10 Things Email Marketers Should Know for Black Friday—and Beyond

Often considered the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season, Black Friday has been a long-held phenomenon Americans, ringing up billions in sales on a single day—$4.5 billion US was made last year alone online.

In recent years, Canadian consumers have also begun to look to this day as an opportunity to get a head start on their shopping while snagging great deals, and retailers are paying close attention. A recent Canadian Retail Council of Canada poll found that half of all respondents view Black Friday sales are either very important or important to their holiday revenue.

This year a lower dollar may persuade Canadians to stay on this side of the border to find their deals, so retailers have good reason to pay attention and engage with customers in as many channels as possible, including email marketing. With 79 per cent of marketers indicating that email directly generated ROI in 2016, according to the latest Salesforce State of Marketing Report, email continues to be an important channel and sales driver.

As marketing campaigns kick into high gear this holiday season, here are 10 tips to make sure your email marketing turns into the gift that keeps on giving:

It’s not all about foot traffic

Remind your customers they don’t need to find parking and wait in line to make a purchase from you. E-commerce on Black Friday (and Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday) is as important as in-store purchases, so ensure you’re making it easy for your customers to find what they’re looking for.

And make sure you’re engaging with customers on smartphones via SMS, push and mobile email, whether they’re browsing at home or fighting crowds out shopping, by using mobile solutions that deliver smart and predictive content, track and optimize email campaigns, scale capabilities and connect with ease.

Build (and share) excitement

There’s nothing like a clock ticking down, or a real-time counter showing stock depleting to create a sense of urgency. Remind your email subscribers there’s a limited time to take advantage of deals, discounts and products leading into the holiday season.

And since excitement is contagious, encourage them to share your deals and content using custom social sharing links in each email. These links allow recipients to seamlessly promote your message to their social networks.

Segment your audience

Your customers are unique, and they have different needs at different times. Rather than send a “one size fits all” email, group your emails into segments and send customized emails that better reflect your customers’ different needs.

By segmenting your audience, you’re increasing your likelihood that emails will be opened, clicked on and acted upon, increasing conversions and revenue.

Be a tastemaker and a trend spotter

Share with your customers which products are about to sell out, the most popular, and the best-reviewed. For example, if you’re a toy retailer, you can highlight those must-have toys of holidays past, like Cabbage Patch Kids, Tickle Me Elmo and Furby, for example, or this year’s impossible to find Hatchimals.

Calling out trendy items builds great buzz, not only for the products, but for your brand.

Be honest about availability

If you know something’s going to be a hot item, but your stock is limited, make sure you’ve got a plan in place to swap it out in an email if it sells out. Customers who click through to find it is no longer available will lose trust in your brand and may not bother to find an alternative on your site.

The result of this is costly: Accenture estimates that the cost of customers switching brands due to poor service is $1.6 trillion.

Step up your customer service game

We have entered the service era. Today, industries are being disrupted by companies who put customer service at the centre of their businesses. Consumers expect companies to know who they are and what they bought across every channel. Service needs to be embedded into every product and experience so it’s personalized for how a particular consumer interacts with a company.

Customer relationship management solutions like Desk.com give companies the ability to get an all-in-one customer support helpdesk up and running in hours or days, to give them a 360-degree view of their customers and the ability to deliver amazing experiences to them.

Stay nimble

Of course you put a lot of work and thought and energy into your holiday emails, but that doesn’t mean your work is finished. Stay flexible to tweak any elements that aren’t working the way you thought they would, such as if an offer isn’t connecting with customers or an unexpected item suddenly becomes your most popular.

Leave room within your email strategy to shift gears and make changes based on data. This includes potentially adjusting your email frequency, ensuring that your content is relevant and valuable. If you inundate your customers with irrelevant messages, they’re more likely to unsubscribe, so test and adjust until you find that perfect balance.

Keep an eye on your numbers

Take the time to regularly review email, e-commerce and website data. Are emails being opened? Are online shopping carts filled and abandoned? Do some emails have lower than expected conversion rates? Investigate any anomalies quickly and change course as needed.

With November and December as the busiest shopping months of the year, you don’t want to waste any time or miss any opportunities to drive sales.

Don’t get lost in the clutter

Many brands put all of their focus onto their Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales and target those days extensively. Over the years, Black Friday has expanded to more than one day and Cyber Monday has become Cyber Week.

To stand out from the other hyper-targeted brands, some companies now offer online deals every day of the week to make an impact on a less cluttered email marketing day.

Get personal

Personalization is a must for today’s email marketer. And those who use predictive intelligence or data science to personalize emails are reaping the rewards. The State of Marketing Report also found that high performing teams are 4.2 times more likely to leverage predictive intelligence or data science to personalize emails. Consider this when you create your season’s greetings email.

Whatever language you choose to use, make sure your well-wishing messaging not only fits with your brand, but with your audience. Leveraging tools like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions to manage your customer data and information will help ensure you’re communicating at the right time, using the right channels to the right audience.

Black Friday is really just the beginning of an exciting, yet competitive, shopping season. Sales peaks will continue until Christmas and then again with Boxing Day. Having a foolproof email marketing approach mapped out now will not only set you up for success during the holidays, but for the year ahead too.

Karin Campbell is the director of marketing communications for Salesforce in Canada.