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BFCM 2021: Email, SMS, and push message statistics & trends

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This year, the Black Friday-Cyber Monday (BFCM) period was a bit different from previous years. According to Adobe, this Cyber Monday saw a 1.4% decrease in sales—the first slowdown ever since it began tracking BFCM sales in 2012.

Adobe also saw a big increase in supply issues—there was a 169% increase of out-of-stock messages in online shops in November compared to the pre-pandemic January 2020. When compared to November 2019, there was a 258% increase in out-of-stock messages.

Nonetheless, this year’s shopping sales still broke records, as consumers spent 11.9% more this year compared to last year (a total of $109.8B from Nov. 1-29)—and that’s a big feat, since last year was already a blow-out year for ecommerce sales.

When Omnisend looked at the Cyber 10 period for this year (the Sunday before Thanksgiving week until Giving Tuesday), we saw very similar trends.

Total messages sent and total sales skyrocketed:

  • For promotional campaigns during Cyber 10, merchants sent 47% more messages and earned 37% more sales
  • For automated campaigns during Cyber 10, merchants sent 90% more messages and earned 27.6% more sales
  • Automation made up only 5% of all sends, but made up 31% of all orders.

Email conversion rates went down YoY:

  • For promotional emails, the average conversion rate for the entire period was 0.48%, down 3.8% from 2020
  • For automated emails, the average conversion rate was 0.84%, down 36.6% from 2020

But orders continued rising:

  • Promotional emails increased 58% this year, earning 37% more orders YoY
  • Automated emails increased 91% this year, earning 27.6% more orders YoY

SMS & push are still rising:

  • There was 39% increase in promotional SMS sent over 2020, leading to a 9% increase in orders
  • Automated SMS messages increased 21%, leading to 22.8% more orders YoY
  • Of all the channels analyzed, push notifications were the least popular, but still the best converting
  • The total number of promotional push messages sent was 492% higher than in 2020, with an overall conversion rate of 1.22%
  • Promotional push orders increased 93% this year, while automated push orders saw a whopping 230% increase YoY

While automation made up only 5% of all sends for email, SMS and push, it made up 31% of all orders.

Methodology

In order to analyze this data, we looked at more than 675 million emails sent by Omnisend merchants during Cyber 10 (Nov. 21-30, 2021) , as well as 11 million SMS and web push messages.

We analyzed data for the entire Cyber 10, instead of just the Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend (Nov. 26-29) because many merchants are sending BFCM offers before Black Friday (and after Cyber Monday).

When making YoY comparisons, we are analyzing this year’s Cyber 10 with last year’s, which lasted from November 22 to December 1.

We calculate conversion rates by looking at attributed orders compared to total emails sent. 

We also use the following terminology:

  • Promotional campaigns: one-off messages manually sent by brands, such as special offerings, discounts, or other promotional messages
  • Automated campaigns: messages triggered by user behavior, such as when a user abandons a cart, subscribes to a newsletter (as in a welcome email), etc.

Email promotional campaigns during BFCM

During the BFCM period, we saw a huge increase in the total number of emails sent:

This year, merchants sent 645 million promotional emails, with the majority of the emails sent out on Black Friday (110 million) and Cyber Monday (91 million). However, the third most popular sending day was Thanksgiving (73 million).

The total emails sent this year is 58% more than last year (409 million). Fortunately for our merchants, this translated into more sales as well, garnering 37% more orders YoY.

The most successful day for merchants, in terms of sales, were (unsurprisingly) Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and thirdly Small Business Saturday (which is most likely due to residual Black Friday sales).

Takeaway: for the most important metric, this year was a good year. Merchants sent out more promotional emails, and they earned a whopping 37% more sales.

Conversion rate 

However, when looking at the conversion rates, we begin to see a clearer picture of ecommerce in total: people simply bought less. This was more-or-less expected, as Bloomberg discussed the probability that this year would see the slowest ecommerce growth in six years, as well as lower-income Americans opting out of holiday spending

This is reflected in Adobe’s data that saw Cyber Monday sales drop 1.4%, and Omnisend merchants experienced the same.

While email conversion rates peaked on Black Friday (0.16%) and Cyber Monday (0.12%) for promotional campaigns: 

The average conversion rate for this entire period was down 3.8% from last year (0.128% in 2021 vs. 0.133% in 2020). 

Takeaway: we don’t live in a bubble. 2020 was a major boost for ecommerce as many people were locked down in their homes and buying more things online. While orders went up this year, the number of people buying goods online went down. This is an industry-wide trend, most likely global, and it most likely has less to do with the effectiveness of these promotional campaigns, and more with external factors.

