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Thanksgiving weekend is over. Which day performed the best for small business email marketers?

Another year, another Thanksgiving weekend for the books. The sales may have settled and the purchases may have passed. But one question from the six-day spree still remains: Which day performed the best?

Well, it depends on what you look at.

If success is measured by the number of emails sent, then Cyber Monday is the clear victor for small business marketers. After analyzing its customers' email send volume, Constant Contact revealed that small businesses sent more than 1.4 billion emails over Thanksgiving weekend (Wednesday to Monday), and more than 375 million of them were sent on Cyber Monday. Wednesday was the next most popular send day, followed by Black Friday and Thanksgiving.

But when comparing the number of emails sent this Thanksgiving weekend to last year's total, Small Business Saturday experienced the most growth. 

 Day Number of Emails Sent in 2014 Number of Emails Sent in 2015 Percent Increase
Wednesday 316,451,083 323,011,584 2%
Thanksgiving 196,965,949
209,789,628 7%
Black Friday 256,652,991
Small Business Saturday 119,948,001
Sunday 113,155,976
115,436,034 2%
Cyber Monday 365,306,439 375,360,099 3%

"Small Business Saturday is all about engaging local customers, and small businesses know that one of the best ways to do that is through email," says Chris Litster, Constant Contact's SVP of sales and marketing. "With email, small businesses can target the right Small Business Saturday promotion to the right subscriber by segmenting their lists, and this year the results spoke for themselves: Spending on Small Business Saturday was up 14% in 2015."

Retail businesses sent the majority of emails blasted out on Small Business Saturday, accounting for 26.4% of the total send volume. Actually, retail businesses sent the most emails all weekend, beating out nonprofits, sports and recreational businesses, education and services companies, and entertainment businesses.

Industry  Wednesday Thanksgiving Black Friday Small Business Saturday Sunday Cyber Monday 
Retail 17.8% 25.5% 24.8% 26.4% 25.7%
Nonprofit 8.9% 7.5% 5.7% 6.4% 7% 9.3%
Sports/Rec 4% 4.4% 5.7% 5.7% 5.1% 5%
Education/Services 3.5% 2.5%  1.9% 2.3% 2.7% 4.1%
Entertainment 3.10% 2.5%  3.3% 3.3% 2.6% 3.1%

But if success is measured by open rate, then the winner varies depending on device. According to Constant Contact's data, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving generated the highest open rates via desktop: 36% of all emails opened on this day were opened via a computer. But when it came to open rates via mobile, Thanksgiving Day was the front-runner at 45.9%. The race changed again once tablets entered the game. According to the small business email marketing service provider, Sunday was the best day for tablet email opens with a 15.4% rate.

Opens Wednesday  Thanksgiving Black Friday Small Business Saturday Sunday Cyber Monday
Computer 36% 28.8% 30.5% 32.3% 31.7% 34.5%
Smartphone 41.3% 45.9% 45.2% 42% 40.2% 38.6%
Tablet 9.7% 12.8% 12.1% 13.4% 15.4%  13.8%

"It's always important to take into account where your subscribers are opening their emails when you send them, and make sure that your email always looks great on mobile devices," Litster says.

So, what is the best way to measure the success of last weekend's email marketing mayhem? Litster advises marketers to benchmark their open, click-through, and unsubscribe rates against campaigns from previous Thanksgiving weekends. He also suggests including campaign-specific coupon codes inside each holiday email, so that marketers can easily track which ones were redeemed. Although Constant Contact didn't include the rates for click-throughs, unsubscribes, or coupons redeemed in this study, there are still several lessons marketers can takeaway from the data it did feature.

"There are two primary takeaways from this year's Thanksgiving Weekend email volume data," Litster says. "Marketers are realizing that email is among the most effective channels for matching the right promotion with the right customer, and Small Business Saturday is gaining ground on big box retailer-focused Black Friday and Cyber Monday."

DMNotes is DMN's around-the-clock blog. Yes, a blog in 2016.

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