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Email marketing results from Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2021

Most of us anticipated an odd Black Friday in 2021. 

Back in 2020, due to Covid, shoppers were forced to browse stores from their computers to hunt down sales and holiday gifts. As a silver lining for ecommerce stores, this translated into higher online sales. 

But by November 2021, we were somewhat free to stroll through the real world. And ecommerce stores expected a hit knowing many customers would want to take advantage of their current freedom of movement by shopping at physical stores. 

On top of that, Black Friday came in the midst of worldwide supply chain and shipping mayhem. Containers stuck in China; parts missing; factories out of business... you get the gist.

Oh—and to add insult to injury, layer on the iOS15 and third party data updates. 

All of this to say that ecommerce brands fighting to win had to pull out the big guns. And that's precisely what our brands did! 

Thanks to careful planning and thoughtful strategies, we were able to achieve results that mostly surpassed the 2020 outcome. 

As you can imagine, email marketing campaigns obviously played a decisive role in these successes. 

The goal of this article is to share our winning email marketing strategies, both to help you benchmark your 2021 results and to inspire your 2022 plans. 

Our strategies focused on three very important priorities: 

  1. List Growth
  2. Building Hype and early engagement
  3. Prioritizing VIPs 

We'll dive into each of these three by sharing results and showing you the top performing emails that generated the most revenue for our brands. 

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1. Healthy list growth for email and SMS 

Growing your contact list should be a perpetual priority. (And it became even more important "thanks to" the recent third-party data updates.) 

A brand with a strong list has more warm leads to communicate with at any time, regardless of what might be driving up ad costs. 

When it comes time to compete with every other ecommerce store during Black Friday and the holidays, the larger your list the better you'll do—this is a fact. 

When working with ecommerce brands, we usually focus first on building a successful lead capture system. But during Q4, when customers are more active than ever, it's important to dedicate extra attention to optimizing these systems, getting them ready to continue collecting all the way through the sales and beyond. 

Take Keymaster Games, for example

When we helped move them from Mailchimp to Klaviyo in late Q3, our top priority was to come up with a lead capture system since they didn't yet have one, and we wanted a healthy, fresh list for Q4. 

In September, we launched the following pop-up offering 10% off: 

With an average engagement rate of 5.8%, this pop-up was successfully growing their list at a very important time of the year. 

This resulted in a Black Friday list almost 2x times larger this year than last year. 

Once the Black Friday deals started on November 17th, we didn't want to interrupt our list building initiative. Instead of turning off the 10% off pop-up that would confuse customers, we launched a temporary version without a discount: 

Holiday pop-up from Keymaster Games saying "The calm before the storm." It then announces how good sales are coming and customers can share their email to be notified first.

Even without an offer, this pop-up continued to grow their list with an engagement rate of 2.77%. 

If we had simply turned off their pop-up during the sales period we would have missed out on a considerable number of leads. 

SASnola prioritized SMS sign ups

This year, many of the brands we work with were ready to take the leap into SMS marketing. One of our main goals, therefore, was to build up SMS lists. 

SASNola opted against a Black Friday sale as it didn't align with their brand. However, they didn't want to remain silent at a time when customers expect communication. So instead, they decided to test something new: a giveaway to launch their SMS program and collect phone numbers.  

Email from SASnola about a giveaway for 5 pairs of shoes. To enter, it says customers just have to sign up for SASNola's SMS.

Thanks to the giveaway announcement email and two reminders, SASNola captured 5% of phone numbers from their email list, going from 0 to 3,000 numbers in a few days. 

Braxley Bands did both email and SMS capture

Finally, let's see what Braxley Bands concocted during November to capture emails and numbers in a creative fashion.

Braxley Bands typically offers new customers 10% for an email and 15% for a phone number with this pop-up: 

During the time leading up to their sales, they used a surprising strategy to grab their visitors' attention and stand out from the crowd. For about a week, they told customers NOT to buy!

Pop-up from Braxley Bands that tells customers not to buy from them because they're about to have a really big sale soon. It then tells customers to leave their email to be notified first.

Then, once the sales started, they switched to this intriguing messaging: 

Pop-up from Braxley Bands saying "We'd give you insider info on our upcoming sales but we don't have your email."

Respectively, these pop-ups captured at 7.03% and 2.74% rates. For comparison, the 10% off discount pop-up that we launched after the sales has been converting at 7.34%. 

To collect even more SMS numbers, Braxley Bands sent out a campaign on November 8th and a reminder 3 days later, asking their list to subscribe. 

Email from Braxley Bands offering customers sign up for SMS Black Friday updates to keep emails out of their inbox.

Their Postscript SMS program did exceptionally well in November 2021. 24.52% of November revenue came from SMS, while at the same time 45.26% came from Klaviyo emails. 

That's a pretty large boost from November 2020 where 7.20% of revenue came from SMS and 42.77% came from emails. 

Key takeaway: It's critical to have a large list, however, quality is paramount as well. The emails and numbers collected in the example above were fresh and high quality; perfect for Black Friday and Holiday messaging. 

