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Author's profile photo Will Young

Black Friday 2021 – Last-minute checks

With Black Friday just weeks away, you’ve most likely got all your campaigns well in hand and have nothing better to do than wait. Well, perhaps not nothing…you could still run one last check to see that you have optimized your strategy for this critical weekend.

Let’s start with the main message:

  • For all channels, and for email in particular, send your promotional campaigns out before Black Friday.
  • Over the Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend, make sure that your transactional messages are optimized to react instantly to each and every customer interaction with your brand.

I’m going to skip the first part – we trust that you know what you are doing here, and have already written up a number of pieces which you can read on our Black Friday hub.

Instead, I’m going to list a few pointers on how you can help us to help you process your messages and responses in real time, all the time.

To this end, there are two things to keep in mind for this event:

  1. There will be local spikes in processing your data and content, so you need to get your content processed as efficiently as possible
  2. There will be a global spike in messages being sent, so you need to make your voice heard through the noise

1. Getting your messages processed efficiently

Let’s break this down by channel and product.

Email

Choose your product

The first decision to make is which product to use, and in this case it really comes down to two options: Automation Center programs or Interactions.

  • Automation Center programs can be complex and cover multiple interactions in the same customer journey. They can ensure a consistent, unified experience for the customer.
  • Interactions are optimized for instant responses – use them for transactional messages that need to be delivered in the moment.

Try not to use Interactions for messages that can be delivered even 5 minutes after the trigger event, as that will add unnecessary load to this high-performing infrastructure.

Keep it simple

Help us by keeping your emails simple and easy to process. The more calculations that we have to make before we launch, the longer it will take. Launching an email will take longer if:

  • It contains many personalization tokens
  • It contains many segments to process for block targeting
  • It contains more than 30 tracked links
  • The email size is >100KB

This should not be an issue for transactional emails, since they should serve one single purpose only and be very light in terms of content. But you do need to bear these points in mind when building emails to use in Automated programs. A lot of it will come down to your judgement, for example when to use ESL tokens to personalize content rather than using block targeting, but the rule of thumb is pretty straightforward: the more we have to calculate, the longer it can take.

SMS

Text messages without links are processed faster than those with links. It’s not much, but every little counts.

Web Channel

Remember that Web Channel works on your website, which will be experiencing record traffic. Make sure that your site is prepared to handle this. Ad hoc campaigns aimed at all visitors, with no personalization, should not suffer any delays but you may well see Automation Center audiences taking slightly longer to refresh during peak times, so cater for such delays when you create your customer journeys.

API

Don’t use the API to gather additional statistics on your campaign responses. This will add load to your contact database which could then slow down segment processing or message generation. It is tempting (and exciting!) to keep minute-by minute tabs on your business, but you won’t be doing yourself any favors.

Similarly, if you need to import large numbers of contacts to your account, use the Import function instead of the API since it will not impact any other API calls that are in use.

Imports

  • Emarsys optimizes the fields that you use as key identifiers in imports, so don’t introduce any new ones during this period.
  • Avoid imports that include multi-choice fields as these take longer to process.
  • Avoid large imports, but also small ones, since every import has certain overheads. independent of its size. Try to avoid imports smaller than 1GB.
  • Don’t start an import within 10 minutes of the last one finishing. You can track import progress on the Data Imports > History tab.
  • Always use duplication handling.

Product Catalog

Have your latest catalog fully uploaded before Black Friday. You don’t want to run any additional risks by making non-critical updates during this time.

Relational Data

This bit gets a little technical. It means nothing to me, but I am reliably informed that people who work with relational databases will understand.

  • Remove DISTINCT clauses from your segment templates
  • Try to avoid using data type formatting functions (e.g. cast, convert, etc.), and order by clause for personalization, as they highly impact performance.
  • Check and improve query performance using SQL tuning methods like indexes, correct data types, checking execution plans, etc.
  • Always use indexes on the key fields of the joins and on the reference fields.

Data deletion

Avoid the deletion of big contact lists during your periods of higher traffic. The contact deletion process is a heavy process and can affect the speed of segment calculation or email generation on your account. Save those operations to be executed after the Black Friday week.

2. Making your voice heard

Every year, Black Friday breaks records for global messages sent, and this year will be no exception.

Increase in message volume on recent Black Fridays

This has noticeable effects on all channels, but on email in particular, since the increased traffic means many more messages competing for the same inboxes.

Not only can you expect tighter spam filter scrutiny, but incoming messages can end up staying near the top of the inbox (i.e. visible in the preview) for a matter of minutes only.

For transactional messages this should not be an issue as long as you keep the messages tightly focused on the transaction that triggered them. But for ad hoc emails and Automation Center programs, you can mitigate these potential problems with a few simple precautions.

Choose your time carefully

Don’t launch or schedule an email at a peak time or at the top of the hour. You want to avoid peak loads on any systems, be they the Emarsys sending infrastructure or the network connections delivering the messages globally.

Below is a breakdown of our email sending times over the last two years, in UTC.

Hourly email generation on Black Friday (in UTC)

As well as avoiding peak hours, starting your email at (say) 10 minutes past the hour will not only result in faster campaign launches but also deliver your message after the rush, keeping it at the top of the inbox for longer.

This applies as well to the Automation Center Wait nodes. Don’t always wait a full hour – vary your wait times both within the same program and among all your programs, to spread the load more evenly.

Small is beautiful

Keep your emails as small as you can. That basically means less content, in particular fewer images. The easiest way to check that is in the Deliverability Advisor. If your email size is below 100KB your Mail message size check will display green.

The%20Deliverability%20Advisor%20email%20size%20check

The Deliverability Advisor email size check

Any larger than this and you may begin to experience deliverability problems. If you do have an email that must be larger than this, contact us and we can help by assigning extra resources to individual campaigns.

And that’s it for this blog. If you have any questions or comments over Black Friday strategies, we’d love to hear them! In the meantime – good luck!

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