Black Friday Cyber Monday, the biggest shopping weekend of the year, has gone digital.
The National Retail Federation confirms it: In 2022, most BFCM shoppers bought online.
“It doesn’t even make sense for me to leave my house on a Black Friday and fight crowds, if there are any,” says Kristen Tumasonis, marketing director at SuitShop.
It doesn’t even make sense for me to leave my house on a Black Friday and fight crowds, if there are any.
Zing! And it’s true—lines outside brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday are increasingly rare. In 2022, even though more people planned to shop BFCM weekend than in 2021, Reuters reports that in-person crowds looked “sparse.”
What does this shift mean for marketers?
It means that, even for omnichannel brands, a digital holiday and Black Friday marketing strategy matters. A lot.
In this guide, we break down how to get it right, sharing sharing best practices, buzzy BFCM tactics, and Black Friday marketing ideas recommended by in-house marketers, consultants, and agency pros.
Why you should care about Black Friday marketing
BFCM is the biggest shopping weekend of the year. Intent to buy is high, and money moves.
For consumer-facing brands, that makes BFCM a great time to get a revenue bump and hit annual goals. Brands can see up to a third of their revenue during the holiday season, estimates Alex Melone, co-founder of email marketing agency Code Crew.
You absolutely want to be part of the bustle, because otherwise your customers will start looking at your competition.
That’s 2x the proportion of revenue you’d expect from November and December if they were normal shopping months, since they only make up a sixth of the year.
And even though CPMs are high and inboxes are noisy, opting out of BFCM is a risk.
“You absolutely want to be part of the bustle, because otherwise your customers will start looking at your competition,” explains Andrei Marin, COO of Code Crew.
The benefits of effective Black Friday marketing
A successful BFCM isn’t just a short-term, end-of-year win—it also builds your long-term moat, strengthening your ecommerce brand and boosting the efficiency of your marketing operation for the years ahead.
Below are just a few of the benefits of a strong holiday email marketing strategy.
During BFCM, brands can see major MoM and YoY growth in revenue—even if they’re already operating at a substantial scale.
The team at Western outfitter Tecovas learned this firsthand in 2022. Tecovas is a major brand with 25+ US retail locations—and they still saw 30.5% YoY growth in email revenue during their BFCM sale in 2022, exceeding their email goals for the season.
New customer acquisition
Some new customers will be sale shoppers who drop in once a year, at best—and that’s OK! The key is to acquire new and quality customers during Black Friday, Clarke explains.
That can mean:
- High LTV customers: These are loyal customers who buy regularly and stick with you for months—even years.
- One-time customers who gift: Even if the buyer churns, the recipient of the gift could become a lifelong fan. ”When you’re gifting, one purchase has two customers,” Clarke points out.
- Customers who hype you up: These could be long- or short-term customers, but they help build buzz and referrals around your brand with word of mouth and/or organic social posts. That’s a win!
So don’t just track customer acquisition costs, or your number of first-time buyers during BFCM.
You get what you measure, so track the behaviors and outcomes you’re looking for, and tie them to acquisition strategies as much as possible.
Brand awareness and visibility
With the right PR strategy, brands can maximize KPIs like press mentions, organic reach, and social follower growth during Black Friday.
A lot of attention is on Black Friday shopping—and you can seize the spotlight and showcase your brand values.
For example: In 2020, Allbirds found a way to prioritize sustainability on Black Friday. They charged $1 more per pair of sneakers, and donated $2 per pair sold to Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for the Future.
Inventory management and clearance
How much warehouse space did you clear for new product in the new year? This is another way to assess BFCM success.
A strategically structured sale can clear your underperforming stock and open up space for new products in the new year. Or just save you on warehousing costs.
SuitShop participates minimally in BFCM—the suit and tuxedo retailer’s peak season is wedding season—but it’s still a great time for clearing out lingering clearance items, Tumasonis reports.
“Even though these things have been on sale all year, while people are in that shopping mindset, we push that inventory and get it out of the warehouse,” Tumasonis explains.
If you’re ever going to re-engage a dormant email lead, it’s during BFCM.
“When Black Friday comes along, you not only have a discount available, but you also know that the customer is in a very different mood,” says Marin. “It’s the one time of year where you should dust off the cobwebs and send to the entire list as much as possible.”
It’s the one time of year when you should dust off the cobwebs and send to the entire list as much as possible.
Even just 1-2 email blasts to all (or most) of your list during the shopping holiday can expand your 30-day-engaged segment substantially—and set you up for successful email marketing in 2024.
10 best practices for Black Friday marketing
There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for BFCM—really, brands should be leaning into their unique strengths to stand out in a crowded landscape.
