Black Friday email marketing strategies

Written by Vanessa Petersen on November 7, 2023 Email Marketing.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are almost here. If you’re planning to run a Black Friday sale, you’ve got company, because almost every other store is, too. That means figuring out unique ways to capture attention and motivate people to make purchases. Email is one of the best methods of doing this because it’s something almost everyone dedicates daily time to check. If you do it right, your message is almost guaranteed to be seen for at least a split second. 

Do you have a Black Friday email marketing plan ready? 

With so many choices and distractions, it’s important to use every tool available to reach new customers with tantalizing Black Friday deals. And don’t forget your previous and loyal customers. You can create a Black Friday email campaign targeted specifically to them so they buy from you and not a competitor.

Email can be incredibly effective because it allows you to make targeted offers right in the inbox. You aren’t limited by the requirements of Google Ads or social media advertising tools. You aren’t dependent on search engines or algorithms. You write the email. You create it for specific people. And you send it directly to them. 

That’s why email marketing continues to deliver one of the best returns on investment in the digital marketing space. 

In this post, we’ll cover our favorite tips and best practices for your Black Friday and Cyber Monday email marketing campaign.

Black Friday email marketing ideas and strategies

If you haven’t yet created a Black Friday email marketing campaign for 2023, or have started one but need help making it better, we’re sharing tons of tips and strategies right here so you can raise your game and increase revenue. 

The party doesn’t stop with Black Friday, either. Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and GivingTuesday round out a long and busy weekend of shopping for many consumers.

Here’s a list of Black Friday email ideas and strategies you can use this year and beyond:

1. Plan ahead

Don’t just throw together blanket offers like “20% off” and send out a bunch of generic emails at the last minute. Yes, that’s better than nothing, but that won’t maximize your revenue for this time of year. Set time aside to plan a Black Friday email strategy. Even if it’s a small campaign, a well-planned one will produce better results.

If you’ve waited too long, check out our tips for last-minute Black Friday and Cyber Monday planning.

2. Study previous Black Friday campaigns

We may be talking specifically about Black Friday email campaigns, but marketing is marketing, and you can get ideas for your campaign by looking in all sorts of places. 

In addition to looking at other Black Friday emails, search for TV ads from previous years. Look for Black Friday campaign ideas other companies have used in their digital marketing, social media marketing, and any other channel you can find. Don’t limit yourself. 

WooCommerce Black Friday Instagram post with a 40% off sale
An example of a Black Friday promotion run by Woo in 2022.

Why? Because you’re looking to find inspiration for the key elements that make any marketing campaign successful, including a Black Friday promotion. You’re looking for:

  • Types of offers
  • Black Friday theme ideas
  • Marketing message examples
  • How urgency was used
  • How previous campaigns blend Black Friday with Cyber Monday
  • How Black Friday deals coordinate with other holiday marketing
  • Ad frequency
  • Call to action examples
  • When Black Friday campaigns are typically launched

You can find ideas and examples for these things by looking at all sorts of marketing campaigns, and it doesn’t have to be from your industry. 

3. Develop a theme

Black Friday is the busiest shopping time of the year. Getting attention is therefore one of the most critical aspects of your Black Friday email campaign. 

Having a theme will help, so you can do more than just blast sitewide discounts that have no meaning attached to them. A good theme will be more powerful than relying solely on your brand identity. It enables you to create memorable marketing messages and Black Friday email design ideas.

email example with the text "the deals are loose."
Email from Really Good Emails

For a simple example, what if you created a campaign around the 12 days of Christmas, and made your offer 12% off? Nobody does 12% off. They always do round numbers like ten and 20. Promoting 12% off would get attention. 

And you could have fun with it — have select periods of time when the discount doubles to 24%, or perhaps even triples to 36%. 

But that’s just one idea. The point is — when you create a Black Friday theme to bring more life to your email campaign, a whole array of Black Friday email design and other creative options open up. These kinds of things will make your Black Friday email campaign stand out amid the sea of emails filling up the inbox space of your customers and prospects.

4. Get attention

And speaking of themes that get attention, you’ll need to do everything you can possibly think of to get your Black Friday emails seen in those overflowing email inboxes. If your average customer gets 50 emails per day on a typical day, they’ll probably get three or four times that many Black Friday emails. You have only a few seconds to get their attention.

