December 11, 2012

Cyber Week: Gimmick or Effective Email Marketing Strategy?

by Jim Davidson, Head of Research

I hate "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday."  Not the actual events… just the outdated names for two of the top-selling days of the year.  Yes, years ago the titles were accurate.  They happened on Friday and Monday. You methodically planned out your shopping day, searched for leaked deals, Googled for promotional codes or woke up at 3am to save on that new big screen set.

Those days are pretty much gone.

Consumers and marketers have pushed the shopping days way beyond their former 24-hour sale period (with a day or two extension).  Black Friday sales are kicking off in late October and early November getting closer to "Happy Halloween..." rather than "Happy Thanksgiving."  Cyber Monday is starting to mean Cyber Week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday)!  Check out our "Black Friday and Cyber Monday Inbox Report" for more info on what we saw this year.

So, how can marketers who are obsessed with effectively combining promotion and timing message the now fragmented sales timeframes of the two big days?  Well, the answer could be to move to a Cyber Week.

The concept of Cyber Week is not new.  It has been used throughout the years. Associating "Friday" and "Monday" shopping events to sales that cover multiple days (and perhaps overlap each other) could overwhelm and confuse your shoppers.

Let's look at some data, shall we?

The term "Black Friday" is used throughout the year for end-of-week sales.  Consumers know that a "Black Friday" sale, in theory, means limited time, steep discounts and probably starting early in the morning.  While not really accurate for the actual Black Friday, the use of this term can communicate a lot of marketing messages without a lot of copy or explanation. This year-round use of the term, especially those who launch their Black Friday sales in October, could cause the term to lose some oomph on the real day.

Black Friday Themed Emails 2012 Small

In contrast, Cyber Monday sales are not seen as frequently thought the year. Cyber Monday still retains a bit of the day-long sale concept.  Cyber Monday can't back up too much to Black Friday's weekend encore and, while the day is extending longer in the week, the duration past beyond the event is nowhere near Black Friday's early start.

Cyber Monday Themed Emails 2012 Small

Then we have Cyber Week.  First, what I don't like about it .  Like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the term locks in a timeframe.  We can't predict how the post-Thanksgiving promotions will continue to evolve and Cyber Week puts a weeklong fence around the promotion.  Also the "week" may not be consistent between brands.  Some may start their Cyber Week on the Monday before Thanksgiving while others may wait until Thanksgiving Day.

Cyber week Themed Emails 2012 - Small

Now for the "cup half full" perspective on Cyber Week.  Consumers know they are going to get deals during the week of Thanksgiving.  Opening your sales to a Cyber Week concept will allow you to inform your customers of sales that will be available for more than one day without sacrificing the door busters and limited time offers they expect.  There has been an increase in email messaging to help make shopping easier for customers: gift guides, dedicated customer service emails and shop by price.  Another benefit is that this term suffers from less burnout compared to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  It's different yet easy enough for shoppers to understand which can help your message stand out in the cluttered inbox over the holiday weekend.  Some brands launched Cyber Week promotions In late-October 2011 but minimal use was seen throughout 2012.

Cyber week Themed Emails 2012 - Small Month

This season saw a doubling of Cyber Week related promotions (7.2% compared to 3.6% in 2011).  Slightly more than 7% of email volume on November 28th, the Wednesday after Cyber Monday, used a Cyber Week theme.  That's a 2% increase over the highest Cyber Week volume in 2011.

As you start planning for 2013 post-Thanksgiving shopping days, review engagement and purchasing behavior without focusing on a specific day of the week.  Find when your customers are most engaged and likely to buy.  This will help you to develop timing for your emails and evolve your approach for Cyber Week.  While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not going away anytime soon, use the days as boosters for sales that are more convenient for your customers to shop rather than anchors that everything else is built around.

Jim Davidson
Manager of Marketing Research

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Jim Davidson, Head of Research

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