That said, there are a few expert-recommended, process-level best practices that make sense for most brands.
1. Start planning early
In 2023, Tecovas will start planning their BFCM strategy in August—or even July.
Advance planning helps the hectic holiday weekend flow smoothly, and improves the quality of promotional creative across marketing channels.
The sooner we can get things to creative, and the more rounds of edits that they go through—it’s just going to make the campaigns better.
“The sooner we can get things to creative, and the more rounds of edits that they go through—it’s just going to make the campaigns better,” says Megan Edwards, email marketing manager at Tecovas.
2. Learn from past campaign performance
No one has better data on your audience than you do—so use it. Recent campaign performance offers the best insight you can get on what’s trending now with your biggest fans.
For example, as a lifecycle marketer, “what’s most top of mind for me is what we’ve seen over the past few months performing well for us in promotional emails,” Edwards explains—especially in terms of layouts and landing pages.
3. Build your audience before the rush
The holiday season is a pricey time to cold prospect for leads on paid social, and there’s an alternative: focusing on getting back in touch with people who have already entered your funnel, and letting them know that your sale has started.
How do you make sure your funnel is full to the brim before the holidays? There are a few key strategies:
- Growing your paid retargeting audiences: You can do this by running broad-brush paid campaigns with hefty budgets in September and October, Tumasonis notes.
- Growing your email and SMS subscriber lists: You might do this before the holiday rush by offering a discount at sign-up, or promising subscribers early-bird access to your holiday sale.
- Growing your engaged contact list: During your Memorial Day sale (if you have one), Melone recommends emailing everyone who’s engaged with your emails in the past year. Alternatively, you can gradually send to more and more of your list throughout the fall. Just don’t send your first big blast during BFCM—spam filters are ultra-sensitive around that time, Marin notes.
4. Consider an SMS shortcode
If you have 30K+ SMS subscribers, it makes sense to migrate to an SMS shortcode before BFCM.
Shortcodes come with a monthly fee, but they’re built for high-volume SMS marketing campaigns, unlike the free 1-800 numbers many brands start with.
During BFCM, 1-800 numbers have extra limitations, and it’s hard to use them to send MMS messages—texts that contain images or GIFs.
Klaviyo’s deliverability and compliance team helps with shortcode procurement, and can typically connect it to a brand’s SMS account within 8-12 weeks.
5. Pause smart sending
Klaviyo’s smart sending feature is a great way to put a hard cap on the total number of emails and texts your subscribers receive from you in a given timeframe.
If you have a lot of flows active, you don’t want to overwhelm browsers with 17 emails in one day. Usually.
But BFCM is such a high-intent shopping weekend, it makes sense to turn smart sending off.
Don’t accidentally have smart sending turned on if you’re sending multiple emails over BFCM weekend that you want everyone to receive.
“Don’t accidentally have smart sending turned on if you’re sending multiple emails over Black Friday weekend that you want everyone to receive,” warns Kristin Bond, founder of Email Snarketing. “I almost ruined a whole weekend of campaigns in the past.”
But she avoided it—and so can you.
6. Segment your contact lists based on engagement—and more
Sending your BFCM campaigns to highly engaged segments—instead of routinely blasting your whole list—not only drives results, but reduces unsubscribes.
We don’t just mean sending to people who have engaged in the last 30 days, but people who have engaged in the last 24-48 hours of your sale.
Look at Tecovas: They only sent to their full addressable list on the first day of their 2022 BFCM sale.
From there, they targeted customers who had recently engaged with an email about the sale, but hadn’t yet purchased.
This helped Tecovas hit their revenue goals and grow BFCM revenue from email YoY, all while reducing unsubscribes by 22.8% YoY.
Segmentation on demographics and purchase history can be powerful, too. During BFCM 2023, Tecovas plans to segment even more deeply, factoring in purchase history and predicted gender.
7. Leverage multiple channels
Every channel has different strengths and weaknesses during BFCM. For a bulletproof strategy, use multiple, integrated channels to get your message out.
For example, you might use:
- An all-in-one email and SMS platform, so you can reach out to your contact list on the owned channel where they convert best and save time with centralized reporting
- Klaviyo’s Facebook integration, to create lookalike audiences on key social media platforms based on your email contact list or specific email segments
Especially for DTC brands, a diversified digital marketing strategy that blends paid and owned channels is the only way to scale with a manageable CAC.
8. Be clear and honest in your messaging
That means don’t offer a tiered discount with 7 tiers. It’s too complicated, and you’ll lose prospects—“keep it to 3 at most,” advises Melone.
Don’t promise a free gift with purchase but neglect to mention it’s only for orders over $100.
