Black Friday is no longer a single-day sales event, but one that spans several days. Retailers can still achieve more with marketing automation, such as following up on abandoned shopping carts.

Ellen Hart, content executive, dotmailer

Ellen Hart, content executive, dotmailer

2017’s Black Friday feels as though it went as quickly as it came, but its significance should certainly not be overlooked by retailers. According to Monetate, Black Friday is still a barometer of retailers’ performance for the rest of the season: more than two-thirds of companies that don’t hit their Black Friday average will fall short of their average for the holiday season as a whole.

What’s interesting is that the share of 2017’s Black Friday sales—traditionally an in-store shopping extravaganza—was scooped up by online shoppers, sparking a clicks vs. bricks war. A whopping £1.4bn was spent online in the UK on Black Friday—up 11.7% on 2016 (IMRG). A similar yet telling story was reported by Criteo in the US, where 40% of sales were made on mobile devices: a surge of 29% compared to 2016.

Consumers are clearly shunning the stores in favor of a more accessible and stress-free way to bag the shopping day’s deals. This presents a tricky challenge to ecommerce brands; while high-street retailers are rewarded with limited rivalry, pure-play online stores are fighting in an arena where their voices can be silenced by the sheer size of the competition. Our Black Friday email send volume is proof that consumers’ inboxes were groaning with messages from brands: 106 million emails were sent from the platform on the November 24th.

66% of retailers didn’t try and claw back the abandoned cart.

Shopping day turned shopping week

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An extended Black Friday shopping period—sometimes referred to by retailers as the Black Tag or Cyber Week event—has been a growing trend over the last couple of years. Have too many brands jumped on the bandwagon and saturated the market, resulting in a lack of sales on the day itself?

Michele Dupré from Verizon Enterprise Solutions thinks that consumers now see Black Friday as a marathon and not a sprint: “Retailers need to be prepared. Everything used to be built around Black Friday. Now, shopping starts in early November and continues to December 24. Retailers must keep consumers engaged throughout.”

Key Trends and Findings

In 2017, we spent 6 months evaluating a sample of 100 brands using a complex scoring system separating the strong from the weak in our ‘Hitting the Mark’ report. We wanted to find out if:

  • brands used email to promote Black Friday event deals
  • deals were showcased on home pages on the big day
  • cart abandonment was followed up with an automated email to try and rescue the sale.

Of the 32 brands we profiled from that report, such as Ralph Lauren and ASOS, a prominent observation from our research was that retailers see Black Friday as a weekend-long or even week-long event. None of the brands in our sample restricted discounting to one day; 100% of retailers who participated in the occasion offered a sale for four days or more, however email promos and previews often spanned beyond that period. There were variations on the name of the shopping event, however most were branded Black Friday, the Black Tag Event, or Cyber Week.

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  • 66% of retailers didn’t try and claw back the abandoned cart
  • 69% of brand home pages got the Black Friday takeover treatment
  • 44% of brands didn’t use email to beat the drum for Black Friday
  • Consumers received an average of 18 emails a day around Black Friday
  • Black Friday still reigns in the US

Closing the curtain on 2017’s Black Friday

2017’s Black Friday was no doubt the biggest on record for online sales with US retailers raking in $5 billion alone, a 17% increase YOY, according to Adobe Digital Insights. What’s clear is that Black Friday, once the in-store shopping day—and Cyber Monday, typically the online shopping day—have merged gradually to become one mammoth event.

This year online sales took the lion’s share, with mobile commerce becoming ever more the norm. The number of messages sent prove that brands recognize email’s importance in marketing Black Friday deals, especially since 54% of emails are now opened on smartphones (Litmus, 2017). On that note, we witnessed some great examples of mobile-friendly emails, particularly from John Lewis (The UK version of Bloomingdales) and ASOS who used optimized templates, images and copy, plus responsive content blocks.

However, what was jarring was brands’ lack of use of email marketing automation, namely abandoned cart programs. Overall, there was a lack of personalization and a penchant for one-size-fits-all offers which can easily be avoided through smart segmentation and, indeed, marketing automation.

Our advice for 2018’s Black Friday would be to focus on key customer segments by using advanced store data. Inboxes are suffering a deluge of brand emails: if yours aren’t relevant, why should you expect consumers to open and engage with them? The only way to make your voice heard is to cater to each of your key contacts and through mediums which are fully optimized for the customer journey.

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Dotmailer is an email marketing firm based in the United Kingdom.

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