If it seems as if Black Friday has been just around the corner since the Fourth of July, you must be an email marketer. We totally understand – many retail email marketers start plotting out their holiday promotional calendars 6 months or more ahead. It doesn’t seem fair that you were looking at Christmas merchandising plans while the temperatures soared into the 90s.
Now, though, the holiday whirlwind has blown ashore. We’re halfway through the holiday-focused fourth business quarter of the year, and the Black Friday email campaigns are landing thick and fast in the inbox, fulfilling a prediction by ecommerce site RetailMeNot that retailers would launch promotions weeks earlier this year.
Here are 3 Black Friday email trends we’re seeing this year:
1. Black “Fri-month.”
What started as a one-day retailers’ promotion to get vacationing shoppers into stores on the day after Thanksgiving has evolved into a month-long series of promotion.
This extended focus on Black Friday has led some retail marketers to wonder whether Black Friday has lost its punch, now that people can shop from home weeks in advance instead of on the day itself. It also comes hard on the heels of Halloween, Veterans Day, Singles Day (the Chinese ecommerce holiday rapidly grabbing hold in the West) and just before Thanksgiving and Christmas.
- Another devaluation of Black Friday’s impact is its evolution from a one-day shopping event to the first of four named shopping days spread over the post-Thanksgiving Day weekend. The days also include Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday.
- Even so, Black Friday remains big business, too. BestBlackFriday.com predicts Black Friday will generate $3.52 billion this year – $2.12 billion on desktops and $1.4 billion from smartphones and tablets. That’s up from $3.34 billion in 2016.
2. Searching for creativity.
We’ve seen some tremendous creative changes in email as browsers and mobile apps improve. Advanced design, animation, real-time elements, even interactivity such as buying from the email instead of a landing page make email more interesting, useful and valuable.
But, the same adventurous spirit isn’t there in Black Friday emails. Perhaps brands are saving their flashiest email innovations for email campaigns that will roll out a day or so before. But a couple of weeks out, more retailers seem to be content to just slap a Black Friday strap line on a standard promotion.
Still, in searching through FreshAddress’ Email Creative Archive, we did find some retailers experimenting with count-down timers, animated backgrounds or hero images, which you’ll see in the next section spotlighting retailers who are creating stand-out pre-Black Friday email campaigns.
3. Leaks, sneaks and big reveals.
The Black Friday email campaigns that stood out in our search through the archive were those that offered previews of the Black Friday excitement, such as Big Lots’ VIP access of its Black Friday newspaper ads, with some selected sales but not featuring major purchases.
Big-box retailers such as Best Buy and Sears invested heavily in pre-Black Friday sales featuring popular Black Friday merchandise (electronics and appliances). Steiner Sports (see creative in next section) used a countdown timer to remind customers how long they had to cash in on the promotions.
Black Friday Email Strategies
1. Go for the “big reveal.”
People love to get in on the deals, but you must work harder to show why these promotions are special, such as giving your most valuable customers (the ones who buy) VIP access.
We love how this sender uses Black Friday curiosity to sell membership in its Crocs Club loyalty program. The email lays out the value proposition clearly and distinctly. In creating community, Crocs builds more interest in its Black Friday email promotions by limiting exposure.
Sender: Big Lots — Subject line: Exclusive Sneak Peek at Black Friday Deals! — Preheader: Grab your list and start planning
Although shoppers can click to and buy on the website from the email, the subject line, preheader and central image and copy make it clear that the mission of this email is to help shoppers plan their Black Friday buying. The call to action is “View Deals” rather than “Buy Now,” and the hero image links to online versions of the brand’s newspaper ads.
Sender: Cabela’s — Subject line: New Offers – Today’s Deals – Pre-Black Friday — Preheader: These sizzling deals can’t wait for Black Friday
Cabela’s mixes two promotional style – deadline-driven special promotions and a “sneak peek” promo of its Black Friday ad to appeal to two kinds of shoppers – the early-bird crowd and the planners. Those shoppers can be one and the same, too – people who are in deal-hunting mode now and don’t like fighting crowds but also like to see what’s coming up so they can plan their spending and store visits.
2. Add urgency with real-time animation.
Sender: Steiner Sports — Subject line: 3 Hours Left To SAVE BIG
The live version of this email from Steiner Sports has a countdown timer that reminds shoppers they have to move fast or lose access to a rotating round of deals. We also like how the email adds interest with an animated background and a helpful note letting first-time readers know when the newest deals drop.
Sender: Christopher & Banks — Subject line: Click Quick! Black Friday NOW Ends SOON! — Preheader: Don’t Let This 1-Day ONLY Deal Pass You By!
