown.

To create these campaigns, you will need to divide your list into segments. MailPoet allows you to create segments based on a variety of behaviors, including previous purchases. You can access this capability by going to the “Lists” area of MailPoet and clicking “New Segment”.

MailPoet Segmentation

Once you have created these segments, you can create individual email marketing campaigns for each one.

7. Use scheduling and automation

Relying on yourself or one of your employees to send emails out at the precise right time is never a good idea. This is doubly true when you’re working on an important promotion like a Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale.

The good news is that most email marketing tools offer scheduling and some level of automation. There are also several great WordPress plugins for automation.

MailPoet itself offers a variety of tools for scheduling and automation. You can schedule regular newsletters during the final step of the creation process:

Schedule newsletter with MailPoet

You can also use MailPoet to automate several types of behavior-triggered WooCommerce emails:

MailPoet WooCommerce automation

Final thoughts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales

Participating in Black Friday and Cyber Monday isn’t obligatory, but it can be a great way to raise brand awareness and increase sales. If you want to participate in these events in 2020, remember the seven best practices we discussed here:

  1. Plan, plan, plan
  2. Make sure your plan includes sending out multiple emails
  3. Perfect your subject lines; brainstorm several before you settle on one
  4. Keep your content focused and short
  5. Make your call to action concise, highly visible, and easy to follow through on
  6. Use segmentation to send out personalized campaigns
  7. Schedule all of your marketing emails for Black Friday/Cyber Monday in advance

And of course, pay attention to the results. You can use those to create even more effective promotions next year!