Automated emails during BFCM

Merchants on Omnisend sent nearly 32 million emails during the entire BFCM period, with most of those sends going out on Black Friday (3.9 million):

The second most popular day for automated emails was surprisingly the Monday before Thanksgiving (3.598 million), followed by Cyber Monday (3.594 million). However, those numbers are so close that they’re practically equal.

In total, online merchants sent 91% more automated emails than 2020, and saw 27.6% more orders for their efforts.

Remember, since these are automated emails, they’re triggered by user behavior. So another way to look at these is to see that these are the busiest days in terms of shopper actions on a brand’s website. 

When we break it down by the type of automation email sent, we can see that two types are the most popular, abandoned cart and welcome emails:

The primary activity during this entire period was to add items to cart (and then leave without buying), while the second most popular activity was to sign up to various brands’ newsletters.

Takeaway: Because of the types of automations triggered, these shoppers were most probably hunting for the best discounts, meaning they expect something nice when they abandon carts or sign up for your newsletters. When looking overall, we see that there were (slightly) more people shopping on Monday before Thanksgiving than on Cyber Monday—a really important reminder that you should communicate earlier and have offers available way before the actual BFCM weekend.

Conversion rates for automation emails

When looking at the conversion rates automated emails overall, we can see that Small Business Saturday (1.28%) had the best conversions, followed by Black Friday (1.05%):

Again, this may be due to two things: time zone differences, and/or the hunting behavior of shoppers. They abandon carts on Black Friday, and buy on Small Business Saturday after receiving a satisfactory offer.

Overall, automated email conversion rates dropped 35.4% this year.

When looking at the conversion rates for each type of automated email, we see that welcome (3.59%) and abandoned cart emails (2.8%) come out on top:

Here, we removed some outliers. Our data shows that the Scratch card (7.6%) and Gift box (3.67%) had the best conversion rates. However, they were roughly 900 times less popular than the other automation types.

However, when comparing the conversion rates for the various automation types to last year, we begin to see the same trend creeping up: for most automation types, conversion rates dropped, some dramatically.

AutomationTotal sentYoY change %Avg. conv %YoY change %
Abandoned cart3,509,95039.70%2.80%-8.92%
Birthday41,162159.29%0.58%-34.56%
Cancel confirmation7,265220.89%1.94%-39.73%
Cross-Sell540,87292.18%0.50%-35.47%
Customer feedback198,67942.83%1.27%12.22%
Customer reactivation1,050,2523.28%0.77%7.47%
Gift box1,809-63.50%3.67%-35.98%
Order confirmation698,43142.04%2.19%30.22%
Order follow-up299,95914.01%1.15%4.60%
Page viewed331,924101.65%1.09%3.46%
Product viewed1,079,39429.69%1.23%-12.04%
Scratch card3,90418.95%7.62%108.72%
Shipping confirmation198,77551.11%1.31%-18.82%
Welcome2,060,07223.97%3.59%-18.22%

The biggest drop came from cancel confirmation (-39.7%), while the biggest increase came from Scratch card conversions (+108.7%). Removing the Scratch card, the best YoY increases came from customer feedback (+12.2%) and reactivation (+7.5%) automated emails.

Takeaway: Again, even though people converted less overall, it doesn’t mean it’s a losing game. Our merchants sent out more, and earned more, even in a year when there’s been a decline in BFCM sales.

How SMS marketing fared during BFCM

The vast majority of promotional SMS messages were sent on Black Friday (1.77 million) followed by Small Business Saturday (1.26 million) and Cyber Monday (1.15 million):

In total for the period, this represents a 39% increase in promotional SMS sent over 2020, leading to a 9% increase in orders compared to 2020. 

The picture is slightly different for automated SMS sent: there, Small Business Saturday was the winner by far, coming in at 278,631 — nearly 200,000 more than the second-most popular Black Friday.

This represents a 21% increase in automated SMS sent during the entire BFCM period, which earned merchants a 22.8% increase in orders

The differences in these SMS sends can most likely be reasoned down to this: promotional SMS are sent to entice shoppers to act (with great discounts), while automated SMS are sent after shoppers have interacted with the brand. That’s probably why most promotional SMS were sent on Black Friday, and most automated SMS were sent the day after.

Conversion rates

Overall conversion rates (for both promotional and automated SMS) came in at 0.45% this year. 

