What makes a successful Black Friday/Cyber Monday for D2C brands? I’d argue that the prerequisites are:
- An engaged audience to target efficiently
- Numerous opportunities to come back and repurchase
- Profitability, not revenue
All of these can be massively amplified by the intelligent usage of email marketing to amplify your profitability.
It’s time to share my 11-step process that all of the brands under our roster will be following in 2023.
Good Black Friday VS Bad Black Friday
In recent years, we’ve seen certain brands ever so slightly reign back their enthusiasm for BFCM and for good reason, too.
Competing in a race to the bottom for the sake of being competitive is often at odds against what is in the best interests for your business in the long-term.
Here’s an analysis of a Good Black Friday vs a Bad Black Friday:
Want to achieve a great BFCM? Follow this 9-step process like clockwork and you’ll be guaranteed to have an awesome Q4.
1: Start acquiring customers NOW to maximise profitability during BFCM
The first mistake most brands make is waiting until November to wage an acquisition war.
The key to a successful BFCM is by acquiring customers before Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is at its most competitive.
This is because the auctions that Facebook & Google run make you bid the highest amount to acquire your customers.
Combine this with the fact that you’re usually selling at a discount to acquire them, and it’s a recipe for a negative contribution margin on the first sale. If this is your strategy, you have to ask yourself honestly: is there any point?
Maybe you have strong enough Lifetime Value (LTV) to recoup profitability at a later stage, but that’s an incredibly risky strategy given how perilous DTC advertising costs are right now combined with the fact that discount hunters tend to be the lowest LTV customers over time.
The focus should be clear: don't wait for when CAC is at its most competitive and your margins are at their slimmest. Start acquiring customers in Q3 more aggressively with a view to maximising LTV during the peak trading periods through email & SMS.
Keep a sharp eye on your customer cohorts to see when you will recoup your CAC and the potential to drive LTV up during Q4 to manage your finances accordingly.
2: Do a summary of your best-selling offers in the last year
A lot of brands make the mistake of trying to be too creative over BFCM. Don’t do this.
What you want to be focused on is hitting your forecast and ensuring you have the right inventory in place to manage your finances efficiently.
The best way to create an accurate forecast for the future is to look at your past data and create offers around what has worked most effectively for you in the past.
To do this over email, create a campaign in your ESP (i.e. Klaviyo) and export all of the campaigns you’ve sent in the past year to a spreadsheet.
Then, filter by Total Placed Order Value to analyse the impact of past campaigns.
Rinse-and-repeat these offers for Black Friday.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to have a successful BFCM. It needs to allow you to predictably hit your numbers.
3: Create different offers for each day of the holiday season
The most boring thing you can do is send a repetitive offer out every single day. Make each one bold and different so you condition your customers to keep coming back and checking their inbox. This is the best way to keep engagement high and deliverability strong.
When you conduct your analysis in the previous step, be sure to include a degree of variability when you create your schedule in order to keep customers excited.
If your promotion lasts 2 weeks and contains the same monotonous discount, customers will zone out and lose interest in the promotion. Keep it fresh and exciting by using different offers each day and you’ll keep customers coming back for more in their inbox.
4: Build retention channels in parallel ahead of the main sales events
Email, SMS and Direct Mail should all play a role in your retention strategy for Q4, and it's not a case of either/or for these channels, you need to build all of them in harmony.
Drive as many email subscribers as possible to subscribe to SMS, notifying them of early announcements for people who are on the text list.
You can use simple plain text emails to spike subscriber rates over SMS with the following simple tactic to notify customers of imminent sales events:
For winback opportunities, lean into direct mail prior to the event to try and re-engage as many historical customers as possible with exclusive offers.
Which brings me onto…
5: Launch a Direct Mail campaign to reactivate historical VIPs
Every brand has a cohort of customers who once bought frequently but stopped buying, for whatever reason.
You also have the dual issue that many of these customers have stopped engaging over conventional retention channels like email 30 days post subscription, leaving traditional winback strategies ineffective on these channels.
There is a limit to the effectiveness of winback campaigns over email & SMS as they usually coincide with natural drops in engagement over these channels post-90 days subscribing.
But there’s not with direct mail.
Even if you break even on a ROAS level, there’s a strong argument to suggest that by looping in historical VIP customers, the future profitability of these campaigns can offset the initial costs.