Your open rates will probably go down.

To get noticed, you need an attention-grabbing subject line and pre-header. You need to keep the reader’s attention after they open the email, too. This requires more than just sitewide discounts. 

subject line: "black friday: cancelled"
Subject line example from the email shown above

Here are a few additional ideas for getting attention on Black Friday:

Donate to a charity

Tell your customers you’ll set aside a certain percentage of your Black Friday proceeds to give to a charity. It could be local or national, depending on what is likely to resonate with the majority of your customers. 

If you’re using a theme in your Black Friday campaign, you might be able to pick a charity that aligns with the theme. Ramp up your donations on Giving Tuesday — the Tuesday following Black Friday — and consider encouraging donations outside of consumers’ purchases.

Use teaser emails

In screenwriting, dialogue that’s too obvious and straightforward is referred to as being “on the nose.” It’s not a compliment. Don’t make all your Black Friday emails and copy too on the nose. 

Yes, sometimes being clear and direct is appropriate. But other times, keep them guessing. Make them wonder. Get them a little antsy. Make them want to open that email because the subject is so intriguing. Make them salivate for the next one.

If you have a big announcement to make as part of your Black Friday sale, create a teaser email that goes out before the announcement. For example:

“On Black Friday at 6 a.m. EST, you’ll be the first to discover a new product three years in the making. It’s going to change everything.” 

That kind of message doesn’t offer anything. But it will make them not want to miss whatever you’ll be saying when your Black Friday sale begins.

You could create a whole series of emails leading up to something big, as long as what it’s leading up to really is big enough to justify the hype. You don’t want a letdown. You don’t want to be anticlimactic.  

A good teaser email creates a desire that must be fulfilled. It keeps your email subscribers checking their inbox just to see what your big announcement is. 

Your big Black Friday promotion announcement could be all sorts of things. Here’s a tiny list to get your creative juices flowing:

  • A contest or prize giveaway
  • A celebrity making a special appearance (and local celebrities count!)
  • A new product release
  • Limited-time access to an exclusive membership or other program
  • Personal delivery by the owner of your company
  • Combined opportunity with another non-competing but complementary company

Whatever it is, you want it to get attention when your Black Friday sale begins, and a teaser email campaign will help make that happen.

Speak to customer pain points

Pain gets attention. When your Black Friday emails address core areas of desire, frustration, inconvenience, or difficulty, they’ll get the reader’s attention. 

Bland discounts only get attention for certain types of customers. But do you really want coupons to be the main driver of revenue on Black Friday? That’s one strategy and it’s appropriate to use as a Black Friday sales strategy. But wouldn’t it be great if people shopped at your online store for other reasons besides just saving a few bucks?

Put the customer pain points in the subject line.

When you focus on things that matter to your target audience, you’ll get their attention. Then, a more modest discount code will close the sale. 

Use unique CTA buttons

Within your emails, do something different from the norm to keep people visually and emotionally engaged and responsive. One key place to do this is with your call to action button. 

The CTA button, by definition, needs to stand out, because this is what customers click to respond to your Black Friday offer. You need them to see it. 

But on Black Friday and your other holiday campaigns, look for methods besides just color and font to make your CTA buttons stand out. 

This is yet another place where having a theme pays off in your Black Friday sales strategy. If you have a theme, try to inject an element of it in your call to action button copy, as well as the design. 

Does it have to be a rectangle? Does it have to say “Buy now!” or some close variation? 

Find language with more emotion — humor, personality, fun, or urgency. Just be sure not to sacrifice clarity just to be creative. 

Use a countdown timer

If you have a big announcement and are using teaser emails, adding a countdown timer can build up even more anticipation. But whatever you’re doing, Black Friday is a pre-existing deadline that people accept and understand. A countdown timer adds a visual sense of excitement.

email example with a countdown timer
Example from Really Good Emails

5. Create one or multiple offers

Take a look at your inventory. Do you have a particular product you want to use for a Black Friday sale? It could be something unique to your site that might draw in customers who’ll purchase other things. Or perhaps an item you don’t mind discounting because you have a few too many left in stock.