Conversion rates for promotional SMS were generally lower than rates for automated SMS:

Date sentPromotional SMSAutomated SMS
11/21/20210.38%0.14%
11/22/20210.45%0.69%
11/23/20210.36%0.74%
11/24/20210.20%0.74%
11/25/20210.28%0.79%
11/26/20210.28%0.57%
11/27/20210.19%0.14%
11/28/20210.35%0.81%
11/29/20210.21%0.58%
11/30/20210.39%0.63%

Overall, the best day for promotional SMS conversions fell on Nov. 22, the Monday before Thanksgiving, while the best day for automated SMS was Nov. 28, the Sunday before Cyber Monday.

Again, the BFCM conversion trend only partially continues: 2021 conversion rates dropped 22% for promotional SMS campaigns, but increased 6% for automated SMS. 

Takeaway: we’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. SMS needs to be part of your ecommerce marketing strategy. Don’t just send out promotional, one-off SMS: while email conversion rates dropped across the board this year, automated SMS went up nicely.

The continued rise of push messages for BFCM

Of all the ecommerce communication channels analyzed here, push notifications are the least popular. However, our data shows that they’re still the best converting, with an overall conversion rate of 1.22% for both promotional and automated (compared to 0.48% for email and 0.45% for SMS).

Date sentPromotional PushAutomated Push
11/21/2021231,7564,282
11/22/2021154,9633,517
11/23/2021159,0704,487
11/24/2021540,3504,956
11/25/20211,205,4004,005
11/26/2021611,6368,857
11/27/2021178,6532,986
11/28/2021165,8463,843
11/29/2021229,6055,036
11/30/2021144,9127,966

Surprisingly, the biggest amount of promotional push notifications were sent out on Thanksgiving Day (1.2 million), while Black Friday (8,857) was the most popular for automated push messages.

Overall, the total number of promotional push messages sent was 492% higher than for the same period in 2020. When looking at automated push messages, this year saw a 139% increase.

How did that pay off?

Promotional push orders increased 93% this year, while automated push orders skyrocketed 230%

Conversion rate 

The conversion rates for promotional vs. automated push notification messages were a study in contrasts.

For promotional push messages, the highest converting days were the Sunday before Cyber Monday (0.45%), followed by Giving Tuesday (0.43%) and Small Business Saturday (0.41%):

For automated push messages, however, there’s no comparison: the Sunday before Thanksgiving week saw the biggest conversion rates, coming in at 8.5% (with a good amount of messages sent). 

The distant second was for the Sunday before Cyber Monday, which saw a 2.37% conversion rate.

When comparing conversion rates to last year’s BFCM, we’re seeing a similar trend to the SMS conversion rate comparisons: promotional messages fell, while automated messages rose.

Specifically, conversion rates for promotional push messages fell 54%, while conversion rates for automated push messages rose an amazing 57%.

Takeaway: similar to SMS marketing: don’t sleep on push notifications. When you use them, make sure to include them in your automated workflows as well, since they can really boost your conversion rates and overall orders.

BFCM 2021 takeaways

An important trend arose this year during the BFCM/Cyber 10 period: conversions dropped, but sales (and sends) went way up.

While brands reached more people this year, fewer of them bought something. However, the number of orders this year is 37% higher than in 2020. This is no small feat.

Here are the biggest takeaways:

Total messages sent and, more importantly, total sales, skyrocketed:

  • Merchants sent 47% more messages and earned 37% more sales
  • Merchants sent 90% more messages and earned 27.6% more sales
  • Automation made up only 5% of all sends, but made up 31% of all orders.

Email conversion rates went down YoY:

  • For promotional emails, the avg. conversion rate for the entire period was 0.48%, down 3.8% from 2020
  • For automated emails, the average conversion rate was 0.84%, down 36.6% from 2020

But orders continued rising

  • Promotional emails increased 58% this year, earning 37% more orders YoY
  • Automated emails increased 91% this year, earning 27.6% more orders YoY

SMS & push are still rising

  • There was 39% increase in promotional SMS sent over 2020, leading to a 9% increase in orders
  • Automated SMS messages increased 21%, leading to 22.8% more orders YoY
  • Of all the channels analyzed, push notifications were the least popular, but still the best converting
  • The total number of promotional push messages sent was 492% higher than in 2020, with an overall conversion rate of 1.22%
  • Promotional push orders increased 93% this year, while automated push orders saw a whopping 230% increase YoY
Bernard Meyer
Article by
Bernard Meyer

Bernard is the Director of Content at Omnisend, with a passion for good research, helping ecommerce businesses with their marketing automation needs, and beating absolutely everyone in Mario Kart 64.


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