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December 21, 2015
5 Lessons From Black Friday & Cyber Monday
The Black Friday and Cyber Monday email marketing frenzy came and went with a furious sales velocity, estimated to be between $8–11 billion. In its wake are new insights into consumers’ shopping behavior and channel preferences.

The big news was the shift of significant dollars — estimates range as high as billions — from offline retail to online channels. NRF reported the number of online transactions as 103 million, up 42 percent over 2014, with an average spend per customer approaching $300. The IBM Watson Trend Hub found online shopping up 21.5 percent year-over-year with more than half of purchases made on mobile devices.

Forbes found cyber sales up 18 percent and smartphone-activated sales up 38 percent over 2014. Conversion rates, according to HookLogic, were six times greater than the October baseline. Evidently, convenience, price comparisons, countless “deals,” and the ability to shop on-the-go resonated with consumers.

eDataSource, studied 3000 campaigns with opens in excess of 10 percent. Amazon was the big winner. Seven percent of all emails with read rates of 30% or better came from this online giant. The highest-performing emails, across the board, went to carefully targeted lists with aggressive price-promotional offers.

Looking at my clients, five tactical take-away lessons emerge:

Hand Raisers Rally. People who opted into communications specifically for the Black Friday-Cyber Monday selling season opened, clicked, and bought at much higher rates than everyone else. They also tolerated a huge increase in message frequency, presumably because they didn’t want to miss out on the best deals available from favorite retailers and manufacturers.

Brand Affinity is Critical. Consumers enrolled in rewards and loyalty programs opened promotional emails at astoundingly high rates way beyond established benchmarks, signaling a belief in favorite brands. Clicks and sales were more sporadic based on products and specific offers.

DM Fundamentals Drive Response. Beyond FOMO (fear of missing out), urgency language and limited-time price offers spiked opens. Targeting smaller populations of those most likely to be interested drove better results. Recency; people who opened an email from a retailer recently opened at much higher rates than those who received but didn’t open previous promotional offers.

Anticipate Tinder-like Response. Consumers know in a nanosecond if your deal is appealing or not. They scan and sort instantaneously. High open rates followed by low click-thrus document this phenomenon. Offers have to be telegraphic and intuitive. Consumers do the value math in their heads instantly and act (or not) on impulse.

Content Counts. Too many merchants focus on the SUBJ line to drive opens but skimp on the inside content that drives clicks and conversions. Many marketers found a big disparity between opens and clicks. In many cases a message for one product provoked sales of a different product from the same brand. Reminder emails that were identical to the original saw a significant fall-off in opens and a slight uptick in unsubscribes.

The lessons from Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not all that different from the best engagement practices for direct and social marketing. They take place in a cauldron of intense hyped competition and high consumer expectations. But these tactics are applicable throughout the year.

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Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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