Now let's look how we made sure to engage and re-engage older subscribers. 

2. Building hype and early engagement

Engaging with your list early is important on two fronts: 

  1. To avoid the noise around the end of November 
  2. To have time to establish a connection with your subscribers if you haven't been sending consistent campaigns to everyone

Let's look at how we approached early engagement with SASnola, Keymaster Games, and Satchel & Page.

SASnola

SASNola, mentioned above, is a great example of avoiding the noise. They couldn't do a "Black Friday" sale persay, so instead they shared a "Fall Sale" in early November. 

This four-day sale was responsible for 3% of their annual revenue in 2021. And 26.69% of November sales came from these three emails. 

Keymaster Games

Keymaster Games also decided to send engaging content towards the start of the month. First they launched a brand new product on November 3rd with incredible success. The one email about the new product generated 32.65% of their total November sales. It reached a 54.33% open rate and 7.77% click rate. 

Keymaster then followed up with their Back Catalog sale in the hopes of engaging with customers before they got overwhelmed later in November during their Black Friday sale. 

The two back catalog sale emails generated almost half as much revenue as the five emails that went out for the Black Friday sale. They also had a 47% average open rate compared to 43% for later emails. 

This just goes to show that their list was ready to shop and engage earlier in the month, and it's good that Keymaster Games planned for that. 

Key takeaway: It's good practice to prep your list ahead of time to pave the way for a November full of communications. 

To do this, we make sure our brands are ready to send high-value content early in the month to their most engaged subscribers in order to boost open rates. This way, they can send their big sales announcements to as many profiles as they wish without it shocking the deliverability gods. 

As you saw above, Keymaster Games did this via a long-awaited product launch email which successfully skyrocketed their open rates to a 47% average in November. 

Satchel & Page

Satchel and Page did the same with a series of exciting new product launches starting in September: 

  • 9/09 Jacket Launch Teaser
  • 9/14 Jacket Launch
  • 9/27 Jacket Launch reminder
  • 10/28 Port Series Launch Teaser
  • 11/04 Port Series Launch

These launches generated a lot of engagement and interest. As you can see in the open rate and click rate graphs below, from September to mid-November, we increased engagement with these high-value campaigns. 

This paved the way for a very successful sale that Satchel and Page decided to launch on November 15th to beat the rush around Black Friday. On that day, they sent out a "sale start announcement email" that led to their highest revenue day. 

However, on the 11th they had already sent an email saying they were discounting products even earlier for their email subscribers. This email brought in 60% as much revenue as the email on the 15th, making it the fourth highest revenue day of the year. 

These early messages brought in huge results, showing that warming up the list and reaching out with engaging content early was a very successful strategy for Satchel & Page. 

You can also see that open rates start dropping back down after November 15th as the list becomes inundated with other brands' offers. 

3. Prioritizing VIPS

Most brands these days start their sales early. As we saw above, warming up the list with engaging content that leads to an early sale is a great strategy. 

You can take this a step further by including messaging to make your list feel exclusive and special.  

Braxley Bands' VIP sale

Braxley Bands made their most loyal customer feel special by launching a VIP sale on November 18th. They then started their Black Friday deals on November 21st, and kept them going until Cyber Monday. 

If we compare four most important emails of their sales, we see that engagement was high for the VIP sale and goes down afterwards. 

In fact, the two VIP sale emails generated 1.7x more revenue than the two early Black Friday sale emails. 

    Taking a less exclusive VIP angle

    One supplements brand we work with also went for the VIP angle. However, they decided to make it highly exclusive. They sent their two VIP campaigns November 17th and 18th to a segment of customers who bought at least four times. 

    The five Black Friday sale emails that followed starting on November November 19th through November 26th were sent to a list 30 times larger. 

    Since the Black Friday emails were sent to many more profiles and included more touch points (five vs two), they, of course, generated more revenue: 5x more revenue than the two VIP sales emails from an audience 30x larger. 

    Yet, the VIP emails have much better engagement numbers compared to the five Black Friday sale emails sent to the Master Segment: 

    • 35.35% average open rate vs. 18.89% 
    • 7.57% average click rate vs. 1.22%
    • 5.52% average placed order rate vs. 0.56%

    This shows us how to engage your VIP audience early with specific messaging to show them that you're doing more for them because of how valuable they are to your brand.

    Key takeaway: You shouldn't send the same Black Friday sale email every day in November to everyone. You will completely exhaust and annoy your list. So instead, take advantage of segmentation to target your best customers and make them feel special. That will build up your engagement before you're ready to contact your Master Segment with the more general sale. 

    What will 2022 look like?

    Who knows, but we do know that 2021's trends can help you prepare early. Focus on the three key trends we unpacked in this article and you'll be on your way to a successful Black Friday 2022.  

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    Lisa Oberst

    Lisa Oberst

    Lisa Oberst is an email marketing expert, specializing in ecommerce and Klaviyo. She’s a lover of travel and languages and currently practices acrobatic yoga and dancing in her spare time.

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