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Why Was Marketing For This Year’s Thanksgiving Sales So Lazy?

While Black Friday used to be a huge day for brick-and-mortar shoppers, more and more customers are moving away from physical stores in favor of online sales. According to an Adobe report, online Thanksgiving sales rose 18% from 2015 to 2016, as just one part of the general year-by-year rise in holiday shopping and end-of-year e-commerce purchases. With this increase in online holiday shopping comes an increased need for agility, personalization, and contextual-relevance on the part of the marketer – because every first-time holiday shopper is a potentially loyal customer, especially when nurtured in the right way by the brand.

This begs the question: are marketers doing what they need to do to keep up?

We performed an audit of all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday emails from 26 top retailers, in order to determine what was and wasn’t working within each email campaign. This audit is part of our ongoing research on the marketing strategies of today’s popular brands, and – especially given the sheer influx of shoppers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday – is critical to understanding where marketers are missing opportunities to reach their customers effectively.

To start, here’s a brief overview of what we found:

  • We analyzed emails from 26 brands over a 6-day period (11/23-11/28), resulting in a total of 180 emails.
  • Cyber Monday was a bigger day for email than Black Friday – 27% of the emails we looked at were delivered on Monday November 28th, with only 18% on Friday November 25th.
  • 1 in every 8 emails used a percent symbol (%) in the subject line, to highlight the most important information – how much money customers would save.
  • Conversely, only 10 of the 180 emails had a dollar sign ($) in their subject line. This makes sense – offering a fixed dollar discount won’t encourage larger purchases the way an “X% Off” discount will.
  • The more emails a company sent, the more likely they were to resort to batch-and-blast – for companies that sent more than 1 email per day over the 6 day period, less than half of those would be unique personalized campaigns.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, there were two big surprises from this audit:

First: 11 of the 26 retailers provided a discount code in their emails that customer needed to input at checkout. When you tell your customers that they need to do some work in order to earn their discount, you’re making it known up front that there’s going to be a point of friction on their path to purchase – and possibly preventing them from making that purchase at all. In terms of providing a customer-centric experience, the value of a sale is diminished if it requires extra effort from the shopper.

Second, and much more disappointingly: Only three brands were successfully able to personalize their Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaigns. The first, a sports retailer that sells jerseys and other fan gear, updated a number of their emails with a continually-updating “Picks Just For You” section that offered relevant product recommendations based on specific teams and players that the shopper supports. The second, a men and women’s clothing retailer, delivered a Cyber Monday campaign referencing a sweater that had been purchased on Black Friday. And the third, a popular pet store, sent several emails offering Black Friday deals on products specifically for cats, in response to an earlier cat food purchase. But as for the others, not a single email contained relevant suggestions or recommendations tailored to the customer – despite the fact that these brands are, normally, exceptionally good at delivering data-driven campaigns that speak to the customer’s previous actions.

Moving Forward

It’s unfortunate that the majority of holiday sales emails are still overwhelmingly batch-and-blast – even though e-commerce retailers are sending more personalized and targeted campaigns than ever before. And especially considering the fact that customers are increasingly moving away from brick-and-mortar shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday (previously two of the biggest days for in-store foot traffic) marketers need to be doubly agile and contextually-relevant with their holiday email campaigns. Using your holiday emails as more than just a way to push a sale, but as a tool to learn even more about your customers and to appeal to them with targeted personalization, is critical to creating long-term relationships that’ll extend past the holiday season into the new year.

To learn more about our thoughts on today’s successful marketing strategies, click here – and to learn how you can reach customers with the right message at the right time this holiday season, visit our website or reach out to us directly at 877-658-2570.

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