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The biggest shopping period of the year is fast approaching and it’s important that you have a good strategy in place for your Black Friday campaigns.

For great open and conversion rates, you need appealing subject lines. We looked through our customer data from last year to see which subject lines worked the best so you can use the same tips for your Black Friday campaigns.

But remember: you’ll need to have the proper strategies to use these tactics. Read up on the proven techniques to use to create the best email subject lines.

We’ve already gone over some great tips on achieving success in Black Friday email campaigns and useful facts about Cyber Monday.

This time, we’ll concentrate on the subject lines for the Black Friday campaigns: How you can stand out in customer inboxes, what worked last year and how to avoid going straight to the dreaded SPAM folder. 

Whether the subject line is good or bad defines the open rate metric. According to recent Omnisend research, the average open rate in ecommerce is 19%.

Keeping in mind that customers are waiting for offers and check their inboxes more frequently, the metrics for the Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend could slightly differ, which is totally fine.

However, because of the flood of emails in their inboxes, the competition to capture your customer’s attention will also increase dramatically.

Click here to get your FREE copy of ‘515 High Converting Subject Lines for Any Campaign’

Insights into the subject lines of Black Friday campaigns for 2017

We analyzed more than 900 of our biggest clients and their campaigns over the period from Black Friday until Cyber Monday in 2017. From November 24 until November 27, the average open rate of all emails was 22.7% and the click rate was 4.3%.

Digging deeper, I looked at the subject lines from a semiotic perspective (which analyzes the words used in these Black Friday campaigns). I counted the following 11 most popular words that merchants used and how they correlated with open and click rates: 

  • “Black Friday”
  • “Cyber Monday”
  • “Holiday”
  • “Sale”
  • “Off”
  • “%” (the percentage sign)
  • “Free”
  • “Now”
  • “Soon”
  • “Save”
  • “Don’t Miss”

Let’s look at what I discovered.

The most popular terms

Of the 1,447 subject lines analyzed, the most common words or phrases were “Black Friday” (44.7%), the percentage sign (32.8%), “Sale” (28.7%), “Off” (28.3%), and “Now” (8.1%).

Surprisingly, the term “Cyber Monday” was not in the top 5, coming in 6th at only 7.8%. 

The most popular phrases in the top email subject lines

One probable reason for this is that many online shops will refer to the entire weekend (including Cyber Monday) as the Black Friday weekend, whereas the term Black Friday – Cyber Monday (or BFCM) is mostly used in a B2B context.

Therefore, “Cyber Monday” isn’t used as often by consumers, and therefore merchants don’t include them into their email subject lines.

We can see this in a quick look at Google Trends. Although the trend for the search term “Cyber Monday” has increased in the last few years, it is dwarfed by the popularity of the search term “Black Friday.”

Google Trends shows that "Black Friday" is a more popular term than "Cyber Monday"

Open and click rates

Now, let’s look at how they correlate with each other.

In the chart above, you can see that the term “Black Friday” and “%” were used most often, referring to discounts on those important sales days.

Obviously, since consumers are waiting for mega sales on the BFCM weekend, it’s only logical that merchants are giving them exactly what they want. That being said, it’s also probable that most retailers are going to be using the same few terms to get their subscribers to open their emails.

We want to find out which terms will give you the best chance of getting great open and click rates.

So let’s see what those metrics are compared to the terms that we’re analyzing in these Black Friday campaigns.

The open and click rates for various phrases in the top email subject lines for your Black Friday campaigns

As you can see, the top 5 terms with the highest open and click rates are:

  • “Free”: 23.7% open rate and 4.7% click rate
  • “Holiday”: 23.6% open rate and 3.2% click rate
  • “Black Friday”: 22.1% open rate and 4.5% click rate
  • “Sale”: 21.3% open rate and 4.7% click rate
  • “Cyber Monday”: 20.7% open rate and 3.8% click rate

“Cyber Monday” finally makes an appearance in our top 5 list, although it should be noted that you should always take these numbers with a grain of salt. Since a smaller number of subject lines contained the term “Cyber Monday,” the significance of the open and click rates should be adjusted accordingly.

