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Black Friday Email Faux Pas

There’s no doubt: Black Friday is a beacon of light for marketers in the retail industry. In fact, according to About.com, shoppers set a record last year on Black Friday with more than 95 million people hitting the stories that day. That’s up from 92 million in 2013, 89 million in 2012, and 85 million in 2011.

But Black Friday 2015 may not shine as bright for marketers—especially if they overlook the new realities of how customers buy. Today, a shopper’s journey begins well before he steps inside a store, and marketers need to craft their email and social campaigns with that fact in mind.

A new study from Yesmail finds that a great number of brands are missing out on potential sales because they’re sending their email and social promotions too late. The study’s findings come from data that’s analyzed by Yesmail’s Marketing Intelligence tool, which compared  2013 and 2014 Black Friday Facebook, Twitter, and email campaigns from 50 major retailers, including Best Buy, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Target, and Toys “R” Us.

The data shows that open rates of Black Friday–themed emails were the highest on the Monday and Tuesday leading up to the shopping holiday—15.66% on Monday and 15.43% on Tuesday. But the majority of Black Friday messages (33%) were sent on that Friday. According the report, however, earlier is better—much better. And marketers should take note of when shoppers are a paying attention to and acting on brand email messages.

The same goes for Black Friday posts on Facebook and Twitter; these social media messages saw more engagement when marketers deployed them earlier in the week. Marketers sent the second largest proportion of Twitter messages (21%) and the highest portion on Facebook (28%) on Black Friday, but it was the worst day for engagement on each of these platforms.

Simply put, the report says that marketers must shift their efforts from sending the most messages on Black Friday to sending messages earlier in the week with product sneak peeks, store hours, or details on their soon-to-come Black Friday promotions.

There is one interesting paradox in the Yesmail report: Although the Monday before Black Friday marked the highest open rates for Black Friday–themed emails, it also marked the highest delete-after-open rates at 6.6%. Analysts at Yesmail say that this data point implies that shoppers want to engage with Black Friday emails early in the week, but will delete them if they don’t find the highlighted products and services relevant or simply can’t use the featured promotions right away.

Bottom line: Marketers have to send email and social messages for Black Friday when consumers want them, not during a time that’s been convenient or traditional for their companies. Below is Yesmail’s suggested content calendar:

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