This is the third installment in a series of articles that looks at the ecommerce holiday marketing landscape. In this article, get a glimpse into the competition that occurs for consumers’ attention after Cyber Weekend, with a special look at which days of the week seem to be the most competitive and tips on how you can navigate them. Competition is defined as the total number of campaigns sent on a daily basis.
With one week to go, I’m sure, by now, you’re ready to get this thing done. You’ve planned for months, carefully crafted your discounts, segmented audiences, nailed your creative—you’re ready to own Cyber Weekend and count all that revenue that helps your brand grow. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Once Cyber Monday’s come and gone, you still have 22 days left to make the most of the 2019 holiday shopping season. That’s right, thanks to the way things fall on the calendar this year, there are only 22 days between Cyber Monday and Christmas Eve—six days less than last year, nearly a full week.
The holiday shopping season is one of, if not, the most competitive times of year to win the attention of shoppers. And with fewer days to make those sales this year, any tips to navigate those crowded inboxes and drive more revenue are helpful.
Over the last two weeks, we’ve looked at how brands used discount-focused emails during the 2018 holiday season to compete and what types of discounts performed best across different industries—dollars-off or percentage-off promotions.
The data—based on 135,000 emails sent by 5,000 brands during the 2018 holiday season (November 1-December 31, 2018) representing $425 million dollars in sales—clearly shows there are some specific points during the holiday marketing season you should consider when it comes to sending your emails so your brand a better chance of standing out from all the noise.
While Thanksgiving Day parades are about to start and holiday shopping madness gets underway, there are some things you should know about the post-Cyber Weekend selling season to help you compete during this important time of year.
Evan Cover on our business intelligence team dug into last year’s post-Cyber Weekend data from that same dataset I mentioned earlier. He looked at the campaigns brands sent and the discounts they used to compete, and shared some key insights about the most competitive days leading up to Christmas Eve you should be aware of.
First, let’s look at the sheer number of emails brands sent following Cyber Weekend and explore how they used both discount and non-discount-focused campaigns during this timeframe. Then, let’s take a look at campaign volume by both week and day so you can decide how to best strategize and optimize your post-Cyber Weekend holiday marketing strategies. Plus, we’ll dig into how brands are using shipping-focused promotions to compete after Cyber Monday, as well.
A look at post-Cyber Weekend competition
Of the 135,000 campaigns sent during the 2018 holiday season that Evan analyzed, brands sent approximately 57,000 campaigns between Tuesday, November 27, 2018 (the first day following Cyber Monday) through December 23, 2018. Of the total campaigns sent, 42 percent contained a discount in the subject line. While brands sent more non-discount-focused campaigns per day during this timeframe (1,239) than discount-focused campaigns (880), it’s still a very competitive space to win your customers’ attention as brands try to make their final push to hit the holiday goals.
Campaigns sent post-Cyber Weekend 2018
|Timeframe: Tuesday 11/27 - Sunday 12/23 (2018)|
|Total campaign sends||57,192|
|Non-discount-focused campaign sends (total)||33,444 (58%)|
|Discount-focused campaign sends (total)||23,748 (42%)|
|Average non-discount-focused campaign sends (per day)||1,239|
|Average discount-focused campaign sends (per day)||880|
A breakdown by week
Like you’ve seen in the previous installments of this series, when we stop talking about overall averages, there’s a lot more to dig into.
Data shows you can expect to see the average daily discount campaign sends to increase by 4X as Thanksgiving week begins and a 7X increase during Cyber Weekend. But what about afterwards?
Last year, competition remained fierce for consumers’ attention after Cyber Weekend—not just with discount-focused campaigns but with overall daily campaigns. In 2018, average daily discount-focused sends decreased by 57 percent during the second week of December, or rather the first full calendar week following Cyber Weekend, while the average volume of daily non-discount-focused campaigns remained consistent with the two preceding weeks.
During the third week of December, there was a spike in both the average number of daily non-discount-focused campaign sends and discount-focused campaign sends. Specifically, discount-focused campaigns increased by 31 percent (1,032 per day). Looking at the calendar in relation to Christmas, we can attribute this spike to how brands typically do a final push for sales during this period.
Average campaign sends per day (2018)
|2018 timeframe (Sunday-Saturday)||Average non-discount-focused campaign sends per day||Average discount-focused campaign sends per day|
|Thanksgiving Week (11/18-11/24)||1,484||2,161|
|Week 1 (11/25- 12/1 // includes Sunday and Cyber Monday||1,299||1,843|
|Week 2 (12/2-12/8)||1,245||788|
|Week 3 (12/9-12/15)||1,339||1,032|
|Week 4 (12/16-12/22)||1,229||765|
|Week 5 (12/22-12/29 // includes Christmas)||878||626|
|Final days (12/30-12/31)||813||688|
A look at shipping-focused calls-to-action
After Cyber Monday, shoppers know it starts to get dicey when it comes to making a purchase online and knowing they’ll receive it on time—especially without having to pay for expedited shipping.
Evan dug into how brands were using shipping-focused messages in email subject lines during the post-Cyber Weekend timeframe, as well.
