Black Friday in 2021 was an interesting one—that’s for sure.
In 2020, the ecommerce market saw a major spike with consumers relying on online shopping to purchase goods because of the pandemic, driving the biggest year-over-year growth the industry had ever seen.
By the time the holiday season approached in 2021, some people were speculating even better numbers than 2020, while others weren’t so optimistic. In the end, there was growth, but it wasn’t as much as the year before.
Adobe reported that Black Friday U.S. online sales came in at $8.9 billion, down 1.3% from the $9 billion spent in 2020 (Practical Ecommerce).
The truth is, most ecommerce brands in 2021 didn’t see the same success they had in 2020.
But there is one brand that made even more money during 2021’s Black Friday. We got out our detective glasses to get to the bottom of what made their holiday season so successful.
In case you prefer to listen, here’s the full video from our investigation.
Meet Satchel & Page: the brand that overcame iOS 15
Satchel & Page, founded by Daniel Ralsky, has been handcrafting quality leather pieces since 2012. The inspiration behind Satchel & Page came from the founder’s grandfather and his Map Case from WWII, which has been in the family for over 70 years.
Using his grandfather’s bag as his north star, all of Satchel & Page’s designs are also inspired by 1940s aesthetics—with added functionality and quality.
With a great product already in hand, Daniel realized he needed to start connecting with more consumers. The iOS 15 updates were taking a hard hit on many brands’ Facebook advertising efforts, and Daniel wanted to get ahead of the sudden curveball.
In 2021, Daniel partnered up with Fuel Made
Daniel told us that he knows the importance of a healthy, growing email list—it’s always been a priority for him. In fact, he was already skeptical of Facebook ads:
“I’ve never believed in Facebook data and attribution. We’ve always used Facebook and Instagram as a part of a comprehensive customer acquisition strategy, not as the only source of traffic. The iOS changes only reinforced this as we shifted ads from Facebook to Google and put greater importance on email marketing,” shared Daniel.
That being said, Satchel & Page already had great systems in place, but Daniel was ready to take it to the next level. He reached out to our team to gradually take over his brand’s email marketing.
The main goals we had for 2021 were:
- List growth
- Boost engagement
- Build hype around November deals
Considering Satchel & Page’s overall revenue grew 60% in November 2021 compared to the previous year, it’s safe to say that we definitely reached these goals. In fact, email marketing drove almost half of the brand’s revenue in November!
But where did this decision to focus more on email marketing come from? A big reason behind it was the rising advertising costs.
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The decision to focus on email marketing
According to Daniel, the reason he leaned into email marketing was due to rising costs across all business operations:
“We have seen an increase in costs across the board from product costs to shipping costs, and we needed some way to scale our business while maintaining our overall profit margin. The only channel that can scale profitably is email,” he explained.
One specific area of concern was Facebook ads. As Daniel noted, during November the cost-per-click costs are higher than usual.
Instead of running ads over the Black Friday weekend—as most brands do—Daniel front-loaded his spend. He put more money behind paid ads in September and October while also focusing on lead capture strategies on the Satchel & Page website. Basically, he used these systems to capture people’s emails months before Black Friday.
With a new pop-up in place, Satchel & Page’s capture rates doubled during September-November. This gave Daniel an opportunity to nurture relationships with customers in the months leading up to the holiday with early Black Friday email campaigns.
By the time the holiday came around, Daniel had a warm list of email subscribers to engage with when his deals dropped— rather than rely on traffic from top-of-funnel Facebook ads.
“Email acquisition and email flow optimization are a long-term investment that continues to pay off months and years after.”
- Daniel Ralsky
Ding, ding, ding, email is the winner!
To cut to the chase, all of the work put into growing Satchel & Page’s email list had a huge payoff: over 47% of the brand’s sales in November 2021 came from email alone. And as we said before, there was a 60% increase in sales between 2020 and 2021.
Not to mention, Daniel told us that a lot of his products were out of stock during November, so his numbers would have looked even better if he had all of his products in stock.
“If we can continue to scale like this with only an incremental increase in ad spend, we’ll be a very profitable business,” he said.
So why is email so strong?