Here’s a quick segment you can make to target your best winback opportunities:
You can of course get more granular on the permutations around this, making sure to block out customers who haven’t purchased in over 365 days, for example. This will reduce your targeting size but also increase the profitability of the campaign if you’re trying to be more frugal with the budget.
Do not sleep on bringing these customers back into your net active base - it’s a massive opportunity!
6: Tell your customers the schedule ahead of the day(s)
Why make your customers guess when your offers will be available? Unless you have the brand equity of Nike or another goliath, you can only hurt your business by shrouding it in mystique.
I favour radical transparency over when offers will be released in order to build clear anticipation and mental availability ahead of key sales events.
Telling your customer with very clear instructions to whitelist your campaigns are an excellent starting point to make sure it’s prioritised in their inbox ahead of the big day:
7: Tell customers to add the event to their personal calendars
Another great tactic you can implement is getting customers to also add the event to their personal calendars ahead of the day.
This will ensure they receive a Push Notification as well, helping to cut through the noise:
Use this code snippet to enable customers to click through the CTA and automatically create the event.
8: Modify your flows to align with offers
One of the biggest sources of customer service tickets on BFCM is through miscommunication in marketing messages.
A lot of the time, this specifically stems from flow messages (i.e. Welcome Flows and Abandoned Carts) being misaligned to your core campaign offers.
If, for example, you normally provide 10% off to customers who abandon their carts but your BFCM offers are 25% off your total assortment, that’s going to cause confusion and is a recipe for support tickets at high volumes of traffic.
The key to mitigating this is by simply temporarily aligning your flow verbiage to be congruent with your core campaign offers.
As an example, here’s a quick modification you can make to your abandoned cart flow:
At the very least, look to amend the verbiage on the following elements:
- Signup forms (everybody sees them!)
- Welcome Flow
- Abandoned Cart
You can even drive more conversions by tweaking the messaging in your Browse Abandonment Flow as well as your Post-Purchase Upsells, time permitting.
9: Create your sending calendar
This one is self-explanatory but it bears repeating: prepare meticulously with a strong sending calendar.
Within this calendar, you should also have all your resends mapped out and segments pre-planned in order to stay agile across the period you plan to run promotions.
Here’s a very quick example of how it may be planned out:
10: Prepare your warm-up email
BFCM is the most competitive period in your customer's inbox so ensure you've taken proactive steps to maximise your ability to reach them. A few ways you can do this:
- Try to bring as many customers as possible into your net active subscriber base by using the 'CEO announcement technique'
- Notify customers in advance when to expect the sales and tease them with the offers; this conditions them to check their inbox ahead of the events
- Ask customers to click through emails to go onto a dedicated waiting list to strengthen deliverability with ISPs
Following these strategies will enable you to cut through the noise and reach your target recipients when they'll be saturated with competitor announcements.
11: Use Resends & segmentation intelligently
When it comes to retargeting your customers, resends have been the modus operandi for most D2C brands.
However, I much prefer high-intent campaign retargeting (explanation below).
Traditional resends are losing efficacy in the digital marketing world because of the following:
- Open rate tracking is heavily skewed due to Apple MPP adoption
- They’re a poor customer experience (repetitive messaging)
- They can damage deliverability (by sending to unengaged recipients)
High-intent retargeting is a method of retargeting people who clicked email/SMS with highly strategic plain text follow-ups.
Here’s an example of how it could be used to drive a follow-up touchpoint for a general sales promotion:
The beauty of this retargeting method is that it is a lower cost per send and much higher revenue per recipient (RPR) AND great for deliverability, as click rates and engagement is through the roof.
If you have an agile copywriter and lean team operating over email, I have consistently seen this technique drive upwards of 10-20% additional revenue per send.
I cover this more extensively in Monster Email Marketing.
Bonus tip: Continue momentum into the Holiday Season!
Before I close things out, here’s a final piece of advice that I’ve seen be very effective in recent years.
There's a lot to build on during this season and it shouldn't stop once BFCM ends. Christmas and New Year are also excellent opportunities for many brands to drive repeat customer revenue further and you should capitalise on this period with further offers and excitement. Customers are conditioned to expect a higher velocity of communication around this period, so don't hold back on attempts to engage with them.
BFCM are often referred to as the ‘superbowl’ for eCommerce, but it should never be at the detriment to your profitability and a race to the bottom.
Make sure the strategy you follow is applicable to your business and makes sense and leverage as many strategies as you can from this article for your best Q4 ever.
further in depth reading
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