Definitely don’t apologize for a fake website outage to make your product look popular. There were so many outage apologies last BFCM, consumers started to wonder.
Just be direct. No deceptive tactics, and no Rube-Goldberg-esque offers. It’s a chaotic time for holiday shoppers, and they’re looking for straightforward Black Friday deals from trustworthy brands.
9. Invest in holiday support
“You have to assume that with these great deals, you’re going to see new customers shopping with you,” says Tumasonis. “There might be questions, and being available can make a huge difference in the end.”
With these great deals, you’re going to see new customers shopping with you. There might be questions, and being available can make a huge difference in the end.”
Even sporadic support over the holiday weekend goes a long way to boost sales and increase order value. Potential customers don’t need an immediate response—but ideally, they get a response before your sale ends.
10. Optimize your post-purchase experience
Holiday acquisition costs are high. It’s important to optimize and personalize your post-purchase experience so your CAC:LTV ratio stays at roughly 1:3.
Ali Flowers, senior manager of ecosystem marketing at Klaviyo, shared some recommendations on how to do that at Klaviyo’s Own It conference. Big-picture dos and don’ts include:
- DO personalize that first post-purchase email: Maybe you can call out someone’s specific order, or the fact that they’re a first-time buyer—touches like this make people feel seen, and more likely to return.
- DO proactively communicate order updates: Flowers recommends trying SMS for transactional messages and shipping updates—the SMS inbox isn’t as crowded during the holiday season as email.
- DON’T ask for a review before their order arrives: It’s a frustrating customer experience, Flowers says—and with Klaviyo reviews, it’s avoidable. When Compass Coffee switched to Klaviyo from Yotpo, they were able to customize the trigger on their review request flow. Now it only goes out after an order is delivered, rather than a fixed number of days after the order was placed—and in their first quarter with Klaviyo reviews, that new flow drove 70.5% QoQ growth in reviews per quarter.
“Personalization fuels more than just that net-new acquisition,” Flowers says. “Personalization is the backbone of your LTV strategy—it’s really going to be contingent on how well you’re able to curate a 1:1 relationship with a buyer.”
10 examples of Black Friday marketing tactics that work
How are other brands creating memorable digital Black Friday experiences? Here are a few example tactics that our experts see resonating during BFCM 2023.
1. Providing early sale access to email subscribers
They encouraged leads to sign up for their email list to get access to the BFCM sale an hour before everyone else—and it drove such major list growth that the first day of the sale exceeded all expectations.
“We drove more revenue day one than we had projected for the entire week of Black Friday,” says Lindsay McClelland, VP of marketing at Little Sleepies.
We drove more revenue day one than we had projected for the entire week of Black Friday.
2. Partnering with other brands on Black Friday promotions and sales
Clarke sees brands supporting each other as a trend that will only grow in 2023.
Last year, she created a collaboration-heavy BFCM content strategy with olive oil brand Graza—every single element of their Friendsgiving guide, a compendium of recipes and hosting tips, was created in partnership with another brand.
“It was very much taking a community-driven approach to Black Friday Cyber Monday,” Clarke explains. “The idea was, why not add another megaphone to this?”
It was very much taking a community-driven approach to Black Friday Cyber Monday. The idea was, why not add another megaphone to this?
Content partners also bring in new expertise, Clarke notes, so Graza can publish authoritative pieces on topics outside their brand’s specific niche.
She sees this trend extending into online sales, too. Just look at weighted workout bangle brand Bala’s Movement Store—a shop that sells wellness-related products from partner brands like Beyond Yoga and Beast Health, in addition to their own line.
Brands can “curate other brands that they know their customers are already shopping elsewhere, or that they think will increase use of their own products and help one-time customers stay,” Clarke explains.
Clarke sees digital boutiques like Bala’s popping up on more brand websites during BFCM, monetized via tools like affiliate fees.
3. Sending daily (or more-than-daily) marketing emails
Frequency matters, especially when you’re not offering discounts that are ultra-steep, says Tumasonis.
“Stay top of mind,” she advises. “Don’t be scared to send an email every day.”
For example: Little Sleepies sent email marketing campaigns at least daily during BFCM 2022. Some days, they even sent two sends—one in the morning to their full list, and one in the evening to people who had engaged with the first email, but hadn’t made it to checkout.
They more than doubled their BFCM revenue from email YoY.
4. Trying a countdown clock in your emails
A countdown timer creates a sense of urgency and excitement. Proof: One appears onstage before Taylor Swift’s grand entrance on the Eras Tour.
Countdown clocks can work in Black Friday marketing to remind your target audience of a limited-time offer.
