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Black Friday Email Marketing: Your 4-Step Holiday Sales Guide

The shoppers are lining up with their wallets out and credit cards at the ready: Black Friday/Cyber Monday (BFCM) is the biggest shopping weekend of the year. Shoppers spent US$7 billion in 2018, and are expected to top that this year.

So you’ve gone through and got your website ready, updated product descriptions and images, and set your deals up.

There’s just one thing left to do: get the shoppers to where you want them: at your store. And there’s no better way to do it than email marketing.

Here’s our super guide to getting your Black Friday Email Marketing right.

Why is Email Marketing important for Black Friday?

Over the Black Friday 2018 weekend, email was a key driver of sales at 24%, compared to 18% for organic search and 1.1% for social media. [Adobe]

According to Shopify, email campaigns were the highest-converting marketing tool in 2017.

Emails are increasingly integral to a successful marketing campaign, providing the most predictable source of traffic. The trouble is, every retailer will also be trying to compete for your customers’ attention (and dollars) with their own emails.

Here’s our four-part plan for making your Black Friday email campaigns a success.


1 – How to build your list for Black Friday email marketing

With just weeks to go before the biggest shopping event of the year, building up your list of customer emails will greatly impact your BFCM revenue. Each email on the list is a potential customer – so the more emails you have, the more potential customers you have for sales.

Here is some advice to boost your email list:

If you don’t have an existing email list, read on for some ways to get started.

1. Events:

Signup sheets are a great way to collect email addresses at events and your store.

2. Business cards:

Exchanging business cards with others and adding gamification as an incentive that allows your customers to receive gifts, offers, etc encourages more people to sign up with you to receive emails.

3. Freebies

Offering birthday rewards, giveaways and refer-a-friend deals for email subscribers help to drum up interest in your store and have more people sign up.

4. E-mail registration prompts

When returning and potential customers visit your website and business blog, having email registration forms on every page of your site will help to add them to your email list.

On social media platforms, you may drive traffic towards your website so they can sign up as an email subscriber.

5. Discounts/Deals

Offering discounts and deals which are time-limited in exchange for their email addresses are very effective in helping to build your email list. Eg: Free shipping with minimum purchases.

6. Exclusive Deals:

Capture the attention of your target audience by offering exclusive deals for email subscribers. This will grow your email list when people sign up for your deals.

Rewarding your loyal customers during BFCM is a great way to give them the chance to benefit from an earlier sale or exclusive offers, and act as an incentive for potential customers to leave their email before leaving your store.

Now that you have an email list, here are some great tips to get started on a powerful email marketing campaign.


2- What are the best Black Friday email examples?

When figuring out which Black Friday email campaigns to send, there are a few common types of emails:

  1. The Freebies Giveaway Email
  2. The Buy Now or Miss Out Email
  3. The Sneak Peek/Check Back Email
  4. The Surprise & Delight Email
  5. The Direct Sales NOW! Email
  6. The Even More Discounts Email

1. The Freebies Giveaway Email  – Athleta

Subject line: Black Friday 20% Off Ends TONIGHT

The Awesome: Athleta gave away a free mask as part of their Black Friday sales.

Athleta, via Milled.com

Why it works: Athleta dangled the free gift as an additional enticement for its Black Friday sales, on top of its 20% sitewide sales. Offering a free gift – a helpful one, everyone needs masks these days  – is a great incentive to attract customers to visit their website on Black Friday, and sweetens the deal.

How to implement it: You can offer free gifts with a minimum purchase amount. Increasing your average order value will help to offset the cost of the gift — and make sure your customers spend more at your store. Giving back to your email subscribers with free gifts before BFCM makes them feel special and encourages return purchases. Instead of giveaways, you can also run a contest instead, with a chance to win prizes for each dollar spent or purchase made.

2. The Call-to-Action Email – Oliviers & Co

Subject line: Only a few hours left to get 30% OFF

The Secret Sauce: Gourmet food company Oliviers & Co played up the Scarcity angle for their Black Friday offer. They offered a generous 30% off, but made it irresistible to the audience, with three instances of emotional words:

  • Subject line: Only a few hours left 
  • Call-to-action: Last chance
  • Final subtitle: Ends tonight!

Full email via Milled.com 

Why it works: This email stands out with a call to action for subscribers to act with urgency if they want to have the discount. If you received an email like this, the natural reaction would be to take advantage of the offer.

