There was much hype this year about the earlier-than-usual holiday promotions—both online and off—and the ultimate start of the holiday shopping season. Would consumers shop more often and earlier than usual, and if so, would it diminish Black Friday and Cyber Monday?
See the updated BFCM analysis for insights into how big your discounts should be, how long your subject line should be, how many words to include in your emails, and more.
As it turns out, even with the increase in online shopping, it seems that ecommerce sales were more ‘business as usual’ than a COVID-induced, once-in-a-lifetime event. As you can see from the chart below, the gradual year-over-year (YoY) increase has been relatively steady, this year included.
Ecommerce Sales (in billions)
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|Sunday Before CM|
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However, there were some trends that really came to fruition this year—including ones we think are here to stay.
- Gray November, a month-long series of discounts, has been an increasing norm for the past four-plus years. With COVID continuing to impact the retail environment, we certainly saw November truly become Gray.
- The Cyber Ten. In 2019, with Gray November becoming more of the norm, many online merchants started Black Friday sales the Sunday before. This period extended into, and beyond, the Cyber Five, creating a ten-day span of high ecommerce sales.
- Consumer response to marketing channels. As we saw with our COVID report and subsequent ones, consumers gravitated to opt-in marketing channels as online shopping became more necessary. This holiday season, we predicted that not only would email be a major revenue driver for businesses, but those who utilize SMS and web push messages would also be rewarded with even greater ROI.
Similar to our previous reports, we analyzed email send data for nearly 2 billion emails and 15 million SMS and web push marketing messages, which were sent through the Omnisend marketing platform during the lead up to and through the November shopping season.
For this report, we refer to certain periods of time by specific names:
- Cyber Five: Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday
- Cyber Ten: The Sunday before Black Friday (11/22) through the Tuesday following Cyber Monday (12/1).
- Black Friday Week: The week of Black Friday, starting Sunday, November 22.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday Email Marketing Performance:
As more consumers shifted to online shopping we expected email send numbers to follow suit, and this was certainly the case. Here are the year-over-year (YoY) lift in sends for the holiday shopping period:
YoY Lift in Sends
Interestingly, the greatest increase in November email sends came in the first half of the month, and the Sunday through Wednesday of the Cyber Ten, further suggesting that Black Friday Week may officially be the new norm, as we think it is.
Overall, the five highest send days of the season, in order, were Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Thanksgiving Day, Small Business Saturday, and the day before Thanksgiving (Nov. 25).
The most notable difference this year was the conversion rate for email marketing messages. While we have seen the conversion rate increase each quarter leading up to the holiday shopping season, it accelerated as November progressed.
In Q3, the conversion rate of promotional email sends was 7.66%, which was comparable with the 7.26% seen in October. However, as consumers began to do their holiday shopping it became apparent they turned to email to do so. The email conversion rate in November increased to 8.66%, a 143% YoY increase.
As we inched closer to key shopping periods and days, the conversion rate continued to climb. As you can see from the chart above, the conversion rate on Black Friday for a promotional email message reached 11.98%. This number shot over 12% on Cyber Monday, marking a greater than 100% YoY improvement on both days. On Giving Tuesday, the day following Cyber Monday, it reached nearly 16%.
That means that during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, one of every eight subscribers who clicked on an email made a purchase—and one in six on Giving Tuesday.
Best Converting Day
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Ecommerce Takeaway: Conversion rates are high because opt-in marketing channels are trusted and sought out by consumers—especially during periods of high digital marketing noise. Unlike paid search and social, where marketing messages are not actively sought out, email marketing is an opt-in channel, and consumers do actively look to them for product and sales information. Invest in these trusted channels to maximize marketing ROI—not only during the holidays but beyond.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday Automated Message Performance:
Automated messages are naturally relevant to email subscribers because they are sent based on a specific action taken, like abandoning a shopping cart. If done well, these timely messages generate higher open, click, and conversion rates than traditional promotional messages.
As we’ve seen from each of our other benchmark reports, automated messages are responsible for significant amounts of email marketing sales. In Q3, automated emails drove 32% of all email conversions with less than 2% of the email sends. We predicted in our No BS holiday prep guide that four specific automated messages (welcome email, and cart, browse, and product abandonment) would be significant sources for email marketing sales—and we were correct.
Of all automated marketing messages, these four accounted for 95% of all automated marketing email conversions on Black Friday, and 91% on Cyber Monday. Automated marketing emails sent during the Cyber Ten were responsible for 43% of all automated email conversions in November. And for November as a whole, automated messages accounted for nearly 27% of all email marketing orders.
As you can see from the chart, cart abandonment and welcome emails both achieved significant conversion rates throughout November, especially during key days and periods. Each of these four messages provided unique insights that ecommerce businesses should pay attention to if they want to increase sales this and next holiday season.
- The conversion rate on Black Friday was 59% and 49.2% on Cyber Monday, marking a lift of 31% and 9.5% respectively over November as a whole.
- The Cyber Ten accounted for 46.5% of all cart abandonment email orders in November.
- The YoY lift in conversion rate was 197% on Black Friday, 232% on Cyber Monday, and 171% for November as a whole.