Across the three weeks before Christmas, shipping-focused campaigns only accounted for a very small proportion (5 percent) of the total campaign sends (2,000) during this timeframe. Data shows a 161 percent increase in shipping-focused calls-to-action during the second and third week of December, but even then in week three, brands only sent 832 total shipping-focused campaigns—up from 319 in the prior week. Data showed some additional growth during week four, but it was a small portion of the total. Insightful yes, but not what we’d call conclusive.
What we did see conclusively was that campaigns featuring a shipping-focused CTA had a strong decline in their median open rates starting on December 21st. Median open rates move from 12 percent (December 14-20th) to eight percent on December 24th—a 33 percent decline. In comparison, campaigns that didn’t focus specifically on shipping also saw a decrease in median open rates during this time, but not as starkly as the decline for shipping-focused campaigns.
Shipping-focused campaign sends by week (2018)
|2018 timeframe (Sunday-Saturday)||Shipping-focused campaign sends per week||Non-shipping-focused campaign sends per week|
|Week 2 (12/2-12/8)||319||13,914|
|Week 3 (12/9-12/15)||832||15,768|
|Week 4 (12/16-12/22)||926||13,027|
A breakdown by day of the week
Finally, let’s take a look at the post-Cyber Weekend competition by day of the week. For the purposes of this analysis, we omitted Tuesday, November 27, 2018 (the day immediately following Cyber Monday) since it was a clear outlier with significant campaigns sent, both on the discount and non-discount side, so it ended up skewing the analysis.
Evan observed a few key items to note. Brands sent the fewest number of average daily campaign sends over the weekends during this timeframe—specifically discount-focused messages. Average email open rates on Saturdays and Sundays were only one point lower (14 percent) compared to the average email open rates for weekdays (15 percent.
Pro-tip: Saturdays and Sundays post-Cyber Weekend could be great days to test your messages since inbox competition is clearly lower. But couple your decision to test messages on these days with common sense and historical campaign analysis.
Have you seen your customers engage with emails over the weekend at other points during the year? If not, it might not make sense to send them on these days. If so, it’s worth a test.
While you’re an ecommerce marketer, you’re also a consumer yourself so keep in mind all of the things that tend to keep people busy on the weekends in December—holiday parties, holiday shopping, cocktails with friends, traveling to see family. These are all things that distract shoppers and keep them from opening their inbox regularly, let alone your email. That said, it’s always worth a test.
Looking across the rest of the weeks, weekdays were relatively similar though Friday emerged as more competitive for discount-focused campaign sends while Tuesday narrowly beat Friday for non-discount-focused campaigns.
Average campaign sends post-Cyber Weekend (by day)
|Day of the week||Average non-discount-focused campaign sends per day||Average discount-focused campaign sends per day||Average overall campaign sends per day|
How to cook up a winning post-Cyber Weekend marketing strategy
Last year, there were 28 days in between Cyber Monday and Christmas Eve—six days more than you have to work with this year and that can’t go unaddressed. If the competition for inbox attention looked steep last year, you can bet with only 22 days to win those sales this year, the competition will be even stronger.
To help you navigate these 22 days (and Cyber Weekend), use this data and the information from installment one and installment two of this series to find a winning recipe for your post-Cyber Weekend holiday marketing strategy this year.
Speaking of recipes, there are always two ways you can cook up your holiday marketing strategy. Follow the tried and true recipe—the stuff you know works —or the new recipe—the experiment that can potentially help you please even more shoppers beyond your expectations.
But here’s the secret: you can use both recipes to drive sales. Let’s take a look at how that works.
First, the star ingredient in that tried and true recipe—marketing automation, or flows as we call them.
With shopping levels at a yearly high, now more than ever it makes sense to check-in on your flows. If you haven’t set them up yet, check out this crash course to help you get them set up quickly.
If you’ve already set up your flows, take a closer look at them to make sure they’re optimized. Maybe it makes sense to use a holiday-focused subject line with your abandoned cart emails during this short timeframe. Or maybe you need to take a second look at your welcome series to make sure it’s current and reflects your brands the way you want it to at this time of year. Flows are always a crucial ingredient since they help you easily respond to the behaviors of your shoppers without taking any incremental actions.
Now, for that new recipe you’re thinking about testing this year—the experiment.
Since the holiday marketing season is so competitive and the stakes are high, it can be daunting to think about testing or trying a new approach. While you’re following that tried and true recipe, add a dash of something new to see if it kicks things up a notch.
Try something like a discount-focused campaign test on a Saturday or Sunday during December this year. Test out that free-shipping or expedited-shipping offer you’ve been contemplating. Or try out a buy online, pickup in-store offer if you have a physical storefront and encourage people to visit your brand in person—they may just find a few more things they like while they’re picking up their last-minute holiday gifts.
Stay tuned for the final installment of this series that’ll help you learn more about the marketing strategies you should use post-Christmas to win the dollars people received in the form of gift cards during the holidays.
Wondering when you should send your holiday marketing emails? Explore this live dashboard and view a heatmap to help you plan your strategy.
Time’s ticking. Need more insights, ideas, resources, and last-minute tips to help you have a successful Cyber Weekend? Check out the ecommerce holiday marketing hub.
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