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Black Friday Email Strategy and Examples

Black Friday is one of the busiest one-day shopping events of the year. How should you optimize your Black Friday emails so your brand stands out?

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Black Friday is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Not coincidentally, it spurs one of the year’s heaviest email streams. Its nearest online rival is Cyber Monday, three days later.

With average open rates hovering around 10 percent on general promotional emails, you can’t assume that your customers and subscribers will even see your Black Friday emails, let alone open them over the hundreds or thousands of other Black Friday emails descending on their mailboxes.

And those email marketing campaigns start earlier every year. According to the data we’ve collected from thousands of ecommerce brands, the Black Friday flow begins before Halloween, ramping up fast between 10 days and two weeks before the floodgates open during Black Friday Week.

Many brands also continue sending Black Friday campaigns during Black Friday weekend, extending the holiday until Cyber Monday.

Standing out with your Black Friday email campaigns is hard, but not impossible if you have a solid Black Friday strategy. Pull in every bit of customer intelligence you have to lay the groundwork. Use technology advances and tactics such as interactive emails and tactical message resends to boost engagement, and make sure that your Black Friday email subject lines are different from what your competitors are sending.

Last but definitely not least, draw inspiration from some of the best Black Friday emails from leading brands. We’ve put together a list of great Black Friday email examples below, along with some pointers on how to leverage their strategies.

Black Friday Email Examples

Zig while others zag

Like more and more consumer brands, Patagonia’s corporate values include supporting environmental groups.

However, they’re one of only a handful of brands that focus their Black Friday sales on generating donations for charitable causes. We picked this Black Friday campaign because it serves two purposes: strengthening Patagonia’s brand image as a charitable brand and making customers feel good about their Black Friday shopping.

We also like how succinctly the email subject line summarizes how Patagonia always donates one percent of its sales to charity, but will donate 100 percent of its Black Friday proceeds. Plus, the main call-to-action button doesn’t lead to the online store—it goes to a list of charity groups subscribers can get involved with.

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Use wish lists to generate traffic

This Black Friday email example from Modcloth proves that Black Friday email designs don’t need to be salesy and in-your-face to be effective. The Black Friday subject line asks subscribers what they’re wishing for, rather than flaunting a discount. The CTA is not to “buy” or “shop,” but to start wishing.

This Black Friday email design is simple and the email copy short, telling the recipient how they can create wish lists for the items they’ve been eyeing and share them with friends. By doing so, Modcloth focuses the recipient’s attention on getting something, rather than spending money buying something. But you can be sure that people will be tempted to shop for items on their own wish lists. As a bonus, Modcloth gets customer data whenever someone creates a wish list and extra traffic whenever a wish list is shared and clicked on.

This is an awesome Black Friday email that looks forward to all the holiday shopping that’s about to commence and go on until the end of the year.

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Engage, then convert

Just like Modcloth, Vans uses this Black Friday email to engage their subscribers. But instead of asking them to create a wish list, Vans actually created a game for them. It’s much more tempting to click the “Play Game” call-to-action than it is to click yet another “Shop Now” button. And when the subscriber is having fun, they probably won’t mind too much when Vans tries to sell to them during the game.

Notice that while there’s no clear Black Friday deal advertized, Vans does mention right at the top of the email that it offers free shipping on all orders.

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Be exclusive

Another way to stand out on Black Friday is by offering a new or exclusive product, like the one in this email. Two key elements in this Black Friday campaign are the subject line (“Black Friday: an exclusive CHANEL palette”) and the headline: “Black Friday exclusive.” The minimalist email design with an animated GIF highlights the product, while the black background subtly adds a Black Friday theme.

When your target audience is all about exclusivity as Chanel’s is, an exclusive Black Friday offer like this one works well.

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Play with dynamic content

There’s lots to like in this sale email! The countdown timer at the top reminds customers how long they have before the Black Friday sale ends, creating a sense of urgency. The Black Friday discounts, shipping deals, and calls to action stand out on both desktop and mobile. Plus, the map at the bottom shows the exact location of the closest store based on the recipient’s location. This is much more user friendly than making your customers click a “Find Nearest Store” link.

Lastly, the color scheme of this email, the Christmas wreath replacing the “o” in the brand name, and the image of the big bauble all drive excitement for the start of the holiday season.

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Don't ignore your competitors

The first thing you need to achieve is to get subscribers to open your email. During the Black Friday sale period, you’re up against even more competitor emails than usual in your customers’ inboxes. You could simply ignore them and try to be the most creative, or you could use the competition to your advantage. That’s exactly what Gentleman’s Box does when pointing out (literally, with emojis) that their Black Friday deals are better than those in the email above and below them in the recipient’s inbox. Theirs is one of the best Black Friday email subject lines we’ve come across and definitely catches the reader’s attention.

The email itself is simple, showcasing great deals on various products against a black background. The different CTA buttons accompanying the products lead to their respective product pages, making it easier for customers to shop what they want.

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Offer a free gift

You don’t always have to offer crazy discounts during Black Friday. As a Black Friday-exclusive, Nice Laundry recreated their most popular pair of socks in a new color and offer them for free with any purchase.

If that isn’t enough of an incentive, the offer is only valid for one day, creating a sense of urgency. Plus, it prompts customers to take advantage of free shipping throughout the US.

This email targets both loyal customers and those into exclusives, and you can be sure it got good click-through rates.

