In the last quarter of 2018, 26 percent of marketers sent Black Friday emails before November 19 and some started as early as November 1—representing a notable shift that indicates marketers are adjusting their holiday strategies as consumers begin their holiday shopping earlier in the season, according to new research from Yes Marketing.
In its 2019 Holiday Marketing Guide, Yes analyzed more than 6 billion emails sent in Q4 2018 on behalf of customers across industries. The report found holiday-themed emails sent in Q4 2018 drove double the conversion rates in November (6.1 percent) than in December (3.1 percent), suggesting there is value in earlier deployment of these messages to build anticipation and capitalize on the ever-expanding holiday shopping season.
The study found that Black Friday was the second-most widely adopted theme in Q4 2018, with almost half of marketers (47.5 percent) sending Black Friday emails in 2018, a sizeable 27 percent increase year-over-year (YoY). Black Friday conversion rates also increased by 37.5 percent YoY and almost doubled the standard marketing message conversion of 4.9 percent over the same period.
Marketers deploying Black Friday emails before November 19 saw their emails garner a 13.1 percent average open rate and a 1.5 percent average click rate, higher than the average for both standard marketing messages (12.1 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively) as well as the average for Black Friday emails (12 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively). However, Black Friday messages sent before November 19 averaged only a 4 percent conversion rate—less than half the Black Friday average (8.8 percent) and lower than that of standard emails (4.9 percent).
These findings suggest marketers can build anticipation and boost engagement by deploying Black Friday messages earlier in the season but should send emails with the exclusive goal of conversion closer to the event date.
“Events like Black Friday have become an international phenomenon for consumers, and marketers are looking to capitalize on them by starting to build anticipation earlier in the holiday season,” said Jim Sturm, president of Yes Marketing, in a news release. “In order to find the balance between over-communicating and falling off consumers’ top of mind before big shopping milestones, marketers must develop a well-rounded and well-timed holiday strategy that engages each of their consumer segments—from the early-birds to the last-minute shoppers.”
In addition, the report revealed the conversion rate for holiday-themed emails deployed later in the shopping season dropped significantly. Conversion rates for Green Monday messages decreased by 38 percent YoY, from 6.5 percent to 3.7 percent, and fell under the standard marketing email average (4.9 percent).
“At a time where expectations are at an all-time high, marketers who fail to engage consumers earlier in the season risk falling behind,” said Michael Iaccarino, CEO and chairman of Infogroup, parent company of Yes Lifecycle Marketing, in the release. “Given this year’s earlier and shorter holiday shopping season, marketers must work with the right technology and service partner to execute a data-driven marketing program that effectively captures consumer attention at a time where brands have steeper competition and fewer opportunities to cut through the noise.”
Additional findings from the report include:
- When compared to open rates of other prominent shopping events and holidays in Q4 of 2018 (Cyber Monday, Green Monday and Christmas), Black Friday open rate of 12.0 percent topped the list, followed by Green Monday at 11.8 percent, Cyber Monday at 10.8 percent and Christmas at 10.3 percent.
- Seventy-six percent of Black Friday emails that drove conversion rates of 5 percent and above were deployed during the week of the event, with 46 percent being deployed on Black Friday.
- Unlike most Q4 holidays which registered increases in adoption rate, the share of brands that deployed Christmas-themed emails remained virtually unchanged YoY (39 percent).