The most common Black Friday offer is a sitewide discount. You can also throw in bonus gifts, such as gift cards, for people who spend over a certain amount or buy particular items. You can create tiered discounts. For example, spend $100, get $10 off. Spend $250, get $30 off, etc.

percent off discounts listed in an email
Photo from Really Good Emails

Sitewide discounts have their advantages — simplicity being the main one. But they’re also the most common type of Black Friday sale. You won’t stand out as much if you only do what everyone else is doing. 

6. Segment your offers

You’ll deepen your connection with your target audience far more effectively by making offers that appeal to them specifically or exclusively. But the key to this is the ability to create email segments. 

If you can segment your contacts effectively, you can create multiple offers for multiple segments. 

Perhaps one offer is for people over 65, another is for business owners, and another is for parents with kids still in the home. Or, offers could be dependent on location, income, previous purchases, or many other factors. 

And remember — during the holiday shopping season, people are buying gifts. So if you send emails to your over-65 segment, many of these are grandparents. Offer products for kids, but offer them using language that speaks to a grandparent. 

If you have the right information in your system, you can segment accordingly and create more effective Black Friday email campaigns.

Here are some examples, and the technology that supports it:

Target previous customers

Loyal customers love being rewarded. 

Create segmented Black Friday deals that cater exclusively to previous customers, and make that clear in your subject line so they know it’s for them. Relevance gets attention. Making people feel special and appreciated is a form of relevance. Segmentation and relevance also reduce the chances that your emails will end up in the spam folder.

And rewards don’t have to be discounts, either. It might be something where if you spend over a certain amount, you get a free gift, free shipping, or gift wrapping. It could be a “thank you” coupon for a future purchase, helping deepen their connection with your brand but holding off on discounting this purchase as much. It could be doubled or tripled loyalty reward points.

If you have any sort of monthly membership, it could be a free month or two. 

AutomateWoo includes a follow-up feature that allows you to easily send Black Friday emails targeting anyone who has made a prior purchase. You can send a Black Friday campaign that is exclusive to them. These will make them feel valued and might motivate them to buy from you again.

It’s always easier to sell to existing customers than to win new ones.

Target based on past purchases

Even more personalized, you can create Black Friday deals based on past purchases. If someone bought pet food from you in the past, you can bet they’ll need to buy it again. Why not send them a special, personalized Black Friday campaign so they buy it from you instead of some other company? Even during the holiday season, people still have to buy the essentials.

In some cases, past purchases suggest complementary future purchases. If someone bought gardening soil from you in the past, it’s a safe bet they might need gardening tools, or seeds, or fertilizer, or live plants. 

MailPoet allows you to send out customized emails with exclusive discounts based on previously purchased items and categories. 

MailPoet homepage with information about the tool

Target based on activity

Maybe it’s been a while since some customers bought anything from your online store. Six months. A year. Two years. AutomateWoo has a Win Back email feature that you can use to target inactive customers and send them exclusive “come back to us” offers on Black Friday and during Cyber Week. 

creating a coupon code with AutomateWoo

Target new customers with holiday marketing

On Black Friday, you’re likely to get business from customers who have never shopped from you before. What you want to start working on is turning more of these people into repeat buyers. 

What’s great about Black Friday is that it comes about a month before Christmas. 

So, as new customers buy and get added to your database, create a follow-up sales email campaign that will go out in the weeks that follow to help them with their Christmas shopping. 

They bought from you once, but may not know about some of the other products and services you sell. 

Use this one opportunity, while they’re most open to it, and try to incentivize more repeat purchases. 

7. Use coupon codes

This is one of the single best things you can do in your Black Friday email campaign. Why? Because it allows you to track your data beyond mere click through rates. 

The click through rate gives you a sense of overall engagement. But with discount codes, you’ll know which emails and which offers performed the best. 

email example with a coupon code
Email example from Really Good Emails

Use a different discount code in each Black Friday campaign, including ones sent out using direct mail and other forms of media. Then, after the holiday season is over, look at which campaigns were most effective, and build on that success next year. 

8. Send the first email yesterday

Okay, so you can’t go back in time. The point is, you want to start planting seeds in the minds of your customers. Tease them that some great Black Friday deals will be coming their way.

The sooner you start communicating, the more anticipation you’ll create. And anticipation is a powerfully positive emotion that leads to action.

