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How to Build Better Black Friday Emails: Knock Black Friday & Cyber Monday Out of the Park

Hear that sound? It’s millions of clicks from shoppers hitting that “add to cart” button this holiday season. Black Friday emails (and their Cyber Monday counterparts) campaigns are some of the most high-stakes emails you’ll design this year. If you want to hit your Q4 goals, this is the most important series of the year. 

No pressure, right?

You’re not just competing against other brands, but against your subscribers’ high expectations. Shoppers know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. They plan for it and expect big deals. 2022 broke records with $9 billion in sales on Black Friday alone. 

That’s intense. But you’ve got this, email geeks. We’ve been watching Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BF/CM for short) trends for years, so we know a thing or two about what will help you stand out in the inbox. 

Here are a few tips to set your Black Friday emails apart from the rest this year: 

1. Think bigger than Black Friday

Black Friday and Cyber Monday serve as the culmination of all of that hard brand-building work you’ve done as an email marketer this year. In fact, 60% of Cyber Weekend sales are driven by consumers who engaged with a brand’s prior marketing email, according to Klavyio’s data. As you build your email strategy for the holiday season, you’ll want to make these campaigns your high note—the most creative energy you can muster, in the same way that your peers in advertising pay the most attention to their Super Bowl spots.

This is your Super Bowl.

But “Black Friday” isn’t just one day anymore. It’s part of a cohesive campaign across the entire month of November and into the rest of the holiday season. It’s not just about one single email campaign, but a whole series designed to keep your brand top of mind and stand out in the inbox. 

Source: Really Good Emails

Source: Really Good Emails

Source: Really Good Emails

That’s why you’ll want to create a campaign brief in a collaboratively stored place so you can keep everyone on the same page on your plans:

  • How many Black Friday emails you plan to send throughout the month, and when you’ll send them
  • What discounts and offers you’ll make, and whether or not they will escalate or stay the same
  • Your segmentation and personalization plans, such as special campaigns for subscribers who have purchased from you before
  • How you will interpret your brand in your designs (colors, fonts, animations, illustrations, images) and what your overall design theme will be
  • Whether or not you’ll design BF/CM-specific triggered emails, like abandoned carts 

Shoppers know and expect to receive lots of emails for Cyber Weekend and as the holiday season heats up. Make sure every email you send still looks and feels like your brand, so that message gets through.

2. Design with mobile shoppers in mind

Consumers make time to shop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday—we found that email opens for these days peak during lunchtime, and most of that online shopping is done on a mobile device. So your lovingly crafted Black Friday emails are likely to get some face time! From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day 2020, about 44.2% of people opened emails on a mobile device, 34.6% via webmail, and 19.8% within a desktop application. And generally speaking, 60% of emails are viewed on mobile devices. 

If there’s ever a series of campaigns to optimize for mobile, it’s these. This means prioritizing a one-column layout and responsive email designs, larger CTA buttons, and using more mobile-inclusive messaging like “tap” instead of “click.” 

3. Do more than sell in your Black Friday email campaigns

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday is all about deals, deals, deals, you can do more with your Black Friday emails and campaigns. Yes, really. 

Because shoppers expect deals, you can go two directions: Deliver a deal loud and proud, with emails that shout about your epic, best-prices-of-the-year sales. There’s nothing wrong with this approach.

The other option, and the one that fewer retailers tend to take, is leading with story. Remember why someone might be interested in your brand in the first place—and why they want to buy now. Maybe it’s the deal you’re offering, or maybe they’ve been thinking about treating themselves with something new for months and waiting for it to go on sale. Maybe they’ve finally come up with the perfect gift idea for someone special. Maybe they really want to celebrate this year with something extra festive. 

Put yourselves in the shoes of your subscriber and craft an email campaign that’s going to resonate with them by adding value that goes beyond the deal of the day.

We’d argue there’s a way to do both.

Source: Really Good Emails

Source: Really Good Emails

Source: Really Good Emails

The key? Personalization. 80% of customers are more likely to purchase from a brand that provides personalized experiences. As you think about the stories behind why a subscriber might make a purchase on Cyber Weekend, use dynamic content and a clear segmentation to your advantage. 

4. Focus on your inbox envelope

With an inbox flooded with campaigns for Cyber Weekend, your subject line is more important than usual. Now is the time to look back at your campaigns from last year and determine which subject lines performed best—and which may need some A/B testing to work out some kinks. 

Use those learnings to create your subject lines this year. While every other brand is going with some version of, “Black Friday starts NOW!” try to think about a little more flair:

  • Ask a question to stir curiosity
  • Talk directly to them with personalized subject lines
  • Experiment with mentioning (or not) the offer or the words “Black Friday” within the subject line
  • Use a well-placed emoji 
  • Never underestimate a great pun

While your subject line is the main event, don’t sleep on the rest of your inbox envelope: Preview text and your from name. Each element is important with an inbox as crowded as it is during this weekend. 

5. Keep your campaigns streamlined

Your subscribers will receive hundreds of emails this year in their inbox for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Keep yours short, sweet, and to the point. 

Source: Really Good Emails

Source: Really Good Emails

Source: Really Good Emails

More importantly, make it easy for them to make a purchase if they are ready to do so. If you’re going to advertise a specific item, send subscribers to where they can directly buy that item. Nothing is worse than seeing a cute pair of jeans or sneaks in an email only to get sent to the homepage of a retail store with thousands of options. The more you can smooth the purchase path for them during a shopping-heavy weekend, the more quickly they’ll be filling out their credit card info. Win-win-win.

Win Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BF/CM) with Litmus

Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaigns can make or break your quarterly earnings. With Litmus, you won’t have to feel the pressure. Litmus’ email design tools help you scale up your team’s process without compromising on quality. It’s the most efficient way for everyone to send on-brand html emails quickly. Plus, our comprehensive email testing makes sure your emails will be perfect come the big day. Check out how Litmus can help you nail your Black Friday campaigns!

Originally published on July 19, 2021, by Emily McGuire. Last updated October 2, 2023.

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Kayla Voigt

Kayla Voigt

Kayla Voigt is a freelance writer