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Black Friday and Cyber Monday are done and dusted now, but what can we learn for next year? As retailers adopted a digitally-centred approach to sales, avoiding brick-and-mortar mayhem, email marketing was part of the driver behind this year’s strategy.

I looked at the data in MessageFocus to be able to share some key learnings by comparing the results from 2014 and 2015.

Mobile opens continue to grow

Perhaps unsurprisingly, mobile devices were even more popular on Black Friday this year. As a percentage of total share, mobile opens grew from 50.3% to 58.2%. The effect of that could be seen in declining desktop opens from 30.1% to 21.5%. Econsultancy reported traffic surges right before work hours on the day, perhaps during commuting time, which is undoubtedly part of the reason for the uplift.

Volumes soared for the Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday

Supporting the digital focus on these shopping events this year, email volume saw an incredible year on year uplift of 43%. But how did this fare with different industries and what was the impact on engagement rates?

B2B, Professional and Financial industries actually saw a 12% decline in volume, which also brought down their results. Contrary to the belief that increasing email volume can negatively impact your engagement, Media & Publishing and the Retail industries proved it’s not quite black and white.

Media & Publishing companies increased their email volume by 57% in 2015 compared to 2014, but open rates remained relatively stable. Click-to-open rates saw a decline of 13.5% , but that could be a signal of subscriber expectations not being met. Generally, consumers expect to receive deals and discounts so increasing email volume on those days without giving great offers could put people off from converting.

Retailers, on the other side, almost doubled their click-to-open rate so they managed to get the content in their emails right. That’s in spite of the fact that they also increased their email volume by 50%, which goes to show that more can be better if done properly!

How did the use of certain words in subject lines affect open and click rates?

The use of ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ in the subject lines nearly doubled year-on-year, but that doesn’t mean engagement rates followed. ‘Black Friday’ saw a 14% higher open rate than in 2014 and a 43% increase compared to the general 2015 Black Friday weekend open rate.

On the other hand, using ‘Cyber Monday’ in the subject line saw a 13% decrease in open rate success in comparison to 2014 and only an 11% increase compared to the average open rate that weekend. Similarly, using ‘sale’ saw a decrease of 12% compared to 2014, but an uplift of 38% compared to the general results.

Considering this shopping event is all about offers and discounts, you might be wondering what discounts were used to attract attention in the subject line and how well they worked. Most email marketers went for a 20% discount, which got them a slightly higher open rate this year of 32%, compared to 30.4% in 2014. However, it didn’t generate as many conversions as the previous year: 14.4% versus 18%.

Surprisingly, using ‘50%’ in the subject line only achieved a 14.3% open rate and 13.7% click-to-open rate, both results declining from 2014. This might be the case because consumers regard them as deals that are ‘too good to be true’.  

What results did Black Friday and Cyber Monday bring you?