Allan Levy


Your Holiday Email Marketing Plan: It’s Not Just About Black Friday

For online retailers, succeeding during the holiday season requires more than just focusing on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

It’s about having a plan for before, during, and after the holiday season.

Know that there are abundant secondary opportunities throughout November and December and even into the beginning of January to turn savvy promotions into sales.

Before Black Friday:

Depending on your retail type, either Black Friday or Cyber Monday will likely be the most important day of your year.

So be prepared.

Most importantly, leading into Black Friday, make sure to email your entire database at least once — if not twice — to clear out any dead email addresses and ensure your emails aren’t falling into spam traps.

But don’t simply send out one mass email to your entire customer base. When the stakes are high, segmentation is key.

Create different messages that appeal to your various customer groups — prospects, recent first-time buyers, loyal customers, etc.

Another strong tactic is to run sales that create high levels of engagement.

This will help activate your audience, so that you’re top of mind when Black Friday and Cyber Monday arrive.

“Thank You” sales, “Sorry” sales and “Letters from the President” all get high open rates, and it’s a good idea to send out one of these one or two weeks before Black Friday.

“Mystery” sales also tend to generate high clicks, as customers will want to know what your mystery offer is.

Offering these sales will get more traffic to your site throughout November, so that when the big day comes, you’ve already engaged users. They’ll then be more likely to come back and make a purchase.

During Black Friday Weekend:

I always advise SellUp’s clients to kick off their Black Friday sale no later than the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Then, once Friday arrives, email aggressively — send messages out multiple times that day.

But, as long as you’re effectively segmenting your email database, it’s usually fine to message your entire database just once, while reaching active users two or three times.

Extend your Black Friday Sale through Saturday — but don’t announce the extension until midnight Friday.

This creates a sense of urgency.

We’ve got all our clients taking this tactic, and the results they’ve seen have been uniformly positive.

The reason extensions are effective is that they allow buyers to make non-priority purchases.

And by that, I mean everyone has their “must-buys” and their “maybe-buys.” After all the must-buy purchases are made, people make secondary purchases — but often not until the next day.

Some will be aware of the extensions because they read your email. Others will inevitably wake up the day after Black Friday realizing they forgot to purchase something.

When they pull up your website to see the sale on electronics has been extended, that sigh of relief will equal a surefire sale.

Finally, you’ll want to send out a last chance email just before midnight Saturday.

On Sunday, kick off your Cyber Monday sale with an “early access” email. Then, extend Cyber Monday through Tuesday, using those same extension tactics that worked so well for Black Friday.

After Black Friday and Cyber Monday:

Get this: some retailers do Black Friday twice. Why not recreate that excitement? What’s stopping you?


So if you feel so inclined, run a second Black Friday sale (Black Friday 2) either the following Friday or two Fridays after. And, again, extend it throughout the weekend — but never announce it until the last minute.

Always create a sense of urgency.

If customers know you’re going to extend the sale, why would they bother making a purchase now?

It’s a lot more likely that they’ll wait until the last minute Saturday or Sunday. If they forget, or if they log on after the sale has ended, they probably won’t end up making that purchase at all.

Then there’s Green Monday — a term coined by eBay in 2007 for the second Monday in December. This day sees a high volume of online retail traffic because it’s the last day to place online orders that can assuredly be delivered by Christmas. Here’s yet another opportunity to make additional sales.

Once Green Monday has passed, it’s important to prominently post projected delivery dates by zone and shipping method on your website.

Include a banner with this info in every email. This will encourage sales from people who would otherwise avoid online retail because of concerns their packages won’t arrive in time for Christmas.

Once the deadline for pre-Christmas delivery by standard ground shipping has passed, offer free expedited shipping. This will help give you one final Christmas-shopping surge.

Of course, sales don’t immediately slow down once Christmas comes and goes.

The day after Christmas (Boxing Day in Europe and Canada) sees a huge wave of shoppers returning or exchanging gifts. To retain those sales, create promotions and strategies that encourage customers to exchange returns for store credit or another item rather than cash.

It’s also an excellent chance to offer additional sales that will spur customers to buy items that they didn’t receive as gifts — jeans and casual wear, for example.

Remember: there’s more to the holiday shopping season than Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Online retailers should have promotion and sales strategies in place all the way from early November through early January if they want to truly take advantage.

So instead of focusing on only a few days, consider this month-and-a-half-long period during which people are online shopping ’til they drop a prime opportunity to push sales.

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