Marketing strategy

Black Friday Email Marketing Strategy: The Retail Perspective

Some people call the holidays “the most wonderful time of the year”. But let’s be honest, if you’re an email marketer working for a retail brand, this is also the craziest and busiest time of the year. You might feel like the whole organization is counting on you to get it right.

Messaging strategy boosts web traffic, foot traffic and sales during the holiday shopping season. Black Friday email marketing efforts get it all started. So what’s your plan for this shopping season?

Curious about what your peers are doing in the email world? You’re lucky! Pathwire and Ascend2 conducted a survey of B2C marketers to find out how different industries and types of businesses are approaching email marketing in the weeks leading up to Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday. See all the results in the exclusive report, Email is the new black [Friday].

Arguably, Retail is the most relevant B2C vertical during this Black Friday consumer spending. That’s why we’ve decided to break down the results for this segment to uncover information that will help retailers with their holiday email marketing strategies.


  1. Meet the retail traders
  2. Black Friday email frequency
  3. Best Email Tactics for Black Friday
  4. Return on investment of Black Friday emails
  5. Learn more about Black Friday email marketing

Meet the Retail Email Marketers

Before you dive into the results of retail traders, you probably want to know a bit more about who these people are. Let’s take a look at the retail respondents in our survey to provide a bit of context.

Retail email marketers made up 20% of survey respondents, which included five other B2C verticals. Thus, retail organizations were well represented. In our report, the term “Retail” included any brand that identified with online shopping, grocery shopping, or fashion.

Of these retailers, 45% work in small businesses, 21% in medium-sized businesses and 34% in businesses.

Pie chart of respondents to the Black Friday Retail survey

We have defined a business as any business with more than 500 employees, small businesses as those with 50 or fewer employees, and the mid-market as any business with a workforce of between 50 and 500.

When applying the results to your own Black Friday email marketing efforts, keep in mind that different sizes of businesses will have different approaches. For example, small retailers are more likely to be local stores. These businesses may depend as much, if not more, on foot traffic in physical stores as they do on online sales. Corporate retailers will have more resources and much larger budgets than smaller brands.

Factors like this only serve as a reminder that at the end of the day, your Black Friday email marketing strategy will always be unique to your business and your followers. Of course, we’re all special, but at the same time looking at a larger perspective can open your eyes to trends and possibilities.

Black Friday email frequency for retailers

Staying ahead during the holidays is a big deal for retailers. There’s a lot of noise (I’m not talking about boring singers here) and a lot of Black Friday emails are sent throughout November. Our survey found that retailers tend to have an aggressive cadence this time of year.

Black Friday Email Cadence Pie Chart in RetailRetail segment responses

Almost a quarter of respondents (24%) in our survey send multiple campaigns per day in the weeks leading up to Black Friday. In total, 72% of retail email marketers send at least two emails per week.

While retailers appear to have a higher sending frequency than other B2C verticals, the rest are not far behind. The majority of respondents in Entertainment and Home & Auto, for example, say they send at least two emails per week. (69% for Home & Auto. 61% for Entertainment). 60% of all respondents reported a bi-weekly or higher cadence for Black Friday email sends.

On the other side of the spectrum, 48% of people working in professional services send less than one Black Friday email per week. These traders are not necessarily slacking off. Black Friday email marketing is more likely to make less sense for their brands. So not everyone is so prolific with Black Friday campaigns.

Best Black Friday Email Tactics For Retailers

We asked respondents to select “advanced email marketing tactics” from a list of eight possibilities. They could choose any tactics that applied to their Black Friday email campaigns.

Here’s how that list breaks down for email marketers:

  1. Personalized product recommendations: 52%
  2. Dynamic content based on product price / availability: 52%
  3. Click to add to cart / shopping functionality: 41%
  4. Interactive email design: 28%
  5. Cart Abandonment Automations: 21%
  6. Integrated video / animation: 21%
  7. Split test content and design: 17%
  8. Dynamic content based on subscriber location: 17%
  9. None of the above: 14%

Personalization and personalization of Black Friday emails

Personalizing emails with products that match a subscriber’s preferences is something more than half of retailers do. However, it’s important to remember that vacations are a bit different. Your subscribers mainly buy gifts for friends and family, which means you might want to adjust your recommendations and list segmentation strategy.

More than half of retail email marketers also include dynamic content in campaigns, updating things like product price and availability every time the email is opened. This tactic can be extremely useful in an age when stocks can run out and prices and promotions are constantly changing. This type of dynamic email content keeps customers informed, helps customer service reduce calls, and protects your brand reputation.

Holiday shopping in the inbox

The ability to add items to an online shopping cart or even purchase something in an email is a tactic that dramatically reduces friction. Fewer clicks equals fewer distractions and a higher likelihood that your followers will make purchases.

At 41%, our survey results indicate that retail merchants are the most likely to use the add to cart feature in email campaigns. Other B2C verticals likely to use this tactic include health and beauty (38%) and entertainment (35%). These types of businesses are also likely to have e-commerce operations that sell physical or digital products online.

Abandoned cart emails are one area where retailers (and frankly all segments) could do more. Only 21% of retail email marketers say they use cart abandonment automations for Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday. However, as consumers move from site to site looking for the best deals, it may be a good idea to remind them to come back and buy what they left in their cart before it is too late.

Return on investment of Black Friday emails for retailers

When you have a solid strategy, email marketing almost always pays off a lot. Data & Marketing Association (DMA) 2020 statistics suggest that email generates $ 35 for every $ 1 invested in the channel. That’s an impressive return on investment (ROI).

But how do email marketers feel after the Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday rush is over?

We asked survey participants to what extent they agreed with the following statement:

“We are seeing a significant increase in email ROI from our Black Friday email promotions.”

Retail Black Friday ROI GraphRetail segment responses

Interestingly, at 27%, the retail segment was the second most likely to to disagree with this statement, exceeded only by professional services at 30%. Of course, it’s worth mentioning that 73% of retail merchants see significant ROI from Black Friday campaigns.

But isn’t the holidays when retail shines? Shouldn’t retail email marketers raise their champagne glasses to celebrate a job well done? We understood. Some retail marketing teams are feeling a little bit disappointed after all this madness. Maybe the expectations for Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday were a little too high? Just remember that your efforts are worth more than a weekend a year!

Email inboxes get very crowded as the Thanksgiving calendar approaches in the United States, and the goals set for this time of year can be woefully ambitious, if not unrealistic. There might be a bit of a letdown for retail marketing teams once Black Friday is over.

In general, it seems that retail email marketers feel somewhat overwhelmed with the ROI of Black Friday campaigns. Over 75% of respondents from all segments moderately agree or moderately disagree with our survey statement. Only 3% strongly disagree that Black Friday emails produce a significant ROI, while 21% strongly agree with the statement.

Bar chart of different B2C Black Friday vertical surveys

Learn more about Black Friday email marketing

We would all love to be excited about the results of our Black Friday email marketing efforts, right? So, wouldn’t it be interesting to learn more about the habits of top performing marketers?

That’s one thing you’ll find out in Pathwire’s full report of this investigation, Email is the new black [Friday]. We’ll also provide you with expert advice to optimize your email marketing efforts while on vacation. So get your free report now and start exploring the results further.