- The conversion rate on Black Friday was 30% and 26% on Cyber Monday, marking a lift of 46.3% and 27% respectively over November as a whole.
- The Cyber Ten accounted for 42% of all browse abandonment email orders in November.
- The YoY lift in conversion rate was 241% on Black Friday, 311% on Cyber Monday, and 132% for November as a whole.
- The conversion rate on Black Friday was 37% and 27.5% on Cyber Monday, marking a lift of 60% and 19.5% respectively over November as a whole.
- The Cyber Ten accounted for 45% of all product abandonment email orders in November.
- The YoY lift in conversion rate was 129% on Black Friday, 139% on Cyber Monday, and 178% for November as a whole.
- The conversion rate on Black Friday was 75% and 63% on Cyber Monday, marking a lift of 30% and 9.6% respectively over November as a whole.
- The Cyber Ten accounted for 40% of all welcome email orders in November.
- The YoY lift in conversion rate was 78% on Black Friday, 139% on Cyber Monday, and 88% for November as a whole.
Ecommerce Takeaway: Automated messages are targeted, relevant, and perform better than promotional messages. Their ability to generate sales on autopilot enables businesses to increase sales without increasing their workload—and the results don’t lie. Ecommerce businesses that want to increase their email marketing sales now, throughout 2021, and especially during the 2021 holiday season need to implement and optimize these critical messages.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday SMS and Web Push Message Performance:
We knew that with email inboxes becoming extra crowded this year, SMS and web push messages were going to be two channels that would play a large role in cutting through the inbox noise to engage customers and increase sales—especially SMS marketing.
Ecommerce businesses sent nearly as many SMS messages during the Cyber Ten than all of last quarter, and Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined to send more SMS messages than the entire month of November in 2019. In fact, the Sunday kicking off Black Friday Week saw the biggest jump in YoY sends with a nearly 2,000% increase.
The five highest SMS send days of the season, in order, were Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday, the day before Thanksgiving (Nov. 25), and Thanksgiving Day.
SMS not only increased in volume but also in performance. For the month of November, conversion rates clocked in at 3.16%, an increase of 136% YoY. The conversion rate for the Cyber Ten increased even further to 3.77%, with the day following Cyber Monday having the highest conversion rate at nearly 9%. Black Friday accounted for 19% of all November SMS orders and the Cyber Ten accounted for 72% of all November SMS orders.
And on Black Friday, SMS accounted for 2.5% of orders placed across all channels. While this may not seem like a large number in the grand scheme of things, each order, of the tens-of-thousands this represents, is one less made through a competitor’s email or paid social efforts. How would you like to add 2.5% to your Black Friday sales totals?
Like SMS, web push messages continued to see increased adoption among ecommerce merchants—and shoppers responded in-kind with strong open/read and conversion rates.
The Sunday kicking off Black Friday week saw a YoY increase in sends greater than 1,400% and a conversion rate increase of more than 3,800%. For November as a whole, the conversion rate was 31.7%, a greater than 475% lift over 2019. During the Cyber Ten, it jumped to 38.5%, a lift of 867% YoY. And the day with the single highest conversion rate—the day before Cyber Monday at nearly 60%. Open rates for web push messages hovered above 50% in October, November, and all tracked periods within November.
Interesting fact: Unlike with email and SMS, Cyber Monday had more message sends (16%) than on Black Friday—although Black Friday still resulted in more orders.The five highest push message sends days, in order, were Cyber Monday, Black Friday, The day before Thanksgiving, Small Business Saturday, and Thanksgiving Day.
Ecommerce Takeaway: SMS is no longer a “nice-to-have”—it is a legitimate opt-in marketing channel that consumers are increasingly adopting. Retailers who are collecting mobile numbers and incorporating SMS into their strategy are being rewarded with increased sales. With the increased web visits the holiday season brings, businesses should put a major emphasis on collecting SMS opt-ins now.
For web push messages, now is the time to test them. While they may be newer than SMS, with conversion rates consistently above 30%, they are proving to be effective in pushing would-be customers across the finish line. See how some businesses, like INGLOT Canada, are successfully using them.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday Takeaways:
Email, SMS, and push marketing messages are all legitimate opt-in marketing channels, and, if used correctly, have the power to significantly increase sales.
- The promotional email conversion rate in November was nearly 9%, reaching above 12% on some of the most significant days of the year. Ensure you are growing your email database and investing the time and resources necessary into maximizing your email marketing program.
- Automated email messages can put increased sales on autopilot while reducing your workload. Automated marketing emails sent during the Cyber Ten were responsible for 43% of automated email conversions in November.
- Businesses should use the increase in holiday web traffic to collect not only email addresses but also mobile numbers.
- SMS is no longer a “nice-to-have”—it’s a necessity for ecommerce businesses serious about growing their sales.
- Web push messages may be newer, but shoppers are increasingly using them. With conversion rates routinely above 30%, now is the time to strategically implement them into your digital marketing strategy.
- Email isn’t dead—in fact, it appears that it’s only just beginning.
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