The complete Black Friday 2019 marketing guide for SMS, Messenger and push notifications
There’s not long left until Black Friday is upon us; one of the biggest e-commerce shopping holidays of the year! As a Shopify store owner, you may already have some idea as to what you’re planning to promote, but you might not know the specifics of exactly how you should carry out your marketing campaign.
For example, just how many SMS, push notifications or Messenger messages should you be sending out during the Black Friday period? What dates and times get the best message reactions? Which of these channels is best to use? What content should you include in your messages and what URL destination should you direct prospective buyers to?
If you’re asking yourself any of the above questions, this detailed guide will answer them. It includes plenty of comprehensive insights from our very own 2018 Black Friday data to help you create an effective strategy for this year’s shopping bonanza.
We’ll be covering everything you’ll need to know about:
- Selling before Black Friday.
- Selling during the Black Friday weekend.
- A post Black Friday holiday sale.
- Marketing during the standard shipping deadline before Christmas.
- Marketing during the two-day shipping deadline before Christmas.
In addition to the takeaways from last year, you’ll get access to plenty of Black Friday marketing tips and tricks, plus useful resources to help you implement your campaign. Let’s start with some insights.
- Black Friday 2018 takeaways.
- Black Friday marketing tips and tricks.
Black Friday 2018 insights and takeaways
We’ve been busy analyzing our Black Friday 2018 data to learn what has already worked for Shopify stores. We’ve gleaned information from our flagship Firepush app that was used to reach more than 7 million shoppers and bring in almost 1 million orders.
Here are the top insights we’ve uncovered from this data and how they relate to your Black Friday marketing strategy:
1. Messenger and push notifications are best for conversions
Push notifications and Messenger messages lead the way in terms of conversion rates. That said, text messages are not far behind. All three channels averaged above 5%. If you still don’t use web push notifications, they are well worth considering as part of your overall marketing strategy.
2. The highest click-through rates happen through Messenger and SMS
Again, each channel performed well, but SMS and Messenger offered much higher click-through rates during the Black Friday period.
Note - web push notifications score lower here because more subscribers received push notifications as opposed to SMS or Messenger messages. More than a million more pushes were sent compared to SMS and Messenger, so it’s clear that push notifications reached a wider audience.
3. An omnichannel approach is best over the Black Friday weekend
We know from our data that different channels perform better on different days, in which case it’s best to use an omnichannel approach to marketing. Reasons for this might be to do with different generations engaging via their preferred channel, or perhaps timing plays a part in when subscribers engage with certain platforms.
We recommend carrying out your marketing activity as follows for the best results:
- Use web pushes and Facebook Messenger on Black Friday.
- Focus on sending text messages on Saturday.
- Opt for Messenger marketing on Sunday.
- Combine all three channels on Cyber Monday.
The top-performing days for each channel are detailed below:
4. Bounce rates are typically low across all channels over Black Friday
Last year, each channel had low bounce rates on each day of the Black Friday period. Bounce rates were at their lowest on Cyber Monday. Our data shows that shoppers like to browse, spending a few minutes on average on a website after clicking through.
What this data tells us is that SMS, Messenger and push notifications are all effective at engaging with the right audience. We also know that shoppers are actively looking for bargains, particularly on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Because of this reason, you can send more marketing messages than usual on those days without risking annoying your subscribers too much.
5. Abandoned cart messages really work!
Comparing all types of messages together, there was one clear winner during Black Friday 2018 - abandoned cart messages. They outperformed every other message type for Firepush users. Our data shows that both conversion rates and click-through rates were consistently high across the Black Friday weekend, which indicates that buyers will positively react to abandoned cart messaging outside of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The days that received the most responses to abandoned cart messages were Black Friday and the Tuesday following Cyber Monday.
Preparing your Black Friday marketing campaign
Using our insights, we’ve adapted a proven email marketing strategy by Ezra Firestone, a Shopify marketer with ten years plus experience in driving vast amounts of sales over Black Friday, to help you with your own marketing campaign.
This strategy contains five parts. The first is to do with creating a buzz around your sale and targeting a specific audience with an early bird offer; the “pre-sale” stage. Then the strategy covers BFCM (the main event), and focuses on reinforcing your brand and driving prospects to your sale. The final three parts focus on other key sales periods that follow immediately after the Black Friday weekend right up until the end of December.
Before you embark on this comprehensive Black Friday marketing strategy, you’ll need to do the following:
1. Choose your sale products
Consider your top two best-selling products to promote during the Black Friday holiday. If you already know what you want to offer in terms of a discount, that’s fine - you can adapt this strategy to suit those products. Note: you might also want to try out these 12 creative holiday campaigns that work.
2. Create Black Friday landing pages
You’ll need to put together four landing pages in total, so you can direct prospective buyers to your sale. They are:
- A pre-sale landing page.
