Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and holiday email marketing calendars for 2022
We sent a survey to our Shopify merchants in August to gather insights around Black Friday, Cyber Monday and holiday email marketing. When it came to what questions they have, a few like-minded responses repeatedly arose.
“When should I begin email marketing for the holidays?” “How often should I be sending?” “How much is too much so I’m not annoying my subscribers?”
Each question is important to ponder. Unfortunately, there’s no black-and-white answer for any of them. The closest we can muster is “probably sooner and more often than you think.”
We’re guiding you through six different email marketing calendar strategies, any of which you can personalize to fit your needs. We’re talking through:
- Why sooner and more often may be advantageous
- Four calendar options for marketing around Black Friday/Cyber Monday (BFCM)
- Two calendar options for marketing outside of the traditional BFCM period
The case for “sooner and more” holiday emails
Google found that 31% of U.S. shoppers had already begun 2021 holiday shopping in June.
This isn’t to imply that mid-year — or even September — is the time to add sparkle, pop in festive photos, and launch mega deals.
Rather, recognize that there’s always a segment eager to check off items on the holiday shopping list. Inflation and worries around continually rising prices could enlarge that group this year. May we suggest you cater to these shoppers well before BFCM, even if subtly?
We can’t predict what will happen in 2022. But throughout this post you’ll see how holiday sales growth is slightly shifting away from BFCM and toward points earlier on the calendar.
This brings us to our second point: send more marketing emails. BFCM/holiday sales are extremely important to 45% of our survey respondents. Another 24% conveyed that they’re very important.
Therefore, increasing the regularity of email newsletter programs is critical for standing out. We see brands of all sizes boosting their send frequency during Q4. If you’re not doing it too, then you run the risk of not being noticed at all.
One word of caution: your open rates will inevitably dip, and you might lose some subscribers. It’s OK. Trends show holiday-time click and conversion rates increase.
We’re looking at holiday marketing from two angles: marketing around the BFCM period and marketing outside of it.
Email marketing around BFCM
We’ll get to the “sooner” part in a bit. But for now, let’s focus on how to add more emails to the highly critical time period of BFCM.
Keep in mind that Cyber Monday was the biggest online shopping day of the year in 2021, as cited by Adobe. Though sales were down 1.4% year over year (as were all online sales between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday), it remains a day of opportunity for Shopify merchants.
Food for thought: per the Adobe study above, $12 million was spent every minute on Cyber Monday during the peak hours of 11 p.m. to 12 a.m. EST.
I’ve got four strategies to consider.
The minimal BFCM: 3-4 newsletters
I just said that you should send more frequently. Three email newsletters in addition to a regular sending cadence might not seem like much, but condense them to a two-week period and it qualifies as a lot for many Shopify merchants.
This schedule is ideal for those who don't have a lot of time but want to see a return on investment specifically from BFCM. It’s also a good tactic when your audience doesn’t hear from you regularly, or if you struggle with low open and click rates.
Notice that I’ve pinpointed the Monday before Black Friday as the first email promotion. It could announce that something “big” is coming on Friday. Or, start the sale that day by providing "early access" to BFCM deals.
While I prefer Monday as the first email, it is flexible. We’ve seen Sunday a lot, or sometimes Tuesday, as the first email within the BFCM campaign. The Black Friday and Cyber Monday dates are concrete.
Figuring out what exactly to send can be tough. Take a look at our BFCM Lookbook for message ideas.
The loaded BFCM: 7-10 messages
This high-volume calendar was made for Shopify brands that:
- Regularly send emails to their subscriber list
- Have stable open and click rates
Yes, it’s aggressive. And it does seem like a lot. But rest assured that many other companies are sending at this cadence during this two-week stretch.
There’s flexibility around the exact days you choose, though I suggest adhering closely to the dates I’ve pinpointed between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Pro tip: Don’t feel you need to create a completely new email for everything you send. Reuse content by tweaking it with minor changes. Take a look at how Madewell approached their BFCM campaign in our Lookbook for inspiration. They used the same basic layout and images, but swapped out photos/copy and changed colors.