Another variation we’ve seen is brands that send an email with a countdown timer. The ticking clock adds a layer of tension that encourages customers to buy.

How to implement it: Add a countdown timer, last-minute deals, and free gifts to attract new and existing customers to check out your sale before it ends.

3. The Sneak Peek / Check Back Email

Subject line: Massive Deals. EVERY DAY. During Black Friday Deals Week

Content: Book Depository lets customers know they don’t have Black Friday Sales – they have Black Friday Week Sales – and sets up anticipation for customers.

Via Milled.com: Books Depository

Why it works: One week before Black Friday, Books Depository emailed all their customers to tell them about Black Friday week. And every day of that week, they sent a nudge email to remind customers to check the homepage daily for sales.

In fact, they’ve been doing these sales since at least 2019, so long-time customers know to expect these sales and check back every day of the week to see the new deals. It’s a great way to drive consumer traffic to the site and nudge consumers into daily check-ins.

How to implement it: You can offer new sale items that are appealing to your customers, and change these items every few hours to keep your customers checking back your store for new deals.

4. The Funny Surprise & Delight Email

Subject line: Switch Things Up on Black Friday and #OptOutside

Content: REI Co-Op encourages customers to go outside on Black Friday.

REI Co-op, via Really Good Emails

Why it works: REI stands out against their competitors by nudging their customers to spend Black Friday outside, instead of indoors on their laptops shopping. Their message and email remind customers of what they’re missing and are an amusing take on traditionally ‘salesy’ Black Friday emails.

How to implement it: Use a simple and interesting subject line that is customized to your target audience with a good design.

5. The Funny Surprise & Delight Email

Subject line: GFDA Black Friday Sales

What Works Here: GFDA isn’t afraid to swear -it’s in their name!- but they point out the absurdity of Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales, and they also incorporated the cussword in their discount code.

GFDA, via ReallyGoodEmails

Why it works: It’s rare to get an ecommerce email with a swearword, but GFDA clearly has a more friendly, direct tone with their customers. The shock value of the f-word also helps jolt the customer into action and is a key part of their tone and voice.

How to implement it: Incorporate humor in your emails to customers, and don’t be afraid to call out the obvious absurdity of situations. Humor takes our attention away from the fact that we are being sold to. Humor is not expected in ads and using it in your Black Friday Cyber Monday emails helps you to stand out.

6. The Extra-Extra discounts Email

Subject line: Black Friday | Sale on Sale Favorites

What Works: Maternity brand Storq declared that even their sales section was on sale!

Storq, via Milled.com

Why it works: People love sales, so when you put sales on the sales section it gets extra attention from customers.

How to implement it: You may send a customized email to previous and potential customers. For your highest-spending customers, you can send them a special VIP discount code that gives them further discounts for their purchases. They are likely to buy again if they have already purchased from you before.

If you have customers who have purchased from you within the past 30 days, it is good to include them in your marketing strategies.


3- How to prepare the Content of your Black Friday marketing emails

Now we come to the crux of the matter — what do you put into those Black Friday emails? It all starts with subject lines & copywriting tips to get customers to open emails.

Copywriting Tips for Black Friday Email Subject Lines

Black Friday is the time of the year when e-mail boxes get flooded with tons of emails and standing out from your competitors is crucial for your business.

Your email subject line is the first thing your customers read when you send out your email marketing blast.  Here are some tips to help you with creating that irresistible email campaign.

  • Be direct in your message: The Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend is highly competitive – and shoppers are willing to buy. Be clear about your offer.
  • Stress and highlight time-limit deals and limited edition deals: Create a sense of urgency with an expiration date, or scarcity (“Limited items in stock!”)  This is related to our next item…
  • Make use of words that sell: Play on emotions to cue action and spontaneity in your customers. Words like exclusive and insider make the customer feel like they have a special deal, while phrases like ‘amazing deals’, ‘incredible discounts’ and ‘outrageous discounts’ tell them how potent it is.
  • Have a ‘call-to-action for your customers with a simple, direct message: Most eCommerce stores have a ‘Buy Now’ button because it works. It’s a perfect call-to-action; a simple instruction combined with an immediate time frame. ‘Check out’, ‘Buy before it’s too late’, and ‘Shop now’ are variations.
  • Personalize Emails to Customers: Past customers who have made recent purchases may be looking for deals on what they bought before, or for the VIP treatment with gifts and special deals for loyal customers. New sign-ups who haven’t bought anything might be waiting for the Black Friday deals – so hit them with the catalog.
  • Use humor: Lianna Patch of Punchline points out that humans like humor – and the humorous copy can build a genuine connection with your customer, helping you convert. We have some puns & funny thoughts below for you to steal.