- A Black Friday sale landing page.
- A landing page for for your best-selling product.
- Another landing page for your second best-selling product.
In addition to those pages, you will also be directing customers to certain product pages throughout your campaign. Aim to make those pages as effective as possible by adding appropriate sale advertising banners and making sure your pricing discounts are already applied.
3. Write blogs
Take a little time to add a few posts to your store’s blog section to start drumming up interest and engagement in relation to your brand. There’s no need to focus on your Black Friday sale specifically. Just ramp up your efforts where your regular content marketing strategy is concerned and add a call-to-action at the bottom of each post that links to your sales landing pages. Promote these posts in the lead up to the Black Friday weekend.
If you don’t have time to write new content, you might want to adapt some old, evergreen posts, or republish high-performing content (making sure to link to your sales landing pages).
4. Download an automated marketing app
You’ll be delivering your marketing messages through push notifications, SMS and Messenger as part of this campaign. If you haven’t already, check out Firepush which covers all of those channels, or Tobi which covers SMS and Messenger.
Both these apps make Black Friday marketing really easy as you can send marketing messages automatically across specific channels from a single dashboard. You can also segment your audience and create an early bird subscriber list - more on this next.
Part 1: Black Friday pre-sale stage
The pre-sale stage runs from Friday November 8th to Thanksgiving Thursday Nov 28th. During this period, you’ll be aiming to create some noise and excitement around your Black Friday sale before it’s launched. This gives you plenty of time to spread the word to interested prospects and start building some anticipation.
During the pre-sale stage, you’ll also be on a mission to generate a list of early bird subscribers who want to be notified straight away of exclusive deals when you launch your sale. Here are the specifics of how to carry out this stage of your campaign:
What you will need:
- An early bird landing page - as mentioned above, you’ll need to create a landing page for the pre-sale period so you can start attracting early bird subscribers with a signup form. Use this page to feature your best-selling and most profitable product.
- A countdown timer - by adding a countdown timer to this page, you can build up a sense of urgency and scarcity among your subscribers.
- Automated promotional push/SMS messages - so you can promote this landing page to interested prospects.
How many push notifications/SMS messages you should send:
- During this 20-day pre-sale stage, we recommend that you send three or four push/SMS messages in addition to your usual sending frequency.
- Two of those messages should focus on your early bird signup and include a link to your landing page.
- The other(s) should promote the new or adapted blogs you’ve published (that contain the call-to-action to visit your landing page).
Push notification/SMS message timings:
- First message - send between November 8th and 15th.
- Second message - send between November 15th and 21st.
- Third message - send between November 21st and 24th.
- Final pre-sale message - send between November 24th and 28th.
Part 2 – Black Friday and Cyber Monday
This stage runs between Friday November 29th to Monday December 2nd during the actual holiday weekend. This is the time that your sale is live! Your aim here is to drive as much quality traffic to your store as you can.
You can determine if the quality of your traffic is high is by monitoring your bounce rate (that’s the percentage of website visitors who leave straight away without browsing or navigating to another page). The average bounce rates for websites is around 50%. Bounce rates are shown to increase year on year over Black Friday.
As far as marketing channels go, SMS and push notifications boast some of the lowest bounce rates around. During Black Friday 2018, for example, the average bounce rates for Firepush users were just 38%. Compared to other channels, SMS and push notifications are very effective, beating even paid ads.
Our stats on bounce rates for SMS and push notifications should give you peace of mind that you can send a higher volume of messages during Black Friday, without an increased risk of annoying your subscribers.
Black Friday is a fantastic opportunity for you to plug your brand a bit more, because visitors are spending more time browsing. We know that last Black Friday, over seven million users visited Shopify sites that use Firepush, and importantly, these users spent more than three minutes navigating a site. This gives you plenty of time to present your brand and products.
What you will need:
- A dedicated Black Friday holiday sale landing page - here you should showcase your your best offers or deals via a banner advert, along with the specific products you want to push during your sale.
- Automated promotional and abandoned cart SMS or pushes - the latter so that you can encourage prospective buyers who leave items in their cart to complete their purchase.
How many SMS messages/pushes you should send:
We recommend sending the following messages during this stage:
- Four on Black Friday.
- Two on Saturday November 30th.
- One on Sunday December 1st.
- Three on Cyber Monday.
- Finally, set up your automated abandoned cart alerts to retarget any shoppers who click “add to cart” but don’t make it to the checkout.
These four days are where you’ll bring in the most sales out of the entire Black Friday holiday period. Last year, Shopify stores received 427,407 orders via Firepush during the BFCM weekend alone. As a comparison, 488,535 orders were received in the three weeks leading up to Black Friday.
Below is a detailed guide as to what to include in your messages and when the best time might be to send them out.
