December 13, 2011

Black Friday & Cyber Monday Wrap-up: Trends & Analysis for Top Retailers (Part 1)

by Jim Davidson, Head of Research

The Post-Thanksgiving promotional period saw many shifts this year.  Stores opened earlier, customer petitioned to have them open later, and Black Friday kicked off days before it was actually Friday. This report will review trends leading up to the major shopping days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday and will then dig deeper into analysis on the specific days.

Methodology:

Brands included in sample: 254
All times are Eastern Time

Total Number of Emails in October Sample: 2,746
Total Number of Emails in November Sample: 3,803

Black Friday Promotional Period: Monday 11/21 - Saturday 11/26
Total Number of Emails During Black Friday Promotional Period: 896

Cyber Monday Promotional Period: Sunday 11/27 - Tuesday 11/29
Total Number of Emails During Cyber Monday Promotional Period: 585

Overall Trends

October and November Email Volume by Day

The climb to the high frequency holiday season began in early October.  It should be noted that email volume consistently dips on Saturdays and tops off for the week on Fridays.  This trend can be seen leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Retailers sent an average of 15 emails during the month of November compared to 10 in October.  2.4% sent over 50 messages in November compared to 0.7% in October. The most frequent sender sent 68 messages in November.

Black Friday References by Day

247 emails in November contained "Black Friday" representing 6.95% of November’s overall sample.  October contained 5 references representing 0.18%.  Early mentions of Black Friday promotions can build anticipation, but clearly marketers are not promoting the event during the month prior.  The Black Friday rumble really starts on 11/18. The last Black Friday reference was received Sunday 11/27 at 7:00am. 
 

Cyber Monday References by Day

142 emails in November contained "Cyber Monday" representing 3.88% of all messages received in November.  October only contained 1 reference representing 0.04%.  Cyber Monday references are concentrated closer to the actual day when compared to Black Friday and really do not take off until the Saturday after Black Friday. The last Cyber Monday reference was received Tuesday 11/29 at 1:30pm.

Day before and Day After Black Friday and Cyber Monday Analysis

Viewing email volume for -/+ 1 day of the shopping event shows that more email is sent the day before Black Friday getting shoppers prepared for the big event.  Cyber Monday saw higher volume on the actual sale day and day after compared to Black Friday though both events declined at a similar rate for post day deployments.

Black Friday

Black Friday Promotional Period (Mon 11/21 - Sat 11/26)
896 emails received during the Black Friday Promotional Period.

Black Friday Emails Received by Day

Email volume steadily increased beginning the Tuesday before Black Friday.  Wednesday and Thursday saw a similar amount of hits to the inbox.  While this builds anticipation for the main event, messages sent on Tuesday may stand a better chance of cutting through the clutter of the other pre-Black Friday days.  Saturday saw the lowest amount of traffic with a 41% decrease in emails received compared to the previous day. 

Black Friday Eve Emails Received by Hour

Thanksgiving Day saw an early morning spike followed by a mid-afternoon increase at 4pm.  It should be noted that no emails were received during the 11:00pm hour from the sample of 254 brands.  With many stores opening at or before midnight, the late night hours could be a prime time to message the night owls.  These hours could be used to influence late night or early morning shopping plans or since volume is low, this window could be an opportunity to send a light hearted email to known in-store shoppers encouraging them to "hang in there."

Black Friday Emails Received by Hour

Volume begins to climb at midnight but continuing the trend from Thursday, these early morning hours are lower than expected.   The rise between 3:00am - 7:00am means inboxes are being slammed with "Black Friday Begins Now" emails when earlier sends could cut the clutter.

Retailers sent an average of 4 emails during the Black Friday Promotional Period.  The most frequent sender sent 17 emails within the 6 day shopping period. 

3.2% of retailers sent 10 or more messages during the period and 17.3% only sent 1 email.

Sending multiple messages during Black Friday was common with 23.1% of retailers sending more than 1 email within the 24 hour period.

Black Friday Emails Sent Per Brand

Black Friday subject lines are notorious for pushing urgency noting when offers become available or expire.  Taking a look at percentage and dollar off usage provides an interesting spectrum of the variation of promotions.

Subject lines containing percentage discounts and no dollar off were most common with 32.5% of the sample.  Dollar off with no percentage was a far second representing 14.4%. Only 4.7% of subject lines contained both a % and $ discount.

Black Friday definitely leans more toward in-store shopping but a sizeable amount of subject lines, 17.4%, touted "Free Shipping."

Only 1.3% of subject lines featured "Gift Card" or "Gift Certificate.

Only 6 emails used the phrase "Free Gift."  Most specified the gift rather than using the generic phrase "Free Gift" in the subject line such as P.S. from Aéropostale: "Black Friday Starts NOW! Free Bear, Free Shipping & MORE!"

Only 44.7% of emails received on Black Friday used the phrase "Black Friday" in the subject line saving valuable real estate to highlight offers.

With Black Friday starting earlier each year it’s worth noting that marketers continue to promote their deals after Friday has come and gone.  10% of emails received on Saturday contained a reference to Black Friday in the subject line.

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Jim Davidson, Head of Research

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