Changing trends for Black Friday and how marketers can adapt


Black Friday has long been viewed as the biggest single shopping day of the year. But in recent years, changing consumer preferences is transforming how shoppers take advantage of this holiday – and retailers need to adapt quickly or risk getting left behind.

The thought of braving the elements to stand in long lines AND wrestle with other shoppers for a one-day only doorbuster deal is gradually turning off more and more shoppers. As illustrated by the two notable retail trends from Black Friday 2015, holiday shoppers no longer rely exclusively on in-store deals and are spreading their purchases through the weekend: 

  1. Holiday shopping data from 2015 showed online spending from a smartphone or tablet reached a record $799 million over the 5-day holiday period starting on Thanksgiving, suggesting that consumers are increasingly favoring digital and mobile channels over brick-and-mortar stores1.
  2. Black Friday-themed emails deployed on the weekend AFTER the holiday significantly outperformed base communications in term of engagement2.

Based on these findings, here’s a Black Friday campaign guide highlighting two major tactics email marketers should consider implementing this year. The guide also features creative on how 3 brands leveraged those tactics to generate high engagement for their Black Friday campaigns in 2015.

[Sears] Subject line: OFFICIAL UPDATE! We're so happy that Black Friday Thanksgiving Doorbusters start online at 8 pm. Don't miss out!

The Black Friday-themed email from Sears generated a high 19.6% open rate likely due to the clear excitement conveyed as they announced the start of Black Friday online. Sent just two days before the holiday, the inclusion of a start time for their doorbuster deals worked well to build anticipation especially for early bird bargain hunters already itching to uncover what special offers had on hand ahead of the in-store reveal on Thanksgiving Day. 

[Ulta] Subject line: Black Friday Starts NOW + Free 15pc Gift Online Only!

Ulta’s Black Friday-themed email used a simple yet effective subject line that communicated both urgency and acknowledgement of their online shopper base. In addition to announcing the start of their Black Friday sale, the highly valuable, online-only free gift offer likely compelled action from many curious subscribers, contributing to a high open rate of 19.5%.   

[Nordstrom] Subject line: Extra 25% off selected Black Friday deals | Magnanni: sleek sneakers

Nordstrom’s Black Friday-themed email marketing campaign in 2015 started on the day before Black Friday and concluded on the Sunday after the holiday. Interestingly the emails sent over the weekend period, post-Black Friday achieved much better engagement rates compared to emails sent prior. The email below for example, sent on the Sunday resonated with many shoppers that either missed in-store sales or opted to bargain hunt from home, likely contributing to its impressive open rate of 22.5%

For more insights, strategies and creative examples related to Black Friday and all other Q4 holidays, check out our Holiday Toolkit.

Author Bio

Gurjit Sandhu

Gurjit Sandhu has been in digital and direct marketing for over 6 years, delivering marketing and event management solutions in both fast-paced corporate and entrepreneurial environments. Energized by strategic thinking and the power of marketing technology, she collaborates closely with cross functional teams at Yes Lifecycle Marketing to spearhead multi-channel communications that highlight product innovations in email marketing.