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Send a last-minute reminder

Since Black Friday sales last for a limited time only, it’s a good idea to let your email subscribers know when the final hours of the sale have arrived to create a sense of urgency. Subscription service Meowbox lets its subscribers know it’s their last chance to get 20 percent off with this great Black Friday email. The brand includes an attention-grabbing animated GIF to showcase a variety of its boxes. To increase click-throughs, the email includes toys that were part of past boxes that subscribers can now buy individually.

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Send a VIP offer

Outdoor brand Merrell offers an exclusive 25 percent off on full-price items to a select portion of its email list—aka, its VIPs. The email places the discount code for the offer front and center against a popping white background, making it easy for subscribers to use. The eye-catching but simple GIF draws subscribers’ attention to the products they could be purchasing.

The main Black Friday message is followed by a list of the best deals on specific store categories, and the email ends by taking into account the holiday shopping season by suggesting “the perfect stocking stuffer.”

Lastly, note how Merrell manages to stay true to its brand identity with high-quality images of its products in outdoor settings. It’s easy to get tacky during the sales season, so make sure to stick to a clean email design that matches your brand.

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Put the product before the sale

If you sell high-quality, specialized products, you may not need to send Black Friday emails full of discounts. This email by Louis Garneau is interesting because it only displays one discount—and that discount doesn’t appear until the second half of the email. The main idea that Louis Garneau wants to get across is that every serious cyclist needs a pair of decent gloves and that the brand uses glove technology that makes every ride more pleasant. If it weren’t for the big “BLACK FRIDAY” at the top of the email, and the black background, this email could have been send at any time of the year.

This sends a message (perhaps inadvertently) that the brand is confident enough in their product that they don’t feel the need to offer crazy discounts to win clicks.

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Give them early access

A great way to engage your subscribers before Black Friday is to offer them a sneak peek of your sale or access to discounts before they go public. Burt’s Bees uses a fun animated GIF to reveal its offers and presents different types of product categories as gift guides to help its subscribers with their Christmas shopping. Instead of simple product images, the brand uses a mix of photos and animated GIFs to keep the recipient engaged until the end of the email.

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Black Friday Email Marketing Best Practices

Use the strategies illustrated in the Black Friday email examples above to create or improve your own Black Friday strategy, and keep them in mind when you design your Black Friday emails.

Want even more Black Friday email examples? Sign up and browse our database for examples from hundreds of leading brands. You can also check our curated SMS marketing examples to complement your email campaigns.

Then, combine the inspiration you’ve gathered with the strategies below to create a Black Friday email template, run A/B tests, and adapt your Black Friday messaging based on what works and what doesn’t. You can also create different email templates for different segments of your audience.

Don't be a copycat

How many “Black Friday starts NOW!” subject lines do you see in your own inbox? Your customers know it’s Black Friday. Tell them something they don’t know. Highlight your offers or impart urgency (see next item) to use your precious subject line space more effectively.

Blow up your offers

The “exploding offer” is tailor-made for Black Friday. Real-time innovations like countdown timers (ticking watches, counters, and other timekeepers) create a sense of urgency by literally showing the recipient how their chance to jump on your sale is decreasing by the minute. For guaranteed impact, specify the time limit in the subject line: “Two hours left,” not “ends shortly.”

Send different offers on different days

Increased email frequency is expected on heavy ecommerce days like Black Friday. You can take advantage of that, but also keep in mind that repetitive or irrelevant marketing messages will turn people off and make your emails invisible in the inbox. If your Black Friday weekend strategy entails that you send emails every day, send different daily deals each time.

Alternatively, you can build promotional breaks into your campaigns. For example, include an email that tells subscribers more about your brand mission or invites them to read a blog post.

Resend your Black Friday emails if needed

The Black Friday email you send at 9 a.m. could get buried under an avalanche of competing messages in your subscribers’ inbox. Consider resending it later in the day when traffic is lighter, especially if you didn’t get the traction you expected.

Two approaches can drive more action:

  • Resend the original message, but only to those who did not open or act on it the first time.
  • Revise the message and subject line slightly, and send to people who opened and/or clicked but did not convert. Let them know your offer is still good but about to expire.

You’ll also want to track your opens across different send times to find the right window to reach and engage your audience and drive sales.

Want to know when your competitors are sending their Black Friday emails? Sign up for MailCharts and take advantage of our database, in which we track the send times of thousands of ecommerce brands.

Use pre-headers to deliver important information

While you want to put your core message in your subject line, you can use the pre-header to share important secondary information such as store hours, extra offers, or CTAs, as well as any other type of information that could entice customers to open your email. This gives you more space in the subject line to focus on key offers or themes.

Send an early teaser email

Teaser emails are a great way to attract attention—and keep it—before Black Friday arrives. According to our data, some retailers send their first Black Friday-themed campaigns in late October. The volume of Black Friday emails then grows steadily before peaking on the day itself.

With this in mind, send your first email for Black Friday a bit in advance. Not only do you want consumers to associate your store with the holiday, but they’ll likely be mapping out their shopping strategy ahead of time.

Let shoppers know if you’ll be open (if you have physical stores), what your hours will be, and what deals they should expect. Many department and general stores, like Target, Walmart, and Kohl’s, send out virtual catalogs with their most compelling discounts.

Keep in mind that 16 percent of Black Friday emails are sent after the holiday, meaning there’s an additional opportunity to create revenue.

By following the above strategies to optimize your Black Friday email marketing campaigns, you can help your brand stand out on one of the busiest days of the year for shopping and email marketing.