Black Friday – Friday November 29th
The main event! Last year, Firepush messages were used to generate 118,254 orders for Shopify stores. This image below shows Shopify store pageviews or “sessions” on Black Friday 2018. (A session is when a visitor lands on a website.) It’s safe to assume that more orders will be placed when pageviews are at their highest. This information will give you an indication of when shoppers are most likely to be active this year.
As you can see, website views (and, of course, sales) start to ramp up around midday with the highest amount of sessions happening at 18.00. For best results, send your promotional messages at these times:
- 09:00 – send your first two messages. The first message should go to your early bird subscribers, with a unique offer that will tempt them to take advantage of an exclusive deal. The second message should be sent to your entire subscriber list informing them that your sale is now live. Make sure both include a link to your holiday sale landing page.
- 14:00 – this is when website visits really start to take off, signaling the start of the busiest shopping time. Send one message to your whole subscriber list, again linking to your landing page.
- 18:00 – this is when shopping patterns peak. At this time, send out a final message to your mass audience and ensure it reflects urgency, to tempt shoppers to buy. This is especially important if you’re offering exclusive deals on Black Friday only.
Saturday November 30th
- 12:00 – send out an SMS message to everyone on your list, reminding them that there are some awesome discounts still available at your store. Add a link to your holiday sale landing page.
- 16:00 – send out a softer, second SMS message. This one should focus on your brand and mission, with a link to one of the blog posts you’ve created. (A blog that has the call-to-action of visiting your holiday sale).
You’ll note that we specify using SMS instead of push notifications for this day. This is because, from the 200 campaigns that we analyzed, our data shows that SMS performed especially well in 2018, on the Saturday following Black Friday.
Both CTR and conversions reached levels higher than 9% on the Saturday, outperforming any other day during the Black Friday weekend. 1,429 orders were received by 200 merchants on this day, compared to 1,605 on Cyber Monday despite three times more messages being sent. One reason for this could be how different audiences engage on different days.
Sunday November 1st
- 12:00 – send out a single message on this day. Again, opt for a soft-sell approach, focusing on your brand and vision. Include a link to a blog that you’ve optimized with a call-to-action to visit your sale landing page.
Spending ramps up again on Cyber Monday. During 2018, the Firepush app helped bring in 99,251 Shopify store orders on this day. As this image below shows, the majority of traffic to stores happens during the evening on Cyber Monday:
For best results, time your three messages as follows:
10:00 – message your entire subscriber list to tell them about any specific deals you’re running for Cyber Monday, or to remind them that your weekend deals are still available. Don’t forget to add a link to your holiday sale page.
15:00 – this is when the shopping really gets going. Send a second message, again promoting your deals and linking to your holiday landing page. Build in some messaging around urgency and scarcity, seeing as the holiday weekend is almost over.
19:00 – this is when store visits and sales are at their highest on Cyber Monday. Your final message should emphasize that your Black Friday sale is about to end, so now is the time to buy. As before, link to your holiday landing page.
Part 3 – post Black Friday holiday sale
After the Black Friday weekend is done and dusted, it’s time to shift gears a little. The idea with this stage of your campaign is to take advantage of the after effects of Black Friday before you move onto marketing to Christmas shoppers.
This part of the campaign should run from Tuesday December 3rd to Sunday December 8th and your focus will be to promote one hero product (your best-seller) to boost profitability. You should be able to achieve this even if you only offer a small discount on your hero product.
What you will need:
- Choose a hero product - your store’s best-selling item.
- Put together a dedicated landing page where you can sell your hero product at a small discount. Including a countdown timer feature will help generate a sense of urgency among leads. Also include any sale bundles you want to promote.
- Write two blogs (or re-use existing content) containing a call-to-action message that links to your hero product’s landing page.
How many SMS/push notifications you should send:
Over this six-day period, aim to send out six messages in total. Four of them should softly promote your hero product. You can do this by putting together snippets of information relating to your hero product, with a link to your sale landing page. For example, highlight the benefits of your product, explain how to use it, or take an extract from a customer testimonial.
Your other two messages should link to the blog content you’ve created (these blogs will each have a call-to-action message that links to your landing page). Treat these messages like you would your regular content marketing strategy. Don’t go for a hard sell on the actual product.
Push notification/SMS message timings:
As a rule of thumb, don’t send more than two messages in a single day. Instead, spread those messages out, according to the times when you tend to get most traffic visiting your store.
Part 4 – Christmas standard shipping deadline
This stage of your campaign should focus on driving sales for last minute Christmas purchases starting on “Green Monday” - the last Monday with at least ten days left before Christmas. This year, that’s Monday December 9th.
Green Monday is believed to be the best sales day in December. So this is when you should launch a new sale concentrating on a range of products. You should run your sale throughout the week, finishing on Friday 13th December - that’s the final day, by the way, for standard ground shipping.
