Black Friday Rolls Around: What Last Year's Email Results Tell Us

It’s only the first week of September, but brands are already gearing up for Black Friday. How will their emails perform this year?

Two new studies offer slightly different perspectives. One, by Yes Lifecycle Marketing, shows that Black Friday emails generated the second-highest open rates of all themed email in 2017, and that results had improved.

The average conversion rate for Black Friday messages rose to 6.4% in 2017, up from 6.1% the year before. And the click-to-open rate rose from 8.5% to 9.2% in that period.

But emails without an offer in the subject line, while they pulled the highest open rates, generated only a 4.2% conversion rate. In addition, Black Friday emails achieved lower click and click-to-open rates than those of BAU messages, but 33% higher conversion rates.

But Black Friday isn’t the best-performing day anyway — Cyber Monday emails pulled an even higher conversion, although their open rates were lower than those of BAU mailings. And, if we can mention another holiday, Halloween conversion rates beat out standard campaigns by 11%.



In general, brands sent 18% fewer emails in fourth-quarter 2017 than during the same period in 2016. Holiday themed emails outperformed business-as-usual (BAU) emails last year, despite pulling a 16.% lower open rate.

However, themed holiday messages promoting free shipping offers pulled an 14.9% open rate and 14.7% conversion rate. 

Meanwhile, Omnisend reports that in general, November has one of the lowest open rates of the year — at 15.7% — but a high click rate of 3.2%, and that Black Friday emails performed well, especially when automated and transactional in nature. 

Cart abandonment emails pulled a 1.6% order rate in 2017, but that was 31% lower than the rest of the year. However, win-back or customer reactivation emails saw a 106% rise over the remainder of the year. 

It’s hard to generalize, though — what meaning does Black Friday have in the UK, which does not observe Thanksgiving? The Omnisend announcement is datelined London.

What else did Omnisend find? As other surveys have shown, the best time to send an email is the first of the month. These messages pull an open rate of 16.25%, compared with 15.50% on the 11th of the month.

On Black Friday, it’s best to send three-email series — cart recovery series pull 49%, cart recovery series 63% and welcome series 19%. In contrast, single series pull 30% for cart recovery, 16% for customer reactivation and 10% for welcome emails.

So what are the best practices? Yes Lifecycle Marketing urges brands to emphasize urgency and scarcity and to send pre-Black Friday offers. Omnisend stresses automated transactional campaigns. 

We’ll look at the other holidays later.

Yes Lifecycle Marketing tracked almost 8 billion emails sent in Q4 2017. Omnisend studied 964 million emails sent by 7,200 brand.


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