Why You Need a Post-Cyber Weekend Holiday Marketing Strategy

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on November 22, 2019. It’s been updated to reflect the most current data and insights. 

This is the third in a series of holiday email marketing benchmark reports. 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.

You’ve planned for months, carefully crafted your discounts, segmented audiences, nailed your creative—you’re almost 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 25 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, you have three more days than last year to communicate with your customers between Cyber Monday and Christmas Eve. 

The holiday shopping season is the most competitive time of year to win the attention of shoppers. And this year, with a greater shift to online shopping amid the coronavirus pandemic, it’ll be even more competitive, which means that 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 2019 holiday season to compete and what types of discounts performed best across different industries—dollars-off or percentage-off promotions. 

The data—based on 427,000 campaigns sent by 19,500 brands during the holidays last year (October 15-December 31, 2019) representing more than $1.4 billion 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 consumers gear up for a very unusual holiday shopping season, 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 and Hannah Schlieifer of Klaviyo’s business intelligence team also dug into last year’s post-Cyber Weekend data from that same 427,000 campaigns and 19,500 brands I mentioned earlier. They 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, read about 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, 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, dig into how brands are using shipping-focused promotions to compete after Cyber Monday.

 

A look at post-Cyber Weekend competition

Of the 427,457 campaigns sent during the 2019 holiday season that Evan and Hannah analyzed, brands sent approximately 112,400 campaigns between Tuesday, December 4, 2019 (the first day following Cyber Monday) through December 23, 2019. 

Of the total campaigns sent, 38 percent contained a discount in the subject line, which was slightly less than the year before (42 percent). While brands sent more non-discount-focused campaigns per day during this timeframe (3,464) than discount-focused campaigns (2,155), 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. 

It’s also interesting to note that the percent of campaigns with a discount focus decreased from 2018 to 2019 (42 percent vs 38 percent).

 

Campaigns sent post-Cyber Weekend 2019

Timeframe: Tuesday 12/4 - Monday 12/23 (2019)
Total campaign sends 112,397
Non-discount-focused campaign sends (total) 69,281 (62%)
Discount-focused campaign sends (total) 43,116 (38%)
Average non-discount-focused campaign sends (per day) 3,464
Average discount-focused campaign sends (per day) 2,155

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 3X as Thanksgiving week begins and an 8X increase during Cyber Weekend. But what about afterward?

Last year, competition remained fierce for consumers’ attention after Cyber Weekend—not just with discount-focused campaigns but with overall daily campaigns. 

In 2019, average daily discount-focused sends decreased by 29 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. 

Clearly, brands are still using this timeframe as an opportunity to engage with their customers, even if they’re not pushing discounts as consistently throughout.

While the campaign sends consistently decrease week-over-week following Thanksgiving week, they do slightly increase again in the final days before Christmas. You can attribute this spike to how brands typically do a final push for sales during this period.

 

Average campaign sends per day (2019)

2019 timeframe (Sunday-Saturday) Average non-discount-focused campaign sends per day Average discount-focused campaign sends per day
Thanksgiving Week (11/24-11/30) 4,659 6,156
Week 1 (12/1-12/7) // includes Sunday and Cyber Monday 3,685 4,357
Week 2 (12/8-12/14) 3,536 2,165
Week 3 (12/15-12/21) 3,347 1,939
Week 4 (12/22-12/28 // includes Christmas) 2,228 1,813
Final days (12/29-12/31) 2,272 1,875

But what does engagement look like for these discount-focused sends after Cyber Weekend? Campaigns featuring a discount-focused CTAs also started seeing a gradual decline in median open rate beginning November 25th (three days before Thanksgiving) but saw a small spike on December 12th (13 percent), while open rates dropped to their lowest point on December 3rd (the day after Cyber Monday) at 11 percent.

 

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 this year when carriers are already struggling to keep up with the surge in online orders.

Evan and Hannah dug into how brands were using shipping-focused messages in email subject lines during the post-Cyber Weekend timeframe, as well. 

Across the two weeks before Christmas, shipping-focused campaigns only accounted for a very small proportion (four percent) of the total campaign sends (3,280) during this timeframe. Data shows a 29 percent increase in shipping-focused calls-to-action (CTAs) during the third week of December from the second week, but even then in week three, brands only sent 1,846 total shipping-focused campaigns—up from 1,434 in the prior week. 

This year, though, it’s important to be aware of one major difference—unpredictable shipping and delivery times. This means that while last year the third week of December experienced the most shipping-focused campaign sends, they might peak as early as the second or first week in December this year to allow consumers plenty of time to get their gifts in time.

Instead, this year, you might expect that the third week of December will be used to promote options such as gift cards and buy online pick up in store (BOPIS).

 

Shipping-focused campaign sends by week (2019)

2019 timeframe (Sunday-Saturday) Shipping-focused campaign sends per week Non-shipping-focused campaign sends per week
Week 2 (12/8-12/14) 1,434 38,478
Week 3 (12/15-12/21) 1,846 35,165

Engagement with shipping-focused campaigns should also be of note. There were a few peaks in the average open rate for shipping-focused campaigns on December 4th (the Wednesday after Cyber Monday) and 10th at 17 percent. After the 10th, average open rates generally decline until December 29th when there is a small spike back up to 15 percent. 

Interestingly, while December 4th sees some of the highest open rates post-Cyber Weekend, December 3rd (the Tuesday following Cyber Monday) shows the lowest average open rate at 12 percent. This may be because people need a break from all their Cyber Weekend shopping after Monday, so it may be best to hold off on those “Extended Sale” emails on Tuesday.

A breakdown by day of the week

Finally, let’s take a look at the post-Cyber Weekend competition by day of the week. 

Evan and Hannah 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. However, average email open rates on Saturdays and Sundays were only one point lower (15 percent) compared to the average email open rates for weekdays (16 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. On the weekends, there tend to be more things that distract shoppers and keep them from opening their inbox regularly, let alone your email. That said, it’s always worth a test, especially since consumers will be spending more of their time indoors this year and less time celebrating the holidays at parties and other large social gatherings as they have in past years. 

Looking across the rest of the weeks, weekdays were relatively similar though Tuesday and Friday emerged as more competitive for discount-focused campaign sends while Tuesday narrowly beat Thursday 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
Sunday 2,408 1,529 3,937
Monday 3,310 1,947 5,257
Tuesday 4,032 2,229 6,261
Wednesday 3,626 2,158 5,784
Thursday 3,851 2,031 5,882
Friday 3,544 2,225 5,769
Saturday 2,779 1,797 4,577

How to cook up a winning post-Cyber Weekend marketing strategy

Last year, there were 22 days in between Cyber Monday and Christmas Eve—three days less than you have to work with this year. 

To help you navigate these 25 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—while keeping in mind the many changes this year has brought and the way it’s shifted consumer shopping behavior.

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. 

First, the star ingredient in that tried and true recipe—marketing automation, or flows as we call them. And with online shopping levels at an all-time high, now more than ever, it makes sense to check-in on your flows and take a closer look 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. Perhaps you want to adjust your post-purchase flow with a more empathetic approach to peoples’ current situations or to properly thank them for their holiday purchases after a difficult year. Lastly, consider communicating shipping updates in your transactional flows.

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. But 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 offer for a free gift with purchase you’ve been contemplating. Or try out a buy online pickup in-store offer if you have a physical storefront—last-minute gifters will thank you for providing a safe option for in-person shopping amid unpredictable shipping times. 

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.

 

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