Urgency is everything with flash sales, especially if they have exploding deadlines and your merch plan doesn’t call for extensions. Once again all the creative elements in this email come together to stress urgency, from the subject line-preheader combination in the inbox to the countdown timer in the top prime viewing area of the message body.
3. Help the customer succeed.
Your brand isn’t the only one sending your customers early Black Friday email notices. If you want your emails to stand out, you must make it easy for them to see your emails, recognize they’re from you, understand your message quickly and act without hesitating. It’s a tall order, but most of the emails displayed here put every element to work in this quest, from the inbox to the message body.
The subject line is key. Put as much information as possible into the subject line, and use your preheader – the first line of type in the email body, which many email clients display in the inbox – to add to the message. Subject lines such as “Black Friday starts now!” don’t tell the customer anything special. See a list of subject line examples following this section.
Sender: Overstock.com — Subject line: We’re Bringing Black Friday To You! Shop Our HUGE Deals Now!:
Although your customers aren’t as time-pressed now as they will be in a week, they’re still scrolling through dozens, if not hundreds, of offers in their inboxes. If your email is one of the lucky ones, put your most important info right at the top: the discount/incentive, the deadline, any conditions, etc.
Overstock front-loads the value in this email, making the discount and “Shop Now” CTA one of the first things the viewer sees after opening the envelope. It keeps attention on the incentives by highlighting the percentage discount over the category title in secondary offers through the rest of the email.
Sender: Evine — Subject line: Enjoy a stress-free holiday season with great gifts, extended returns and more — Preheader: Get a jump on Doorbuster deals & more during our big Pre-Black Friday Sale
Overcoming objections or doubts is another aspect of building trust and encouraging action. Evine make this happen by posting shopper assurances – both the ValuePay reminder and returns information – where shoppers will see them first.
Sender: Working Person’s Store — Subject line: Pre Black Friday! Take Up To 75% Off Select Items + FREE Gift Codes + FREE Shipping! — Preheader: FREE Shipping on All Orders Over $49!
Here’s another email that front-loads all its key data in the inbox and at the top of the email. Readers can take it in in an instant and understand it quickly and clearly. Also, the code is easy to remember. Instead of memorizing or copy-pasting a long number, the customer just has to type “blackfriday.”
4. Invest in creativity.
If the shine is off Black Friday, what can you do to make your Black Friday email messages stand out in the steady stream of emails that fill your customers’ inboxes? A little creativity in the message, please.
Add an emoji (icons such as checkmarks or tiny graphics) to a subject line. Test an animated GIF. Add seasonal artwork – anything to distinguish your email from all the others in the inbox.
Sender: The Eastwood Company — Subject line: Last Chance for EXCLUSIVE Black Friday Preview Sale! — Preheader: Last Chance for Black Friday Preview
We love the hero image in this email. It’s all about the sneak peek.
Sender: Things from Another World — Subject line: Don’t Wait For Black Friday: Get Up To 80% Off *AND* Free Domestic Shipping NOW!
Top 10 Black Friday Email Subject lines:
1. Black Friday all Month Long! 56% OFF LG 60-Inch 4K UHD HDR Smart LED TV | $55 Touchscreen 2-in-1 Laptop | $65 WD 2TB Elements Portable Hard Drive: Fry’s PromoCode Deals
2. Black Friday Is Here Early – 99¢ shipping on all orders: Lillian Vernon
3. LEAKED! Pre-Black Friday Deals: Optics Planet
4. Black Friday: Up to 64% off!:Model Railroader Magazine
5. Last Chance for EXCLUSIVE Black Friday Preview Sale!: Eastwood
6. Up To 65% OFF ‘Black November’ Sale + Bonus Offer Inside: Pictures on Gold
7. 50+ Black Friday Deals Available Right Now: The Golf Warehouse
8. Exclusive Sneak Peek at Black Friday Deals!: Big Lots
9. Leaked! Black Friday ads are here!: Meijer
10. Want VIP access to our Black Friday Sale?: Crocs Club
Black Friday Email Preheaders we liked:
1. It’s the Pre-Black Friday Sale! Save up to 16% on Packs, Bags, Gun Parts & More: Optics Planet
2. 99¢ shipping on all orders. Use code 11820414.: Lillian Vernon
3. While you’re at it: up to 60% off mattresses, up to 40% off appliances & more! : Sears
4. Need Help? Call a Gear Advisor – 888.880.3811: JensonUSA
5. Last Chance for Black Friday Preview: Eastwood
6. Grab your list and start planning: Big Lots