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What Shopify merchants say about holiday marketing: their struggles, successes and advice

What Shopify merchants say about holiday marketing: their struggles, successes and advice

Now that we’ve said goodbye to summer, it’s time to say, “Hello, holiday marketing!” 

This is the reality for all Shopify merchants.

But really, how important are Black Friday (BF), Cyber Monday (CM) and the overarching holiday season to the independently owned shop? And how does email marketing factor into the mix?

We wanted answers to these questions and more (i.e., the wins, the challenges), so we polled Seguno customers to gather their perspectives. 

The largest share of respondents are solopreneurs, but we also received feedback from businesses employing a few people to dozens. Here’s how they responded. 

Black Friday and the holiday season are crucial to Shopify merchants’ success

There’s good reason for Shopify merchants to focus on how they’ll stand out during the holiday shopping season. 

About 70% of those surveyed say BFCM and the holiday season are extremely or very important to their sales. Of that group, 44% indicated it’s the most significant time of year.

Pie chart showing 69% of respondents say BFCM/Holiday is very or extremely important to sales with 16% neutral and 15% not important

Within the 15% who say it’s not important, 4% say they aren’t affected by it at all. Side note: while this may be true, any shop in this category might think twice about its marketing strategy this year. Consumers are hurting from inflation. Of those struggling, 67% say they’re looking to buy items they typically wouldn’t during the BFCM period.  

Email is No. 1 for Black Friday and holiday season marketing

Email marketing is the standout channel, with 91% of survey participants saying they’ll use it as their prime communication. 

Bar chart showing 91% of respondents will use email as a primary marketing channel for Black Friday/holiday season; trailed by: Instagram/Facebook, SEO/Content/Blogs, paid ads, SMS/texting/Messenger, brick & mortar stores, and physical mail

We’re postulating here, but email marketing is probably so popular because:

  • You have complete control over messages, and you’re sending to people who signed up to hear from you
  • It’s quick and easy to devise a message
  • Email is the highest-converting marketing channel; consumers rank it No. 1 in influencing their decision to make an online purchase

Of course, email marketing is only successful if you’ve got a base of subscribers. Now is the time to focus on expanding your list of potential holiday customers by polishing your website popups or adding them if none exist. 

We advise adding a form field that asks the new subscriber to make a selection based on their preferences, such as the example below. Gathering one more piece of information adds a customer tag and the ability to broaden your targeted emails through segmentation.  

Website popup of a woman posing with her hands on her hips, and accompanying text: hey good looking! here's a 10% discount, along with space to enter email address and click off if you're shopping for men, women or both
Create and optimize popups with The How-to Popup Guide for List Growth


Instagram/Facebook ads come in second at 69%. We concede they’re ideal for building awareness and acquiring new customers. And Shopify makes it easy to connect your store. 

After that, search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC), and SMS (aka mobile texts) are other channels of choice. 

BFCM and holiday promos hit inboxes in October 

A little more than half of our Shopify merchants plan to start Black Friday and holiday promotions in October. Most of that group indicates they begin in late October, beating out the early-in-the-month group by just a smidge. The rest fall in the mid-October camp. 

Pie chart showing 54% of respondents begin Black Friday/holiday emails in October, trailed by 32.5% in early November and 13.7% the week of Black Friday

Fun facts:

  • Those in the fashion/clothing industry were more inclined to start in October
  • Those selling jewelry and accessories tend to begin in November

Otherwise, data is kind of all over the place. (Though we were surprised to see that more merchants wait until the week of Black Friday versus beginning in mid-November.)

There is no right or wrong time to start marketing for the holiday season. 

But considering 69% find the holiday season crucial to their shop, October is a reasonable launch. After all, the big retailers push shoppers to start sooner and make the season last as long as possible. The calendar hadn’t even turned to September when Walmart released its 2022 Top Toy List on August 30. 

Many prognosticators believe that a lot of consumers will start shopping early, as a number already have. Some are spreading their spending over months rather than cramming it into a short period because of economic woes.  

Any Shopify merchant getting a jumpstart should consider doubling their email frequency. Check the performance and, if metrics look good, take that as a cue to proceed more aggressively. 

Most merchants send at least 3 messages for BFCM 

Sixty percent of respondents indicated their BFCM email marketing encapsulates more than two messages. Specifically:

  • 28% send three to four emails
  • 16% send five to six emails
  • 17% send seven or more emails
Pie chart showing 60% of respondents send more than 2 emails during Black Friday/Cyber Monday; specifically: 16.9% send 7+, 15.7% send 5-6, 27.7% send 3-4, 39.8% send 1-2

Interestingly, more than any other niche, health and beauty merchants gravitated to sending just one to two emails. That’s a missed opportunity. 

We understand the challenge of whipping up email newsletter ideas when trying to run a business (more on that later). But one or two BFCM emails won’t cut it in this competitive landscape.  

At a minimum, send three to four emails for improved results. 

Grab advice and suggestions for determining your holiday email marketing schedule, whether promoting around the BFCM period or outside of it.


Campaign templates — which you’ll find in the Seguno app — are fantastic for increasing your email frequency without straining your workload. Professionally designed, multi-newsletter templates for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and holiday gifting need little customization.  

Or, if you want a pre-built structure with a greater creative say, dabble with any of Seguno’s four starter campaign templates. There are newsletter packs for launching a product or collection, promoting a site-wide sale, or providing gift ideas.    

