How to Make the Most of Black Friday on Email & Social

:: Kyle Henderick, Yesmail ::

While Black Friday is among the most important days of the year for most marketers, it's always worth taking another look at what's in store for brands as the holiday approaches. In 2015, opinions on the annual shopping event are conflicted. Some brands, like REI, are taking the day off as a strategy, while other retailers, such as Macy's, are again starting the shopping period a day early, on Thanksgiving. Companies may be polarized, but one thing is clear - many consumers will tune out for Black Friday, and marketers must have the right marketing program to win those that do.

Like any successful marketing campaign, Black Friday takes preparation. However, due to the holiday's potential for extreme sales, brands need to work even harder to craft outreach that is engaging. In today's fast-paced, digital world, this means working across many channels and deploying every campaign at just the right time. 

According to an in-house report, there are two areas where marketers should focus their attention. Even if campaigns and strategies are already planned, marketers can better prepare for Black Friday 2015 with these simple execution tips to capitalize on Q4's biggest sales opportunity.

Maximize Engagement Early On in the Week

In both 2013 and 2014, Black Friday-themed emails generated higher than average open rates on the Monday and Tuesday leading up to the holiday. Trends indicate that shoppers need time to prepare for Black Friday - pick the brands and products they'll be shopping for in advance - and become less interested in receiving emails as the event approaches and they have a plan.

The same rule is true of Facebook and Twitter. Although Facebook has proven to be a 'go-to' source for Black Friday shoppers, in 2013 and 2014 consumers demonstrated the highest Facebook engagement rates in the days leading up to Black Friday- even as early as the Sunday before.

And while Twitter earned the highest engagement rate on Thanksgiving, that was not the only time that shoppers turned to the channel. Retailers found value in sending tweets earlier in the week about topics like contest information and promotions. 

Marketers can increase engagement rates by deploying the right campaigns earlier in the week to prepare their customers well before Black Friday. This is true for both email and social media campaigns. 

Share Promotions and Content across Multiple Channels

Results from 2013 and 2014 also indicate that, in 2015, marketers should adopt an omnichannel approach to sales.

Social channels improve customer engagement by leveraging features that traditional email campaigns may lack. Early in the week, brands can deploy a Black Friday Twitter hashtag that shoppers can follow in the days to come. Similarly, marketers can use Facebook - with its strong content capabilities - to launch more thorough sneak peaks with merchandising and product information. Not only does this excite shoppers who are doing early research, but sharing the same information across multiple channels reinforces the value of each and helps your consistent message reach a variety of audiences. 

Based on what has been successful in years past, marketers should adjust their strategies to make the most of each channel. Shoppers' activity differs from channel to channel and from day to day, and that will remain true in 2015. Below is a sample Black Friday campaign calendar informed by data from 2013 and 2014.

When having a presence on a variety of channels, retailers have to ensure communication is consistent from one platform to the next. Content discrepancies from email to Facebook to Twitter will leave shoppers with little faith or interest in a brand - quite the opposite of the goal omnichannel communications are designed to achieve.

Take Advantage of Countdown Timers in Email Copy  

Urgent subject lines work often, but they are not the end-all approach. Rather than focusing on urgency in subject lines, pair a playful subject line that garners opens with a countdown timer in your email header or footer to incite consumers to act quickly by communicating urgency through visuals rather than words. Additionally, it helps keep consumers informed and ready to purchase when the time comes. 

Many consumers already know the products they are in the market for this holiday season. However, the brands they will purchase from are less set. To sustain consumers' interest and keep their brand top-of-mind in the time leading up to Black Friday, marketers can use digital campaigns to remind shoppers of special promotions, new products, high customer reviews, and much more. While Black Friday contributes heavily to all retailers' Q4 bottom lines, it's what happens over the next couple of weeks that matters most for Black Friday success. 

Kyle Henderick is the Director of Client Services at Yesmail, where he is responsible for helping major clients implement new programs, processes, and data-driven strategies to create campaigns that truly drive revenue. With a passion for technology implementation and a background in database, email, web, and social media marketing, Kyle turns his real-world experience into executable tactics to help clients see an incremental lift in revenue, subscriber engagement, and customer retention.