Click here to get your FREE copy of ‘515 High Converting Subject Lines for Any Campaign’

There are a few important takeaways we can gather from this data:

  1. “Free” still works! While we’ve heard good and bad things about using the word “free” in email subject lines, it still holds power. Specifically, because subscribers are expecting great deals—and the greatest deal is a free deal—it would make sense that especially during the BFCM weekend, they’d be eager to click on those offers. However, the same grain of salt applies here: a very small percentage (5%) of the emails we analyzed here used the word “free.”
  2. When we analyzed this data last year, “Holiday” had a 25.23% open rate and a 5.33% click rate. This year, we see that it’s still at the top and probably for a good reason. However, with only 1.5% of emails using this in their subject line, it is still not significantly tested.
  3. When it comes to a significant number, we highly recommend you use the term “Black Friday” in your subject lines. After all, this data is not for exclusive terms, and it’s best to use a combination of terms to get the best chances, something related to “Black Friday Sales” or “Sales this Black Friday.”
  4. “Off” and “%” also had good metrics and number of emails sent, and you can use those in combination with other terms here.

When it comes down to it, you should always set and meet your customers’ expectations. For your Black Friday campaigns, remember that people expect the most fantastic deals for the BFCM weekend. 

Therefore, don’t disappoint. They expect the terms “Black Friday,” “Sale,” “Off” and probably a % in there somewhere.

Give them what they want, and they’ll open your emails. That’s a rule we can probably use for all email campaigns, not just your Black Friday campaigns.

For that reason, you probably shouldn’t introduce full-priced, new collections for this holiday shopping season because, really, who wants to pay full price when everything else is discounted? However, if you’re going to offer discounts on those items, go ahead. 

The best performing subject lines

The following examples are the best performing subject lines we saw for the BFCM weekend last year. All of these Black Friday campaigns were sent to at least 6,000 subscribers.

Note: for privacy, I’ve replaced the store name in the subject lines with “[store]”

#1 Subject line: Black Friday Weekend Banger

  • Product: Jewelry
  • Open rate: 44.85%

#2 Subject line: BLACK FRIDAY SALE / Kendrick Lamar x Reebok Classic CL Luxe Olive / Bedwin x The Heartbreakers x Adidas Originals collection

  • Product: Fashion
  • Open rate: 42.79%


  • Product: Electronics
  • Open rate: 33.51%

#4 Subject line: Save 40% @ [store] Black Friday Sale

  • Product: Fashion/Sports Equipment
  • Open rate: 30.36%

#5 Subject line: Two Day Sale This Weekend

  • Product: Fashion
  • Open rate: 29.58%

#6 Subject line: Be prepared for holiday travel with this handy organizer bag!

  • Product: Electronics
  • Open rate: 28.91%

#7 Subject line: Black Friday Weekend – save 30% on [store]

  • Product: Electronics/Accessories
  • Open rate: 28.89%

#8 Subject line: {{name}} 25% OFF Main Brands Beginning NOW at [store]

  • Product: Sports Clothing/Accessories
  • Open rate: 27.97%

#9 Subject line: [store] Black Friday—last chance for massive vape savings!

  • Product: Electronics/Supplements
  • Open rate: 26.47%

#10 Subject line: Black Friday Deal!

  • Product: Electronics/Supplements
  • Open rate: 26%

From these examples, some things to remember when writing your subject line:

  • Only one of our top 10 used personalization (the customer’s name) in their subject line. You could consider doing the same, although it apparently isn’t a necessity.
  • Out of our top 10, only 3 merchants didn’t use the term “Black Friday” in their Black Friday campaigns. However, they did end up using other popular terms, such as “sale,” “%,” “off,” and “holiday.”
  • Surprisingly, 4 of the above subject lines contained the store’s name.
  • Most of the email subject lines were quite short and to the point, but one (#2) had an absolutely massive subject line. We recommend you don’t go that route for your Black Friday campaigns, although it won’t necessarily kill your open rates.
  • Although all caps and exclamation marks are usually looked down upon, they seemed to have worked here. (Note, however, that the word “free” doesn’t show up in our top 10.)
  • Only 3 out of the 10 top subject lines used some sort of urgency (“now,” “two day,” “last chance”).

Other important things to remember:

  • Try to be funny. Unexpected alliterations and puns make people smile and open your emails.
  • Don’t use excessive exclamation signs (!!!!). It increases the possibility that your emails will end up in spam.
  • Try to include a call-to-action phrase. Sometimes it motivates people to not just open but also click through.

Don’t waste time with methods that don’t work. Connect your store today to see how Omnisend can help with your subject lines, popups, email automation and much more. Get your 14-day free trial today.

Related posts

For more Black Friday email marketing tips and statistics, check out the following:

For better email marketing results, be sure to also check out:

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