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Author's profile photo Will Young

Black Friday 2021 – 10 Points to Help you Prepare

Black Friday is still a few weeks away, but you should already be well prepared. In case you’re not, or if you’d like to check that you’ve done all you should, here are 10 frequently asked questions.

1. How should I prepare my campaigns?

Re-engage and plan

First, start by re-engaging with your less-active contacts. Don’t suddenly increase your email volume by including inactive contacts for your Black Friday campaigns as this could damage your deliverability. Prepare ISPs for larger volumes by sending pre-Black Friday campaigns days before, which can distribute volumes and help ramp-up for the big day. ISPs will be more receptive to volume spikes on the day as they would have already seen a steady increase.

You should also look carefully at your goals. You probably know what you want to achieve this year, but have you defined your objectives and performance metrics? And how will you test and optimize your content to maximize results?

Select your audience

Be selective about your audience. When selecting data outside your usual active base, it’s important to think about who you are sending to. You can’t go wrong sending to your occasional and sale-only customers, but the contacts you messaged two Black Fridays ago, who still haven’t opened an email? Maybe not…

Target your campaigns

Targeted campaigns are more effective. Create your segments now based on the offers and content you plan to send. This way you can understand the volumes, solve any issues and refine your sending plan if needed.

Start testing early so you have actionable data when it’s time to act – you will be competing for limited inbox space so being prepared in advance is critical. Have a clearly defined marketing calendar aligned to your target segments. Run a re-engagement series now, so subscribers aren’t surprised to hear from you during Black Friday when they have heard from you for a while.

2. How do I define my active vs inactive email recipients?

A customer is typically defined as active if they have some sort of tracked activity in the last 30-90 days. Your segmentation has to be based on engagement, which means clicks, opens, purchases, web visits, and social media engagement. You can also use registration date, purchase history, multiple engagement points (i.e. multiple clicks vs just one) for segmentation.

And you may as well test them. What works for you and your customers will be based on your products, your marketing and your customers. Here’s two links to help:

3. Testing subject lines and content requires test sends – how can I perform email testing for time-sensitive offers and daily sending over Black Friday?

Start by looking at what subject lines worked for your brand in the past during Black Friday. While you don’t simply want to recycle these subject lines, you can at least adapt them to your needs this year. If possible, you can also do a small test the days leading up to Black Friday with verbiage similar to what you want to send. This is a good opportunity to pre-emptively warn your subscribers of what to expect so they can be on the lookout for your deals.

You can also always test some time-sensitive deals prior to Black Friday. It does require additional work, but it is definitely more efficient to know how your target audience will react before actual Black Friday comes.

Further reading:

4. While I am planning, what else should I consider?

Most importantly, look back at past years and learn from them:

  • What went well in terms of product sales?
  • What targeting and segmentation worked?
  • What problems did you have?
  • Who are you sending to?
  • What are you sending?
  • What is the best time to send your emails?

DMA research shows every year that the brand, not the subject line, is the primary reason why recipients choose to open an email. On Black Friday marketers are competing for attention, so make sure your brand is associated with interesting, relevant, compelling offers that trigger an automatic response to open your mail.

5. How can I ensure success for my email campaigns?

The sheer volume of email traffic over Black Friday has two important impacts: email providers are going to scrutinize your emails more closely to make sure they only place the most relevant messages in the inbox, and even then your messages will be competing with many more other offers than usual.

Don’t overdo your content

Most likely priority will be given to emails that need less time to be analysed and processed, so really check whether you want to include those large HD images, gifs and loads of links (especially if they are not using the same link domain). When it comes to email content, less is more will be the trend that mailbox providers would like senders to follow during the Black Friday weekend.

Prioritize your best contacts

Prioritize active recipients first. The more of your emails that are read and clicked, the more the ISPs will trust your campaigns and deliver them to the inbox. One good tip is to split your most important campaigns, sending to the highest revenue-generating segment at your chosen peak times, and sending to those with lower likelihood of converting in between.