What you will need:
- You’ll be promoting five different products in total during your campaign. Choose popular products with high profit margins, but avoid including your hero product that you promoted previously, or your second most popular product - select different item instead.
- You’ll be landing prospects on a different product page each day during this week. You should apply a small discount to your featured product on the day it’s being promoted. You might want to add a countdown timer or a banner ad to the various product pages on the day you’re offering your product promotion.
How many push notifications/SMS messages you should send:
You’ll need five messages in total, one for each day of this week. Each one should feature one of your chosen products. The content of your messages should explain why it would make a great Christmas gift, and who it’s best suited for.
Your messages should also reflect urgency to capture the attention of shoppers who are leaving it fairly late to sort out gifts. Mention that it’s the last chance to buy and get delivery before Christmas with standard shipping.
Push notification/SMS message timings:
For best results, send one message each day in the morning.
Part 5 – two-day shipping deadline for Christmas delivery
Now is the time to prepare for your final marketing push before Christmas, from Monday December 16th through to Friday December 20th. The key date to focus on is the 20th because it’s the last day you can post by two-day airmail. Like in part three of this campaign, you’ll be promoting another hero product - but this time, choose your second best-selling item.
What you will need:
- Apply a discount to your second-ranking best-seller over the dates mentioned. Grab attention on your product page by featuring a countdown timer, or banner ad promoting the discount.
- Write two more blogs (or adapt existing content) making sure to add a call-to-action message and link to your product page at the bottom of those posts.
How many pushes/SMS messages you should send:
Send six messages throughout this week. Four should focus around your hero product – cover its benefits, who might like it as a gift and include social proof if you can. Mention the two-day shipping deadline; this is the customer’s final chance to buy a gift with airmail delivery before Christmas.
For the other two remaining messages, these should link to your blog content that has the call-to-action message with a link to your hero product landing page at the bottom.
SMS/push notification timings:
Send one message each day Mon to Thurs and send two on Friday December 20th.
Other Black Friday marketing tips and tricks
Focus on “hot” and “warm” prospects
This campaign is designed to leverage your “hot” and “warm” audiences. Your hot leads are those that have purchased from you previously and are already a fan of your store. Your warm leads are those that have interacted with you before by reading your blogs, visiting your website, or connecting with you on social media.
We recommend you focus on these audiences for Black Friday, rather than trying to attract “cold” leads (those that know nothing about your store) for the following reasons.
Firstly, paid advertising is usually very expensive throughout the BFCM and Christmas holiday season, particularly so over the BFCM weekend. This means you may not get much return on your investment.
Secondly, using paid channels to attract brand new leads doesn’t compare as well in terms of performance as to using “owned” traffic (subscriber lists/social media followers) aka warm or hot leads.
BigCommerce analyzed traffic to 60,000 online stores and found that paid ads are the least effective channel for conversions. Only 1.2% of visitors from paid social ads and 1.3% from display adverts will likely go on to make a purchase. The conversion rates for channels like email and owned content are nearly three times higher.
Pay attention to audience management
Throughout the Black Friday period and in the lead up to Christmas, you’re going to be sending out quite a lot of marketing messages. So as not to annoy your customers, make sure to stop messaging those that have already made a purchase.
Create a discount strategy
Discounting certain products is a big part of this Black Friday campaign. So take some time to work out which products you should discount, how much of a discount you can afford to offer and take into account other factors like what your competition is doing. Also consider your inventory and whether you need to shift certain items.
You’re likely to get better results for your Black Friday sales if you refrain from offering discounts all year around. Exclusivity is the key here. And, if you tend not to offer lots of sales, you can get away with contacting your subscribers more frequently during the Black Friday period. They won’t be all that used to hearing from you and should, therefore, be keen to learn what you’re offering.
For further reading, this blog outlines several different discount strategies you can use for Black Friday.
Use content as a passive marketing strategy
As you’ll have learned from reading this guide, content forms an important part of this strategy, but not in an in-your-face kind of way. For instance, the blogs that we suggest you write shouldn’t be too sales heavy. They should instead provide more information about your brand and store in general, so your subscribers can begin to connect with you and place your business at the forefront of their minds.
Relevant how-to guides work very well, as do gift guides focusing on a family member (e.g. top five gifts for Mom). Your subscribers will find content like this useful, and of course, you’ll be adding a call-to-action message at the end of your blogs to encourage visits to your sale.
Black Friday 2019 - the sky’s the limit for sales
Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping events of the year and there are plenty of profits to be made if you follow our comprehensive guide here. There are lots of actionable tips you can take away to help you drive sales and get your brand firmly on the radar of shoppers this coming Black Friday - and beyond.
Before you go, make sure you’re fully prepared for the 2019 holiday shopping season with our e-commerce marketing checklist, complete with important calendar dates.