Countdown to Black Friday Starts Now! 3 Takeaways Plus Examples


Yes, you know Black Friday. But how well do you know it? How are you switching up your email program to overcome the unique challenges that this mega sales day puts in your way?

Even though Black Friday has been dethroned as the king of one-day holiday sales and email volume (that honor now goes to Cyber Monday), it remains the gateway event to the holiday shopping season. It sets the tone for your email strategy and is a “must win” for many brands.  

10 Black Friday stats
  1. Black Friday is No. 1 for in-store shopping (Small Business Saturday is No. 2) and No. 2 for online shopping (Cyber Monday is No. 1). (National Retail Federation)
  2. Multichannel shoppers spent $82 more on average than online-only shoppers and $49 more on average than in-store-only shoppers in 2017. (NRF)
  3. 66 million consumers shopped online. (NRF)
  4. Peak revenue and purchases occurred at 2:00 pm ET. (Rakuten Marketing)
  5. Consumers began researching purchases earlier in 2017, with CTRs up 154% and purchases up 17% in the week before Thanksgiving (Rakuten Marketing)
  6. Online revenue grew 32%. (Salesforce)
  7. Mobile drove 60% of traffic and 42% of orders, with desktops accounting for 49% of orders, the first time they drove less than half of all orders. (Salesforce)
  8. 85% of orders shipped free. (Salesforce)
  9. AI-powered recommendations drove 30% of revenue. (Salesforce)
  10. Salesforce clients sent about 3 billion emails and 82 million SMS/push notifications, while 2017 email volume was up 76% for SparkPost email platform users, who sent 530 million emails that day. (MediaPost Email Marketing Daily)
Your Black Friday challenge

Your greatest email challenge for Black Friday is standing out amidst the flood of emails that your fellow marketers are creating right now. MailCharts’ data shows that Black Friday emails begin to dribble into inboxes as early as the week before Halloween.

Let’s dive into three strategies you can follow to ensure your Black Friday campaign is a success.

3 strategies for Black Friday email marketing success

Your customers are bracing themselves for the flood of emails that comes with the opening of the holiday shopping season — most of which will have little or no personalization.

You’ll get an immediate leg up if you go deeper with real-time personalization. Personalized email content helps you recognize customers individually, provides them with a good experience, and encourages them to shop with you instead of your competitors.

These three strategies will help make your message not just be seen and opened on but acted on to drive the actions you want:

1. Create a sense of urgency and don’t disappoint.

Anticipation encourages your customers to look for your emails. The countdown clock is perfect for this because it makes an abstract event real to your customers. Use it to build anticipation before an event begins or to compel the customer to act before an event ends.

Torrid, a retailer of on-trend women’s clothing, used Liveclicker’s RealTime Email LiveImage capability with countdown clock, personalized to the subscriber’s open time, to generate traffic on limited-time promotions during Black Friday and Cyber Monday and ensure readers only saw currently active offers.

The clock on the first image indicated how much time was left on the promotion whenever the subscriber opened the email (picture on the left). And, if she opened the message too late, she saw a new image explaining the promotion had expired and linking her to the current offer on the website (picture on the right).

This approach helped Torrid gain incremental revenue from campaigns sent days or even weeks earlier. Even expired promotions led to revenue spikes and new traffic since they were able to change the hero image to drive customers to today’s sale. This would not have happened without the ability to swap content after the email was sent.

2. Ask the customer to act.

The best way to get noticed in the inbox is to have customers actively looking for your messages. The best to make that happen is to have them actually ask you to send them a message. That’s the genius behind the “Set a Reminder” email and CTA. (See the Harley Davidson example below.)

They’re essentially opting in to a one-time mailing list that you will use to send an email letting them know when your promotion goes live.

One way to position this reminder request is with a “Request VIP Status” email. It frames the reminder request as a benefit, since one perk would be allowing them to cut the virtual line and get early access to your best offers.

These action-request emails give your customers another avenue to engage with your brand, one that doesn’t involve a purchase. Because many shoppers are still in research mode this early in the holiday season, “Buy now” might not always be the most effective CTA.

Also, these emails can help you identify your most interested or engaged customers, giving you priceless data for segmenting and targeting emails down the road and beyond the holiday season.

