Last week, I shared how most Black Friday/Cyber Monday advice currently circulating in the eCommerce ecosystem is often damaging to businesses and at the expense of profitability.
With that being said, it’s only fair that I put forward what I believe to be a better strategy.
One that doesn’t get involved in a race to the bottom, needlessly erodes margin and hammers your deliverability with uneconomical sends.
Is this strategy I’m about to present perfect and applicable to all businesses?
It’s impossible for me to know everybody’s margin, consumer behaviour and unique business dynamics at play.
However, I do believe the guiding principles and fundamentals outlined in this strategy can be utilised by most, if not all businesses, to help at the very least cut your marketing costs and be more profitable than your competitors who don’t have a coherent strategy.
Let’s get into the 5 stages of creating a killer BFCM Email & SMS marketing strategy.
1: Create your offers
The most obvious place to start is with deciding how many offers you want to create over this period.
This will vary significantly depending on how many SKUs your store has as well as the industry you’re operating in (i.e. FMCG vs one-off purchases).
While it’s impossible for me to make recommendations based on each individual store, here are some types of offers you can present to your audience:
- Flat rate discount across the whole store (e.g. 10 or 20% off)
- Individual SKU/category flat rate discount
- Buy One Get One Free (BOGOF)
- Free Gift With Purchase (GWP)
- Discounted bundle
- Gift card promotion
- Free shipping
What you decide to go with will depend on your individual business economics.
My favourite is to offer discounted bundles for most brands (sometimes heavily discounted).
Why is this?
Bundles have a higher Average Order Value (AOV) and have more margin to play with.
They can also introduce your audience to new products that they wouldn’t have previously considered, and if they’re sticky products, it’s a great opportunity to increase their AOV for future repeat sales and increase brand awareness.
There’s another benefit to bundles: you can create multiple bundles with most stores that keep people interested throughout the duration of BFCM (more on that later).
If you’re just creating a flat rate discount (say 20% off) for 2 weeks, then every email or touchpoint you send is going to be repetitive and boring.
If you create multiple offers that are different on each day, it gives you more reason to communicate with your audience on what will probably be a daily basis.
Different bundle offers each day =
- Higher AOV
- More attentive audience
- Better margins
- More brand awareness
To me, all of the above make a strong case for bundles, although this will of course depend on your individual store.
2: Creating your sending calendar
The next step is to decide when and what channels you’re going to send your offers out on.
I recommend having universal offers going out on every single channel simultaneously and not discriminating against customers based on the channel they’re engaged with (in particular, I’m strongly against giving SMS subscribers exclusive offers during this period).
The only exception to the rule with this is giving VIP customers (depending on how you define them for your business) early access via one of your owned channels (email/SMS) to your best offers.
This is because with inventory likely to be an issue (if you’re fortunate enough to have high demand), you’ll want to reward your best customers first, in my opinion.
Below is an extremely basic sending calendar courtesy of Klaviyo that you can use.
If you want to get more granular on the above as it pertains to your email/SMS strategy, be sure to map it out into a spreadsheet that includes:
- Segments to send to
- Excluded segments to not send to
- Email concept
- Notes for creative team
- A/B test (if necessary)
A lot of people ask me how they should intertwine SMS and email during this period in a way that’s profitable and doesn’t cannibalise sales. My advice is simple: send emails to customers who normally respond on that channel, and SMS to customers who don’t engage with emails but are subscribed and engaged there.
Another important note here: don’t just send to all SMS subscribers. You can certainly cast a wider net than usual during this period, but if you have a sizable list of SMS contacts, it can get extremely expensive to just mass market to as many as possible, especially if they churned a long time ago. Use intelligent segmentation here.
Creating a sending calendar isn’t difficult. Use common sense and get organised in advance, but as a rule of thumb, yes, go earlier than most do around peak season (I know, I know - this is fairly generic advice at this point).
3: Modify your Flows
During BF/CM, the various offers found within each of your flows and content can adversely affect your performance on numerous levels.
Firstly, the discount offers and upsells may be substantially lower than what users will expect to receive on Black Friday and not aligned, which could lead to potential headaches on the customer service front and mixed messaging resulting in a poor user experience.
Secondly, the sheer volume of emails a customer may be receiving over this period could seriously impact your deliverability and long-term health. If a user receives 5-7 email campaigns over the course of a week, they may also be in a flow that sends a similar volume of emails at the same time. Not good.
The way to mitigate these two potential problems is by going through a health check of your existing flows and the cadence to ensure it reflects your sales campaigns over BF/CM. Here are some great starting points for each flow:
- Ensure that the sign-up incentive that triggers the Welcome Flow doesn’t overlap with the BF/CM offer (most stores use 10% to get people on to their email list/Welcome Flow).
- Disable emails with offers in the flow over the duration of BF/CM
- Turn Smart Sending on in Klaviyo to ensure the customer doesn’t receive too many emails
- Set up a BFCM specific Welcome Flow (or post-purchase flow) for new customers during this period
Cart Abandonment Flow
- Update emails to ensure discount is aligned with BFCM deals
- Make sure the emails notify customers of the cut-off point on when the offers will end
- Switch the coupon codes (and creatives) from dynamic to static if you’re using these during BFCM
- Ensure any upsell offers in email 1 aren’t worse than the BFCM offers
- Turn Smart Sending on the rest of the flow to ensure the customer doesn’t receive too many emails
Browse Abandonment Flow
- Make a decision on whether to disable or enable Smart Sending on email 1 (NOTE: disabling it during BFCM weekend will be highly aggressive, even more so than usual but effective for sales)
Customer Winback Flow
- You may want to disable this flow altogether during this period, depending on how the customer journey is mapped out
4: Prepare your “Warm-up” email (from the CEO, preferably)
The next piece of the puzzle is to re-engage as many dormant subscribers as possible who may have a chance of becoming active customers again.
In order to achieve this, I like to leverage the “CEO Announcement Technique”.
The goal with this email is to warm your recipients to the offers that are imminent.
I’d also go as far to tell them on what days they can expect each offer (while not revealing explicitly what those offers will be yet to retain an element of mystique).
Why tell customers in advance what days offers will be released on?
There are two main reasons:
- You condition them to check their inbox at certain times to look for the offers, improving deliverability and engagement during a frenetic period
- You can be more economical with your sending strategy: you don’t need to create tons of emails and creatives when you explicitly reveal what time the offers will be going out at
Ultimately, by doing the above, you maximise inbox placement and are more efficient with resource allocation.
I’m not against necessarily resending the offers on certain days to customers who don’t engage/purchase (especially if it’s a really great offer with time sensitivity attached to it), but you can still mitigate the need to do this and expend more resources by following the above strategy.
5: Execute your sending strategy
The last thing to do is put it all together and send the campaigns!
Follow the above guide to the T and you shouldn’t have any issues on this part. But as a rule of thumb, I’d recommend rigorous Q.A testing before any campaign is sent out here as there is nothing worse than falling short at the final hurdle on what will probably be a record-sales event for most brands.
For more information on how to structure your email marketing team, read this article.
Let’s wrap things up and put it all together:
- Create your offers
- Create a sending calendar
- Modify your flows
- Prepare your warm-up email
- Execute the above
And just remember: BFCM won’t make or break a business, so don’t sweat it too much, irrespective of the advice you see circulating in the ecosystem each year. Strong branding, a great product and excellent customer service plays a much more important role in long-term profitability than ad-hoc sales promotions, so always prioritise these.