*Updated!* We need to talk about it: Black Friday/Cyber Monday marketing emails!

We did it. We survived the mad rush of Black Friday and Cyber Monday emails. Truthfully, it’s no longer a two-day event, and emails were flying for weeks, advertising new week-long sales, extended deals, and pleas to abandon your family to start shopping on Thanksgiving itself.

While we can’t yet say what the total volume of email was, or how it compares to last year, several email service providers (ESPs) reported some eye-opening numbers. Sendgrid tweeted (awesomely) they processed 2.9 billion emails on Cyber Monday alone, and Mailchimp sent 2 billion on Cyber Monday as well. We’re excited to see the full numbers as we get a little further out.

From what we do know, here’s how volume and discounts stacked up this year compared to last.

It looks like Cyber Monday was a higher day-of priority than Black Friday, though once the day was in the books, more retailers decided to move on to the next event this year, rather than send emails after the fact.

The only marked difference between 2018 and 2017 seems to be a decrease in free shipping. Perhaps with the rise of things like Amazon Prime and “standard” free shipping, the perk doesn’t seem enticing enough. Percent-off offers are the clear stand-out again this year, but don’t forget, some retailers could have offered double the fun, with two or more perks at a time.


“It’s not even fall yet,” scream our readers, who are frantically attempting to cover their eyes and ears to avoid the inevitable and rapidly approaching holiday season. We know it’s not fall yet, but that’s just the thing. You need to prepare your holiday email strategy now, maybe even yesterday, if you can figure that out. We don’t know, perhaps you’re wily like that.

Grab your pumpkin spice latte (or don’t, probably don’t) and let us walk you through what the email landscape looked like in 2017, to help inform what you might want to do this year…

We partnered with our friends at MailCharts and looked at 10,296 emails sent by IR1000 brands for Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2017, to see how they’re using our favorite form of advertising to get you to either abandon your family on Thanksgiving or shop in the comfort of your bed.

It’s no secret Thanksgiving weekend sales flood your inbox. Black Friday and Cyber Monday emails started as early as October 24 during 2017. Interestingly, while the majority of Black Friday emails were sent ahead of the shopping holiday, the bulk of Cyber Monday emails were sent on Cyber Monday itself.

Email Volume Distribution

Surprisingly, 20% of retailers sent a post-Black Friday email, while 26% sent a post-Cyber Monday email up to a week after the holiday, in an extension of the sales to entice more shoppers.

How do marketers attract shoppers amongst the swarm of emails? Incentives! Here’s a breakdown of the discounts sent in 2017:

discounts offered

FYI, 6,809 emails used the term “Black Friday” in the subject line, while 3,487 emails mentioned “Cyber Monday.”

Email Examples

Subscribers get burned out by Thanksgiving weekend emails. Balancing frequency and creativity is an email marketer’s nightmare. MailCharts pulled Black Friday and Cyber Monday examples for us to analyze from a creative perspective, and here’s what email marketers are sending during the largest email event of the year:


Steve Madden
[Thursday, Nov 23, 2017 @ 8:18am]

In-Store Only! Exclusive Black Friday Sale!
The year’s biggest in-store event is happening now! ———————–

Amongst all the online sales, Steve Madden kept true to the now-nostalgic Black Friday in-person event, reinforcing the sale is in stores only. To entice subscribers to visit brick-and-mortar stores, Steve Madden offered a hefty “Buy One, Get One 70% Off” sale. The subject line is direct, letting subscribers know it’s a Black Friday-related email with an exclusive offer to boot (get it?). Subtle preview text adds further context to the subject line, suggesting this deal should not be missed.

[Thursday, Nov 23, 2017 @ 9:04 am]

Happy Turkey Day ?Black Friday Giveaways In-Store
First 100 Customer at Store Opening Get Free adidas Blanket and Win iPhone

Mix & Match Buy 1, Get 1 50% Off - Shop Men
Shop Women
Shop Boys
Shop Girls
Black Friday Giveaways - First 100 Customers In Line Receive Prizes

Tillys offers a similar driver to lure subscribers to brick-and-mortar locations; however, they also allow online shoppers to partake in the fun. By offering big-ticket items like an iPhone to the first 100 customers, shoppers have a better reason to drag themselves to visit the physical store and forgo the comfort of an online experience. The subject line directly calls out Black Friday and includes an emoji—Tillys sells primarily young adult clothing, so the emoji is a smart play to appeal to their audience with a fun image. Preview text breaks down the giveaways, encouraging the customer to be one of 100 to win.