3. Help your customer shop successfully.

This strategy cuts both ways: You help more customers achieve their goals, and they, in turn, buy from you instead of your competition. Some tactics:

  • Use real-time data to personalize your emails, such as inventory monitoring, price changes, updated offers and geolocation to map nearby stores.
  • Incorporate buyer, browser or behavioral data to drive first-purchase or next-logical-product recommendations.
  • Dedicate one email to important customer-service information, such as store or support-service hours, links to buying guides, how-tos and FAQs, shopping services, wish lists and other services.
  • Link to gift guides and other specific holiday content or popular shopping destinations on your site.

Identify all of the ways you could help your shopper purchase. Then, address them in a non-promotional email, one they might be likely to keep in their inboxes throughout the season.

3 inspirational email examples

Sender: Harley-Davidson

Subject line: Gather + Give Thanks?

Send a Black Friday email on Thanksgiving? Absolutely. We love this email because it sets up Harley-Davidson’s Black Friday promotion without overshadowing the heartfelt “Thank you” message inspired by the holiday.

Now, before your brand manager freaks out, we’ll point out that there is a traffic-driving offer in this email. It’s the “Tap to set a reminder” CTA under the countdown clock. It ties in perfectly with the deadline-setting emotion that the countdown clock inspires.

Customers who click the link get a reminder email coming at the top of the inbox (not buried under everybody else’s emails). They’re also giving the brand another data point to use for personalization and segmentation.

View Email on MailCharts

Sender: Clarks Shoes

Subject line: Black Friday Deals are almost here | Delivery your way

This email, sent a week before Black Friday, sets the tone for the following week of deals. It uses two tactics to pique interest and prompt action before the event begins:

  • • A countdown clock for the beginning of the offers. We like that the content positioning the clock reads as “Your Cyber Week Offers” instead of “Our Cyber Week Offers.” Why does that make a difference? “You”-focused copy makes the message about your customers, while “our”-focused copy is all about the brand.
  • • An “Add to my calendar” function. This creates another opportunity outside of the inbox to remind customers to act. It’s a great way to get noticed outside the inbox. Like the “Set a reminder” tactic, this gives you another data point to measure engagement and identify your VIP users.

View Email on MailCharts

Sender: True Lemon


Normally, we would suggest not using a “Black Friday starts now” style of subject line, because just about every other brand does the same thing, and your goal is to stand out with a unique, benefit-driven and action-generating subject line.

But we’re making an exception here since we love the email’s concept. Who can resist a scratch-off email? Not us, and probably not your customers. The animation piques curiosity and teases the customer into clicking through to the scratch-off.

In contrast with the other email examples shown here, this email is not a pre-Black Friday message. Instead, it was sent on Black Friday itself, early enough in the morning (8:45 a.m. Eastern time) before peak shopping and email delivery times.

View Email on MailCharts

One final note about this email: It earned a rare 100% email quality score from MailCharts. Each email in our database gets scored on best practices like the following:

  • • Optimized for mobile
  • • Complies with major spam filters
  • • Recipients can reply to this email address (it’s not “do not reply”)
  • • Optimizes the preview (snippet) text
  • • Has a Gmail-friendly HTML weight
  • • Inbox-friendly subject-line word count
  • • Passes DKIM & SPF checks
  • • Has sensible image weight

These are important considerations, because nothing else matters if your message doesn’t make it to the inbox in the first place.

Conclusion: Experiment now and test often to optimize your Black Friday strategy

We’ve shared some innovative ideas for Black Friday emails that will help your messages stand out in the inbox and compel your customers to open and act on them. But don’t wait until crunch time to try them out!

Take some time now to draw up a strategy, and then experiment with tactics like real-time data modules and “set a reminder” and “add to calendar” emails on your fall campaigns. You’ll see what works, what you need to tweak and how to iron out the wrinkles in plenty of time.

If you’d like to know more about RealTime Email and Liveclicker’s other capabilities for real-time personalization, or any of the other ways you can harness your email data to build stronger bonds with your customers through email, make sure you reach out to them!

Carl Sednaoui is the director of marketing for MailCharts. If you’d like to learn more about MailCharts — and how we take the hassle out of email marketing planning and research — visit our website or drop us a note. We’ll be happy to answer your questions or walk you through a demo of our app.


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