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Black Friday Email Design: 5 Things to Avoid

Black Friday Email Design: 5 Things to Avoid

Email marketing might be more critical this time of year than ever. It starts right now, with your Black Friday email campaign. Last December, we told you about a huge shift in Black Friday marketing. Custora reported that while Black Friday email marketing usually lags behind online search, email marketing drove a remarkable 25.1% of Black Friday orders in 2015. Organic search (21.1%), paid search (16.3%), and social media (1.7%) followed behind.

With Black Friday 2016 just two weeks away, it’s time to make sure your email campaign is as effective as it can be. Here are five things you should avoid as you craft your Black Friday email design.

1. Don’t send just one email—consider a campaign

It’s not just about the email you send on Black Friday. To galvanize readers, you need a campaign that extends before and after the holiday. In a report by MailCharts, the company found that day-of Black Friday emails accounted for only 30% of the total Black Friday email volume. In fact, 16% of Black Friday emails were sent after the holiday.

Some retailers are already stirring up readers’ anticipation with early-November emails. We’ve already seen some come in from Home Depot, Overstock, Uncommon Goods, Best Buy, Target, and Amazon. Here’s what a recent email from Amazon Prime looked like (subject like: “[Recipient Name]: Countdown to Black Friday Deals Week”):amazon prime black friday email

As you can see, Amazon isn’t just starting its email campaign early; the company is starting to offer Black Friday deals early. In fact, Amazon launched its “Black Friday” sales site on November 1st.

Of course, we can’t all be Amazon, and weeks of promotions probably aren’t right for your audience. However, the takeaway is that you should consider sending at least one warm-up email to your audience in advance of the holiday and follow through with them afterward, too. For ideas and inspiration, read our post on email drip campaigns.

2. Don’t dilute your message

Black Friday is a once-a-year event that’s synonymous with particularly steep discounts and deals. Readers want to know they’re getting one of your very best offers. So don’t dilute your promotion by sending a cluttered email that looks like a website. This one from Home Depot has too much going on:

home depot black friday email

Put your readers first. Show them content that’s specific, relevant, and easy to understand. Instead of a montage of appliance images or a collection of bold text, Home Depot could have simply shown its bestselling refrigerator with a CTA button to encourage more shopping. Showing bestselling or top-rated content is likely more valuable to readers than seeing everything being offered.

This email from Food52 is a great example of a simple email that stays on-message. Its only product promotion is for one item: cooking cocottes. It’s much easier to scan and much more pleasing to the eye.

food52 black friday email

3. Don’t overlook the importance of your subject line

According to Moveable Ink, the week surrounding Black Friday and Cyber Monday has the highest email volume of the holiday season. With emails flooding every reader’s inbox, you need to know how to stand out. Start with the subject line. A huge chunk of subscribers—about 35%—decide whether or not to open an email based on the subject line alone.

To up your Black Friday email open rate, get readers curious about your email with a subject line that either asks a question, promises a deal or coupon, has a “how-to,” or includes a number. You will want to keep the subject line short. Most mobile devices only display the first six or seven words of a subject line, and data from Retention Science shows that subject lines with 10 words or less tend to have higher open rates. Above all else: test! See what performs better for your audience.

Take a look at some subject lines from last year’s Black Friday:

black friday email subject lines


Don’t forget the preheader text that immediately follows your subject line. Like the subject line, the preheader serves as a screening tool. The first plain text that appears in the email will show up as preheader texts, so make it enticing!

black friday email preheader

4. Don’t send a “single-image” email

Last year, eConsultancy announced Black Friday 2015 was “the first smartphone Black Friday.” On Black Friday, sales from mobile devices hit 36%, up nearly 30% from 2014. Of mobile sales in general, about 1 in 5 purchases occurred on a smartphone, a marked 75% increase from last year’s Black Friday (11.8% in 2014 to 20.6% in 2015).

This year, we can expect the mobile purchase trend to continue, so your Black Friday email must be optimized for mobile screens. This means that you should follow these design best practices:

And the big thing to avoid: don’t design an email that’s one big, single image (or a collection of big, single images). This one from Starbucks is an example of an email that has no plain text—which means it’s likelier to end up marked as spam and eat up space on mobile plans, and it won’t be viewed by readers with image viewing turned off.

starbucks black friday email

Instead, balance images with plain text. Use HTML background colors, bulletproof buttons, and content that’s arranged in an inverted pyramid layout.

5. Don’t forget brand trust

“Brand trust” on Black Friday means your audience trusts you to deliver content that’s relevant and valuable. Offer a real deal—one that’s special and different from your other promotions throughout the year. Or, don’t offer a deal at all. REI, the outdoor apparel and equipment retailer, has joined hundreds of other companies in intentionally skipping Black Friday. Instead, they’re doing an #OptOutside campaign. Here are two recent emails announcing and explaining the approach:

rei black friday email

rei black friday email

Likewise, Everlane started their Black Friday Fund to celebrate workers on the holiday.

everlane black friday email

The point is, Black Friday doesn’t need to be about offering 50% off your product. Approach the holiday by thinking of what your audience would most appreciate seeing, and stay true to your brand mission and values.

What do you plan to send this Black Friday? Let us know in the comments!




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Kelly Shetron