kate spade new york
[Friday, Nov 24, 2017 @ 6:20 am]

black friday special: satchel for $129!
kate spade new york and lots more is up to 75% off, but going fast… shop

kate spade new york
forward to a friend share on facebook
free ground shipping to the u.s. and canada when you spend $99 or more
surprise sale happy black friday! today's top story: these tilden place pippa handbags now $129 SHOP THIS HANDBAG
plus, enjoy up to 75% off SHOP THE ENTIRE SALE
facebook twitter pinterest instagram tumblr YouTube
gift cards customer care store locations

Showcasing a rarely discounted popular product on sale will surely pique the interest subscribers. If this one item is severely marked down, what else does kate spade new york have on sale? Subscribers’ curiosity will rack up click-throughs, pushing them to the site to explore and land in the cart. Keeping with our theme, the subject line calls out “black friday” to let shoppers know this special is for one day only. The preview text assists the subject line by letting subscribers know they’ll score up to 75% off on products. Kate spade new york is a well-known designer brand that’s always in high demand. Suggesting these items are going quickly will trigger more hesitant shoppers, spurring them to jump on the deal before others do!


J.Crew Factory
[Monday, Nov 27, 2017 @ 8:35 am]

60% off EVERYTHING + free shipping = how we do Cyber Monday
Plus, extra 50% off clearance – online only! View on a web browser. JCrew.c


What makes a subscriber engage? HUGE SALES! For high-end retailer J.Crew, offering 60% off everything is a big deal; but paired with 50% off clearance AND free shipping ? They’ve practically guaranteed conversions. Playing off the cyber theme, J.Crew’s design is fun; humor leaves a lasting impression. This campaign is also practical, including two CTA buttons to give the subscriber accessibility to convert to the website. The subject line appears to be longer than the industry standard, clocking in at 47 characters. Most email providers cut it off at 40 characters. We all know subscribers have a short attention span in the inbox. It’s better to keep subject lines to 7 words or less. Preview text falls short, literally, by having too few characters to hide the email’s preheader “View on web browser”. Adding on a little more copy can push that default preheader out of the picture and provide subscriber more context to the campaign’s purpose.

Lady Foot Locker
[Monday, Nov 27, 2017 @ 7:27 am]

25% off + Free Shipping for Cyber Monday!
Cyber Monday Savings are here! Save on amazing gifts and fresh styles for t

Display images to show real-time content
Display images to show real-time content
Display images to show real-time content
Display images to show real-time content
Display images to show real-time content
Display images to show real-time content

A simple design, but it still accomplishes the same purpose as J.Crew. Readers will easily find their way to the site with center-aligned CTAs, with shopping suggestions like, “shop shoes” or “shop tops.” In comparison to the majority of the Cyber Monday offers, Lady Foot Locker is on the conservative side. They got a swish with a good subject line, signifying “Cyber Monday” and clearly stating the incentives inside the email. Preview text also hit the mark (field goal?), adding basic context for the subject line. Small nuance like this can be easily identified by using a rendering tool like 250ok Design, helping you get these wins.

[Monday, Nov 27, 2017 @ 3:02 am]

It’s Cyber Monday: Beat The Bots to 50% Off!
Don’t miss this once-a-year sale! View this in your browser | Share with a

Don’t miss this once-a-year sale!
View this in your browse | Share with a friend
BustedTees.com - Shop now!
All tees are $10 for Cyber Monday! Click to shop!
Shhh Nobody Cares Dam Shall Not Pass Go Internet Shirt
Sassquatch Hindsight 2020 Dino DNA Poker Dogs
Super Starry Night Zissou of Fish Central City Running Club Surely Not Everybody
Wonderlands This Too Shall Pass Dalek Exterminators Blow Me
Blowing Bits Dawn of Gaming The Dancing Clown Magic King
Blood and Ice Cream Bag End Brew Banksy Flower Indiana Link
Indiana Mouse Unicreep Don't Settle For Less The Leaky Cauldron Bar and Inn
Cobra Kai Callahan Auto Parts Beets By Schrute Legosaurus
Visit Earth Powerline Haters Gonna Hate Science Coexist
Click to Shop!

Cyber indeed! BustedTees went all in on with a retro-internet theme. Their “Shop now” CTA is not as obvious as it could or should be, which may hinder conversions. Those who scroll will find some great t-shirt graphics, with an encouraging note to purchase a $10 tee! Although the subject line mentions 50% off, the email body does not reinforce this—subscribers may feel confused or annoyed, and abandon the campaign. This is a risky play that endangers brand trust. This preview text also falls short, missing the opportunity to provide more context for the sale.

For more examples of exemplary emails, head over to MailChart’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday pages.

Will brands opt for fewer emails with a more targeted approach this year? Will brands lean less on sales and more on community, culture, and vibes, like we’ve seen recently? We’ll update you with a look back on how Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2018 shakes out.

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