Last year, Little Sleepies embedded a clock counting down to the end of their holiday sale in many of their sends in their daily campaigns—and it helped drive 138.2% YoY growth in their email revenue during their BFCM sale.
5. Sending a last-minute offer to active-on-site shoppers
Maternity and baby boutique Caden Lane took an interesting approach to final-hours messaging during BFCM 2022: They sent out a last-minute flash discount email to customers who had recently browsed or added an item to their cart, but hadn’t yet purchased.
“That one send pushed us over the finish line,” says Caden Lane CMO Bryant Jaquez: The boutique hit their revenue and margin goals for the holiday.
6. Running abandonment flows, plural
Tecovas had 4 highly optimized abandonment flows live on their site during BFCM 2022—two of them new:
- Abandoned check-out
- Cart abandonment
- New: browse abandonment
- New: abandoned site
Doubling the number of live shopping cart abandonment flows helped Tecovas more than 2x their revenue from flows during BFCM sale—revenue from flows jumped 138.8% YoY.
7. Giving loyal customers a VIP discount
With Klaviyo, it’s easy to create a segment of your most-engaged customers and loyalty program members and reward them during BFCM—and as a consumer, Tumasonis always appreciates a VIP-specific incentive.
“Even if it’s an extra 5-10% and it’s not going to affect your bottom line too much, I think it is really impactful,” she explains.
It sends the message that you appreciate your existing customers, even in a season where you’re acquiring a lot of new ones.
8. Giving Black Friday emails a distinctive look
Your Black Friday emails should stand out—even to your most engaged email subscribers.
That means you can’t repurpose the same templates you typically use for the holiday shopping season.
If you’ve never built a custom email in your life, do it for Black Friday Cyber Monday.
“If you’ve never built a custom email in your life, do it for Black Friday Cyber Monday,” advises Marin. “Your audience will open up that email and it’s going to be clear from the first second that that’s a Black Friday special.”
First impressions matter. Design accordingly.
9. Offering a photogenic surprise gift with purchase
Clarke worked with Graza on exactly this during November 2022. The brand sent out free illustrated menus and place cards with orders, designed to echo Graza’s visuals branding.
“Graza is an ingredient, so it’s not visible when it’s being used,” Clarke explains. “These place settings helped people set their tables and create a stylistic meal while increasing the odds we’d be photographed and posted about on social media.”
Graza got glowing feedback on their Friendsgiving campaign, and did indeed see social media posts about the gifts—which helped the brand expand its reach without relying on paid advertising. In fact, Graza only ran one paid promotion during the 2022 holidays.
10. Taking a proactive approach to support
Last year, Tumasonis had an amazing experience with customer service at Cay Skin that guaranteed she’d buy from them again.
She placed an order over BFCM, and the shipment was delayed—though not so much that it arrived after Christmas.
The brand apologized for the delay and sent her a $20 coupon. Then, in March, they followed up with another apology: a full-size free product and another coupon code.
Cay Skin impressed Tumasonis by “proactively getting ahead” of negative sentiment around the delay, and going “above and beyond in terms of making me a fan again.”
“I will 100% shop with them again,” she adds.
Get ready for the holiday rush where it happens—online
It’s not just Cyber Monday anymore. The whole BFCM weekend is now digital-first.
You can’t surprise and delight customers with epic in-store holiday displays or bargain basement doorbuster deals. Today, doorbuster deals are most likely discount codes sent out via email, anyway.
But online BFCM is winnable. You just need to start planning early, build on what’s already performing well for your brand, and take a few big, creative swings—like a free gift, or an all-new custom email design.
If you’re a marketer, ’tis the season to hit your goals and sharpen your competitive edge.
3 Black Friday marketing FAQs
1. How do you create urgency and drive more sales for Black Friday?
Embed countdown clocks in your emails, and send out final-hours messaging to customers who’ve engaged with your sale emails, but haven’t yet purchased.
For extra urgency, you could try a series of shorter-term deals, instead of a constant 8-day sale. More final hours to count down to!
2. How do you plan for increased website traffic during Black Friday?
Use Google’s PageSpeed Module to identify any elements slowing down your site’s load speed, like too-big images—and optimize any pop-ups and sign-up modules in advance, to maximize your odds of staying in touch with visitors that don’t convert.
3. How do you track and measure the success of Black Friday marketing campaigns?
Look at YoY growth in holiday revenue, but also track your margins—monitoring coupon code redemption and average discount rate.
You’ll also want to track how customers who bought during Black Friday—especially for the first time—behave during the year ahead. If they’re coming back again and again, it can justify lower—or slightly negative—BFCM margins.