How did 2019’s late holiday season affect e-retailer emails?

It’s over. It’s all over.

OK, that’s definitely a lie, because there are still almost two weeks until Christmas and there is no rest for the wicked, but when it comes to the busiest days of the year for e-retailers, we can fondly look back.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2019 were a little bit of an anomaly, with Thanksgiving being so late in November, shortening our “traditional” shopping season by a whole week. In fact, Cyber Monday was in December, so all the Type A moms out there were likely already sweating about all the products they’d need to return and repurchase to get the best deal (or is that just me?).

Anyway, Black Friday has come and gone and according to Klaviyo, they sent more than 700 million emails. That’s just one email service provider! Twilio SendGrid says they processed 4.1 billion.

When it comes to Cyber Monday, in 2018 SendGrid processed 2.9 billion emails. This year, they clocked in at 4.2 billion emails. Wow.

Beyond sheer volume, we partnered with our friends at MailCharts to look at the actual turkey and potatoes of these emails: What discounts are senders offering, and when did their holiday campaigns start?

Plus, because we’re in a giving mood this holiday season, we did a deep-dive into several categories of particular interest to our marketing friends. This year, we paid special attention to Apparel, Home, Beauty & Personal Care, and Sports & Activities.

After analyzing almost 25,000 emails using the phrase “Black Friday” in the subject line, and more than 9,000 using “Cyber Monday,” here are our findings.

Senders primed their pump early, knowing this year’s holiday season was seriously crunch time, sending more pre-Black Friday mail than in previous years. They also doubled-down on reducing cost of orders rather than using free shipping as a boost to get people to finalize the sale. Cyber Monday was business as usual, though there was a larger amount of post-day emails, perhaps to extend the sale and keep shopping activity up, considering Cyber Monday was already in December this year.

Distribution of discounts

MailCharts analyzes the usage of promotions and tracks how much brands and retailers discount throughout the year. The promotional rate is determined by the number of emails containing a promotion. We looked at some major e-retail categories to get a deeper look at how industries treated the holidays this year.

Partnering with MailCharts brings us another awesome perk we don’t have access to: email samples! They looked through their curated emails and picked a few that caught their eyes. (Psst: Don’t forget we have a tool to make sure all your emails are as flawless as the ones below. Ok bye!) We’ll let our friend Natasa from MailCharts take it from here:

Black Friday email examples

Provide exclusive offers to your email audience

ROKA did a great job of using the subject line to suggest exclusivity, and then drove further interest by using the preheader to provide details about the offer. The expectations are exceeded if the email is opened, granting 50% off their gear, plus an additional email-exclusive discount code, making the purchasing decision easy.

What’s more, ROKA built up anticipation by sending out emails two weeks before the holiday.

Merchandise gift bundles

Quip came up with a smart subject line to ensure their email gets noticed during the email overload season. While most of the brands used “Black Friday starts now” subject lines, quip stood out with this combo of humor, emojis, and direct mention of the deal.

Then, they presented the discount as a great opportunity to purchase gifts for friends and family and included a short (but useful) gift guide to help indecisive shoppers!

Encourage readers to get ahead of Black Friday craziness

We love this email by Abercrombie & Fitch because it encouraged readers to plan their shopping ahead of time.

By giving exclusive, early access to the deals, they inspired customers to browse the website and “add everything to bag”—once the time is invested into selecting these items (that are 50% off!) and adding them to the bag, it’s super-easy to return on Friday and finish the purchase.

Cyber Monday email examples


Create a sense of urgency

Ted Baker started building up a sense of urgency with a time-sensitive subject line, then continued with “Time’s running out” in the preview text, and focused the email around an awesome deal that won’t be back “for another year.” There’s more: At the very bottom of the email, Ted Baker included another time-sensitive offer—an extra 10% off outlet items, but for a limited time only!

This email from Ted Baker has a 100% score in the MailCharts database, meaning it follows the industry’s best practices (learn more here). Specifically, they made sure to avoid image cutoffs and long loading time during the holiday campaigns.

Start early by sending offers on Sunday

SAXX started their Cyber Monday sale early by sending out the emails on Sunday. The email used a simple design but the combo of generous discounts, free shipping, and suggested popular items made it effective. Finally, SAXX pointed out the offer ends “tomorrow,” setting a time limit to create a sense of urgency and convince the readers to make a purchasing decision quickly.

Get creative with the offers

Everlane stood apart with an interesting strategy: letting the customers choose which price they want to pay for selected items. The email provides just enough detail to get the readers intrigued, and a tight deadline urges them to head to the website before the offer expires at midnight. It’s not a sale, it’s better—just like Everlane said.

That’s all, folks. Hopefully these insights help you inform your 2020 planning. Happy sending, happy shopping, and we’ll see you again next year!

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