The Cyber Week focus
This calendar includes Black Friday, but is aimed more at celebrating Cyber Week as a whole. It could appeal to an audience that is more “last minute” and doesn't take advantage of other deals. This strategy is also great for remaining consistent and top of mind during a competitive season.
I recommend running a different deal each day to generate excitement and urgency. It’s a popular approach. Make sure the deal is clearcut and state its expiration date.
Also, define what subscribers can expect next. Subject lines can serve as a good assist in this regard. For example, a “Day 1,” “Day 2,” etc. formula signals subscribers should pay attention to their emails for the week.
There is one caveat to this approach. Monitor your unsubscribe rates. If they are .5% or higher for three consecutive sends, then it’s time to scale back.
In 2021, consumers spent 11.9% more between Nov. 1 to Nov. 29 than they did the year prior. We’re guessing that 2022 will bring more of the same. Capture that interest by broadening your timeline of promos.
The idea behind this calendar is that you're giving early access to your sale. You'll start at nearly the beginning of November and run through Cyber Monday. In ecommerce, this strategy is sometimes known as Gray November.
Make sure you offer plenty of variety in your email newsletters to keep subscribers interested. Run a different promotion each week. Or, keep the promotion the same, but feature different products.
See how Brooklinen managed this approach in our BFCM Lookbook. This calendar type appeals to shoppers who like to snag sales before others. It’s potentially suitable for touting high-priced items as well.
Email marketing outside of BFCM
What about the bookends of holiday email marketing? Let’s look at marketing before and after the traditional BFCM crush time.
Early-bird marketing: October
Remember when I referenced that stat about June holiday shopping? I’ve dug up some more data to get you contemplating October promotions:
- In 2021, a McKinsey study found that 45% of consumers had started holiday shopping in early October
- The same survey showed that 31% of those early shoppers had just one-quarter of their holiday shopping remaining
Shopify merchants are hearing stats like these and acting. In our survey, 17% plan to begin promotions in early October. Another 13% will start mid-month, and 19% are kicking things off at the end of October.
The general rule of thumb? Double your email send cadence. We recommend the calendar below if you want to jump on October promotions, which works out to about two newsletters per week.
I can think of two merchant types ideal for sending early promotions.
One is the shop that supplies the materials needed to make things. That is, shops whose audience is composed of professional crafters, or crafters-in-training who want to make a homemade gift.
Second is the store that sells luxe items. Anyone planning to buy an expensive product, such as a kitchen appliance or high-end jewelry, is probably on the lookout early.
And for all others, it can’t hurt to slip in even just one promotion. Use October as a “warming” period to build anticipation for what’s to come.
Post-Cyber Week marketing
We’ve been beating on the drum for “sooner is better.” But our insistence on earlier emails doesn’t mean that December should be ignored.
To the contrary, make plans for when the BFCM hype fades. Remember there are always late shoppers who wait until the last minute. Others scramble to find gifts for the person who slipped their mind.
The recommended schedule below was built primarily with shipping in mind. Email frequency is heaviest toward the beginning of the month and tapers off.
You’re going to want to determine your shipping cutoff date and work backwards when plotting email promotions, weaving the deadline into your email marketing messages. Feel free to slide in extra emails beyond that date. Promote gift cards if you’ve got them — the perfect solution for procrastinators.
If you want to go all out, draw on the Advent-themed calendar. You could run a different promotion every day for 12 days straight, or whatever length of time you’d like.
Customize our calendars for your brand
I urge you to review these calendars and think about what works for you and your brand.
Maybe your end calendar is a hybrid of a few suggestions. Perhaps it’s a mix and match with an addition here, an omission there.
Customize a marketing calendar based on the needs of your business and expectations of your subscribers. You want a plan that you can manage and execute well and that, above all, elevates your place in the holiday shopper’s mind.
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