Top advice: prep early

The overwhelming advice from Shopify merchants? Be prepared and make a plan early. 

Such a response is no surprise, considering the importance of this stress-inducing time of year. There’s a lot of truth to the saying, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

We plucked a few comments that might motivate you: 

  •  “Prepare now! Decide the discount or special, prepare the graphics in Canva, write the copy for social media posts and emails, and schedule them now!” - Kimberly Baker, The Mad Padder
  • “Start sharing what your customers can expect as soon as you know the product offerings; prepare product in advance; take great photos; plan out your content!” - Sam Smith, New Vintage by Sam
  • “Make a calendar, test things out, repeat what works.” - Kenisha McIntosh, My Tribe Essentials
  • “Take the time to plan your content, set up graphics with your products to post on social media and emails, be bold in how often you post/email your list. Everyone is busy and last season my sales increased because I showed up more often and started my BF sales campaign MUCH sooner than ever before. It made a difference!” - Terrie Marie, Angel Lady Crystals Boutique
Tune into our BFCM Email Masterclass, broken into sessions of eight minutes or less, to devise a rockstar email marketing plan.


Otherwise, the second-most popular response was to do what’s best for your company. Resist the tendency to compare yourself to the big-box stores. 

Michelle Schreiber of Abboo Candle Co. says it best: “Do what is profitable. Don't try to be Target or Amazon if you don't have the margins to support it.”

The plans that work for large retailers won’t work for you. It’s OK to be aware of what they’re up to, but don’t let it dictate your strategy.

Big discounts are a winner

Most Shopify merchants from our survey (73%) indicated a big discount — whether a percentage or dollar amount off — has been their most successful Black Friday promotion. 

Bar chart showing 73% of respondents said a big discount was their most effective Black Friday promotion, trailed by free shipping, free product, and bundling

It makes sense, as Black Friday is synonymous with heavy discounts. A study shows 79% of consumers will seek deals during BFCM 2022. 

The thing is, a considerable discount for your brand may be a minor deal for larger retailers. Pricing and promotion strategies are all relative to the business. 

Any discount strategy should ensure you’ll remain profitable. 

You could try one of the following strategies. Marketing research shows more people are likely to buy when:

  • The discount is an “amount off” for products priced above $100
  • The discount is a “percentage off” for products priced below $100

Another solution is to offer a discount with a minimum spending threshold. 

Far behind in the rankings, at runner-up, is free shipping. Shipping costs are a common pain point and powerful enough to make shoppers abandon their carts and never return. Offering free shipping could lead to higher conversions, even if tethered to spending a minimal amount. 

Create a banner for your website announcing special discounts, free shipping or any other promotion with the Dynamic Banner Suite.

The top email marketing challenge is idea generation

When asked about BFCM and holiday season challenges, approximately half of survey participants struggle the most with figuring out email content ideas. 

Pie chart showing 52% of respondents indicated the most difficult part about BFCM is coming up with ideas, trailed by knowing what sales to run (20%), keeping items in stock (12%), supply chain/logistic issues (11%), other (5%)

They’re wondering, “How do I grab attention so I stand out among so many others?” and, more importantly, “What should I say in my emails to drive more traffic to my website?”

Both are good questions, and we’ve got some answers. 

First, we want you to view BFCM marketing through a particular lens. Will your newsletter be  promotional or emotional? The decision paves the path for figuring out the rest. 

Second, check out these BFCM copy and subject line ideas to get the juices flowing. Then head to the Black Friday Email Marketing Lookbook for real examples to spark creativity.

Like previous advice given, be yourself. Infuse your brand’s voice and call out your differentiating qualities.

Seguno and Canva are superpower apps

We asked, “What apps are the most helpful during BFCM and the holidays?” 

Naturally, the tag team of Seguno and Canva were tops. We thought it would be interesting to see what else merchants are using.  

wordart graphic with seguno in the middle, and a large canva on top, surrounded by ther words including facebook, tiktok, instagram, adobe and more

There’s no surprise that merchants listed apps for:

  • Social media (Instagram, TikTok, Later)
  • SMS (Postscript, SMSBump)
  • Reviews (Judge.me)
  • Asset creation (Adobe Spark and Adobe Express) 

All of the above tools are great for enhancing your marketing efforts. Remember, Seguno integrates with several apps to make your job easier. 

Closing holiday marketing advice

Survey results clearly show that the holiday season is critical to Shopify merchants. To sum up our advice: 

  1. Concentrate on growing your email list 
  2. Invest more in your email marketing
  3. If you’ve put off the task of planning, you’re behind the ball; it’s time 
  4. Send email marketing as early as October
  5. Increase email marketing so you’re at the forefront of subscribers’ options
  6. Discounts seem to work, so experiment to find the sweet spot
  7. Expand your capabilities with complementary software apps

Stop by our Holiday Hub for a load of email marketing resources. Make sure to check back as the season progresses. We’ll add more resources to help you excel through the madness and end the year with record-breaking sales. 

Create, manage, and track your email marketing—without leaving Shopify.

Seguno is the top-rated email solution built exclusively for Shopify. Grow your sales with high-performing newsletters, email automation campaigns, and integrations with Facebook, Instagram, banners, pop-ups and more. Build and send engaging emails in our easy-to-use editor and take email creation to the next level with our Canva integration. Automate your email marketing and drive more revenue with welcome campaigns, checkout abandonment, post-purchase automations, tag triggers and more. Learn more at Seguno.com

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