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Holiday email planning: first stop on the list – Black Friday

Christmas officially begins in the UK when the John Lewis sets the tears rolling yet again with another emotional ad campaign. But what does this mean for retailers everywhere? Last month we saw some holiday emails starting to surface in the inbox, and by now we’re in full swing of email volumes rising. With Black Friday as the first step on the festive retail business train, we’ll share some strategies and tactics that can help you stand out this time of the year.

Is it safe to go all on with festive cheer?

As this graph from eMarketer shows, late November is the peak period in terms of holiday email marketing expectations from your subscribers. Black Friday and the last pay day before Christmas mark the end of November as a key date for shopping so your emails should focus on making your offering attractive and your brand top of mind in the decision making process.


Don’t let history repeat itself

Last year Black Friday took British retailers by surprise both in store (with crowds of people flooding the aisles) and online (bringing websites down at the unprepared spike in traffic). Some retailers even had a digital queue system implemented. It’s no wonder then that Black Friday is predicted to be the biggest shopping day of the holiday season this year.


Caption: Source ChannelAdvisor’s 2015 Online Retail Survey via MarketingLand

Aside from making your website ready, you need to evaluate your email marketing and make sure it’s top notch:

  • Make your list and check it twice: segment content based on customer levels. If your loyal shoppers see that your emails provide them with a better deal if they click-through from your email than everyone else gets as a regular visitor, they’ll feel valued and they’ll keep coming back. Don’t just think about discounts; great ideas for table setting and decorations that also involve your products can work wonders too because they still provide value.
  • Have a back-up plan: are your deals so hot that you’re rapidly running out of stock? Send another email with new deals the same day. Subscribers will forgive you for temporarily increasing your frequency if they get something out of it. Or better yet, why not include dynamic content in your email so it automatically pulls stock levels from your website? Let the technology do all the heavy lifting.
  • Errors are bound to happen, so create an emergency explanation email that you can just fill in quickly and send. Wrong link, wrong discount code, anything can happen and you’ll be grateful when the contingency plan is already in place. Some retailers have even used this as a way to get attention by sending two emails, but you have to be cautious not to seem sloppy.
  • If you’re worried about an unsubscribe spike around Black Friday and Cyber Weekend, create a Black Friday VIP list and only increase frequency for the subscribers who opt-in for it. That way you know that the message you’re sending is really relevant and engagement rates will go through the roof. It also means that you can start advertising this VIP list now before anyone else talks about Black Friday so you get a time advantage too.
  • Be the personal shopping assistant: everyone has discounts on Black Friday, and while those are important, a great customer experience will keep them coming back through the year. Include direct links in your emails segmenting your gift suggestions by price, member of the family, product categories, cross-sells, anything you can think of that will make your customers visualise YOUR products as the perfect present. The more helpful you are, the more likely they are to convert.

Black Friday examples from last year

I couldn’t finish this month’s holiday email planning tips without sharing some examples from last year’s Black Friday. It seems that conversions were all retailers were after as they sent short and sweet campaigns. However, because they’re image-based, subscribers who have images turned off will miss the calls-to-action.  

Black Friday Hotel Chocolat

Black Friday Dorothy Perkins


Black Friday Topshop



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