What are the Best Template Builders for Black Friday Emails?

Below are some of the best free email template builders to help you get started:

  • Postcard – This is an email template builder that allows you to create and edit your email templates online without any coding skills. Free trials are available.
  • Pabbly Email Marketing – This builder allows you to easily keep track of your contacts, email lists, and customer communication. Its free plan allows you to connect up to 3 SMTP servers.
  • SendinBlue – This is an email editor that allows you to create attractive email newsletters without any coding skills. Their free Drag and Drop email builder tool allows you to personalize your emails.
  • BEE Free – BEE Free is an email marketing service provider that simplifies the process of creating emails and newsletters.

This is not an exhaustive list but will get you started.

Content Ideas to Put in Your Black Friday Emails

Stand out from your competitors — don’t just send a page of discounts & product offerings. Here are some more content ideas for your Black Friday campaigns:

  • Promotional Content Calendar: Include ‘Save the Date’ and ‘Add this event to your calendar’ links so that customers will remember your Black Friday promotions.
  • Add a Countdown timer/’Only ___ Left in Stock’: This tool builds scarcity and helps your customers take more immediate actions by making a faster purchase decision instead of taking their time to compare your products with your competitors.
  • Exclusive products (only available only during BFCM): These type of offers also creates urgency and builds scarcity for your customers to make faster purchases. Plus, your customers have to be on your website to get it.
  • Daily/Hourly deals and discounts: This creates incentives for your customers to keep checking your store for the latest deals and discounts.
  • Gift Guides: Christmas is just around the corner, after all. Inspire your customers to shop for others in their life.
  • Talk about your Returns Policy: A fair and clearly communicated returns policy can help inspire trust in your customers and puts them at ease for purchases – and can help you avoid returns due to buyer’s remorse later on.
  • Offer Some Discounts: A classic idea, but one that works. Whether it’s Buy One Get One offers, Refer a Friend deals, limited-time discounts, or clearance sales: These discounts combine elements of urgency and scarcity.

4 – When is the best time to send Black Friday emails?

Many holiday shoppers begin their online searches for their purchases as early as October. According to research by CampaignMonitor, the best time to send Black Friday emails is on Thursday, 7th November 2019, or a week after Halloween as this gives your customers a break after the Halloween season.

Announcing your BFCM deals and sale by sending out details of your event early to existing customers drums up anticipation for your event.

The Best Date for Black Friday Emails: A week early, then Tuesday & Sunday

Begin your email campaign at least a week early with three emails; one sent a week before BFCM to build interest and hype up your deals, the second email early on Black Friday to present your deals to your customers, and the third email containing last-minute deals when traffic begins to slow down.

  • The first email teases your subscribers with a sneak peek of your upcoming events and discounts before BFCM. This keeps them on the lookout for your promotional announcement.
  • The second email will create a sense of urgency for your customers to click through your website.
  • This last email will help to attract some last-minute shoppers interested in your deals. Include a countdown timer, flash sales, and highlight limited edition items with your email to create a sense of urgency for your customers to purchase their items before the sale ends.

Source: Campaign Monitor

The Best Time to Send Emails: First thing in the Morning

Schedule your Black Friday Cyber Monday emails based on time zones for domestic and international customers, and during the peak of your online email users.

According to Shopify, “order traffic on Black Friday steadily increased until hitting a 12 p.m. peak.”

For UK & Europe consumers peak sales times:

Source: SaleCycle Twitter


How to Follow Up After Black Friday

Don’t lose out on the opportunity to grow your sales for the rest of the year. With the right follow-up, you can turn the surge sales on Black Friday into recurring revenue.

  • Send Relevant Content: A relevant eBook, resource, or New Year New You gift guide would be a thoughtful way to build a relationship with your customers beyond transactions
  • Retarget & Lookalike Audience: Using Facebook Pixels, you can create lookalike audiences to target customers for another purchase
  • Enroll them in your referral customers: A referral program turns one-off customers into repeat buyers and brand advocates for you

Darren Foong

Darren works on Growth at ReferralCandy. He spends too much time reading fiction, performing improv, and doing things that don't scale. One day he hopes to be quite interesting.

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