When asked why he thought email was such an important driver of sales in 2021, Daniel shared two main reasons:
- Being able to educate customers about the value of the product. “With email marketing, you can take your time and talk about specific details, like the quality of the leather, where the leather comes from, the quality of construction, down to like the nitty-gritty details of the type of hardware we use.”
- Being able to clearly communicate and be transparent. “As one example, you can push the scarcity aspect. We were having some serious supply chain issues, and with email marketing, you can explain that in a non-spammy or salesy way. Versus if you saw an ad that said ‘buy now or you won't get the product for three months,’ you're probably like, ‘who's this brand? I'm out.’”
Additionally, because Satchel & Page sells high AOV products (bags are $450 and up) and only runs one sale per year, Daniel said Facebook ads aren’t always the best way to drive people to make a purchase.
Visitors from ads tend to be more top-of-funnel, especially for pricier items like leather bags. Email is the best way for Daniel to nurture customers toward making a big purchase like that by sharing the key product benefits in a non-salesy way.
Note: This isn’t to say you shouldn’t run paid advertising at all. Rather, the lesson here is that complementing your paid strategies with channels like email and SMS gives you a better way to communicate with customers and nurture longer relationships, especially when you take folks that visit from ads and funnel them into your email list.
The Satchel & Page email marketing examples below should give you a strong foundation to build your own strategy:
Step one to preparing your email marketing for BF/CM: list growth
Clearly, one of the biggest reasons Satchel & Page performed so well during 2021’s Black Friday is because Daniel put the time in before to grow and nurture his email list. And this was done without adding any additional discounts throughout the year.
Yep, you read that right: you don’t have to run deep discounts all year just to grow your email list.
So what did Daniel do? Before working with Fuel Made, he ran a pop-up offering a free smaller product with any purchase, such as a luggage tag or leather conditioner. He tested this pop-up against an opt-in with an opportunity to win a $250 gift card every two weeks.
After testing the two, the $250 giveaway pop-up was the clear winner. So when we started working with Daniel, we helped optimize the pop-up design to make it more appealing, capturing double the amount of users compared to the previous $250 giveaway pop-up design.
After visitors opt-in, Satchel & Page welcomes them with a 6-part welcome flow that talks about their products, shares reviews, shows behind-the-scenes, and recommends various types of bags.
Here's one of the emails from that flow:
Did you know that more than 8 out of 10 people will open a welcome email, generating 4x as many opens and 10x as many clicks as other email types? Welcoming new subscribers is important, and you should do so with more than just a single email.
How can you maintain strong customer relationships all year long?
Email list growth isn’t something to only prioritize around Black Friday. You still have the rest of the year to drive sales, after all!
Satchel & Page has strong lead capture systems in place that work all year long, and they send high-value messages to customers via email and SMS at all customer touchpoints, including transactions, welcome messages, abandoned carts, product launches, and more.
In Daniel’s opinion, it’s important to make sure customers are being hit with different messages on your website depending on their behavior. This includes unique content offerings, targeted pop-ups, and more.
From there, follow up with them with extremely targeted messaging that matches their buying intentions. Investing in deeper segmentation will pay off—there’s a reason why marketers who use segmented campaigns see as much as a 760% increase in revenue, according to Campaign Monitor.
Beyond the website, Daniel said he tries to be as transparent as possible when he communicates with customers. From shipping updates, future goals, to even explanations for why products are out of stock and when customers can expect them back in stock.
“Be transparent, vulnerable, and have an authentic voice. You don't have to send so many emails, but if you're honest with your customers, your emails will be more impactful,” he said.
Finally, he suggests having a clear face behind the brand, which will help you stand out in a sea of faceless brands.
“Unfortunately, I think most brands come across as faceless. You don't really know if there's actually a real person behind the brand. I think it's just a differentiator.”
Key takeaway: plan for the long-term
It’s been almost one full year of Daniel investing in Satchel & Page’s owned marketing channels with Fuel Made at his side. If there’s one thing he’s said he has learned during this time, it’s that you have to play the long-term game.
But once you do, the payoff is so worth it.
“It's good to look at things in the long term. I think people overestimate what they can do in a year, but they underestimate what they can do in five years. Email marketing is a long-term investment, so build a really solid set of flows and lead capture systems that continue to pay off every month,” said Daniel.
P.S. Are you looking to revamp your email marketing strategy? Contact us here to see how we can help.
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