Spread out your campaigns

During the weeks leading to Black Friday, prepare your campaigns and your segmentation, look at your planned sending volumes and compare with your normal sending volumes. If your planned single-send or daily volumes are higher than normal, consider splitting large sends over multiple campaigns. And don’t just send on Black Friday, but also send the days before and afterwards.

Don’t forget abandoned baskets

Even on Black Friday consumers do not buy on impulse. They browse, save items, compare and finally make a decision, sometimes at the end of the day. But this also leads them to forget where they were, which products they saw and most liked. So they can be very happy to receive a “reminder” of where they left some of these products. Make sure your abandoned basket program is up to date and is working properly – it can make all the difference.

Experiment

Try something different. This is the busiest time of the year for email and you need to stand out, so play around with subject lines and content. Of course you should always test and optimize your key campaigns where you have the time and resources, but what works in a normal week may not work for Black Friday and vice versa; so don’t be afraid to try something new.

6. What email sending strategies should I avoid?

The most obvious answer is ‘anything that causes an unexpected spike in volume’. ISPs and email filters know the volumes you typically send and you risk being filtered if you introduce huge spikes in volume that aren’t expected behavior by your brand. To avoid spikes, use the weeks before Black Friday to slowly increase your volumes to your planned Black Friday levels.

Another risky thing to do is dipping too far back into your older data. Black Friday will see customers coming back and so is a great time of year to refresh and reinvigorate your list. But you have to be sensible. Contact data still needs to be correct and valid; you must send emails that your chosen recipients are likely to be interested in. And this goes without saying, but you must always operate within the laws of the countries you are sending to.

The biggest mistakes you can make are not making a plan prior to Black Friday and not testing anything in advance.

7. The Deliverability Advisor in Emarsys shows a warning for ‘Friday’ or ‘Black Friday’ in subject lines – is my campaign likely to be flagged as spam?

It’s possible. The majority of marketers are sending Black Friday deals in the last week of November, and this phrase becomes so generic that it is found in both legitimate email traffic and spam.

However, email filtering is highly intelligent and complex, looking at more than email content. List hygiene, good targeting, plus subject lines and content which generate attention and engagement (as well as a correctly authenticated sender domain), are the most important factors for successful email deliverability.

So pay attention to the warning, so that you can incorporate these words in your content and subject line testing, to see if alternatives drive better delivery engagement and campaign success.

8. I need to send full-list campaigns, including contacts that typically are not included in campaigns – what Emarsys features can I use to make those big sends less risky and more effective?

Use segmentation (and maybe the Automation Center) to start the send based on the most engaged contacts, to get a better response from the providers and avoid your emails getting blocked.

Send Time Optimization can help to generate more opens if the contacts have received a sufficient number of STO campaigns before (but please keep in mind that the Black Friday mail open behavior of contacts may be different).

Start engaging already with this subset of contacts to build up their expectation.

9. What time of day should I send my most important Black Friday campaign?

Chances are that other marketers will send at similar times, especially at the top of the hour, and that is the main cause of email delays. Instead of sending a newsletter at 8:00am, consider sending at, for example, 8:17am – this way you will be able to:

  • Avoid larger delays due to mail queues in the outgoing and incoming mail servers
  • Avoid being bunched up among all other Black Friday deals from your competitors and appear at the top of the offers in your recipients’ mailbox.

Earlier is not always better: while you may get ahead of other deals, not all subscribers may be awake to see your emails at 3 AM or 4 AM. By the time they do check, your campaigns could be buried under the hundreds of others they’ve received since then. Be cognizant of when your subscribers engage with your emails historically.

10. What impact will iOS15 have on my Black Friday email marketing?

The changes will have some impact in how you measure your results. Email opens in Apple (as in all providers) are already skewed due to pre-fetching of data. Relying only upon this metric to judge the success of your campaigns is certainly not enough – it is better to make your emails part of multi-step, multi-channel engagement programs.

For more information, see our guide to handling the changes of the iOS 15 update.

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