The other great thing about this strategy is, it’s super easy. 

You can send this email out today, even if you don’t know what your actual offers will be. Just tell your customers you have some great stuff coming this year on Black Friday. It doesn’t have to be a long email and you don’t need any specifics. Just plant the seed.

You can send this email to your entire list, even if you’re going to segment your offers later. MailPoet’s WordPress email newsletter templates work beautifully for things like this. Plus their templates can sync with your WooCommerce store so you can add specific product suggestions to emails. Use these as they are or as Black Friday email examples to inspire your own creation. 

grid of templates from MailPoet

9. Increase email frequency as Black Friday nears

Don’t wait until Black Friday actually arrives and then send out a barrage of emails. Other companies already do that, and customers wake up on Friday morning to find 500 Black Friday emails in their inbox. 

That’s rough.

But if you’ve planted the seed, and then watered it in the weeks leading up to the big day, your customers will already be thinking about you and planning to look at your Black Friday deals and specials. 

And after your Black Friday sale is over, you want to continue sending emails throughout the holiday season. If you only send out three emails for the entire season, they will get lost in the frenzy, and many customers won’t see them at all. It’s okay to repeat the same offers and details multiple times because most people won’t remember all of the information the first time.

An even better way to manage this process is to modify campaigns based on subscriber activity. 

One way to do this is to send reminder emails to those who don’t open your Black Friday emails the first time. A reminder email is the exact same email, usually with a different Black Friday subject line such as, “Did you miss this?” Since they didn’t see the first one, the reminder won’t bother them.

10. Emphasize the deadlines

With such a tight timeline on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the deadlines are in some ways self-imposed. But, you can emphasize times, not just dates. And if you’re extending your Black Friday sales through Saturday or Sunday, emphasize that, and make it clear that these are the final hours to grab the best deals. Again, a countdown timer increases the effect with visual urgency. Time is literally ticking away.

email example with the text "tomorrow is too late"
Photo from Really Good Emails

Also, deadlines don’t have to be time-based. They can be quantity-driven: “When they’re gone, they’re gone.” You can also make Black Friday sales where only the first X number of people get the biggest discount. After that, everyone else gets a smaller one. Different approaches work best in different industries.

11. Shorten your Black Friday abandoned cart triggers

People are shopping for lots of online sales on Black Friday weekend and the following week, so they may end up with multiple abandoned carts. And they want to make decisions fast while the deals are hot. You don’t have a ton of time to drive sales.

In normal times, abandoned cart emails usually go out several hours, or even days later. 

But on Black Friday through Cyber Monday, that’s too long. Shorten the triggers for your abandoned cart emails down to less than an hour. This will increase the chances your shoppers will come back if they leave your site before purchasing.

AutomateWoo’s abandoned cart email feature makes all this possible.

12. Grow your email list with a special offer

Big revenues on Black Friday and Cyber Week are great, but what’s even better is if you can turn your one-time buyers into repeat customers. As marketing guru Dan Kennedy says, you don’t get a customer to make a sale. You make a sale to get a customer.

That’s why capturing more email subscribers during the holiday season is so important. If you include a special Black Friday or Cyber Monday discount, deal, or free gift for anyone who signs up for your email list, now you have them for all future email marketing campaigns until they unsubscribe. 

So even if they don’t buy from you on Black Friday this year, you can continue marketing to them. And if they do buy from you this year, you can continue marketing to them. Either way, they’re in your sphere of influence.

MailPoet makes it simple to create email opt-in forms for WordPress sites that you can sprinkle around to capture more new visitors during the Black Friday shopping season. Put them in prominent places, especially on your homepage and main product category pages. 

graphic of places you can put opt-in forms

Also, use double opt-in so they don’t give you a fake email address, and don’t give them the ‘new customer coupon code’, or whatever incentive you’re using, until the confirmation email (the second one in double opt-in). You’ll end up with a higher quality email list that way, making your Black Friday email marketing strategy more effective.

13. Create email campaigns for after the sale

The holiday shopping season doesn’t end after Cyber Monday is over. Black Friday falls near the beginning of the holiday rush. Most people continue online shopping throughout December. 

So, create more holiday marketing campaigns to keep engaging your email list, and especially to people who made purchases already. Run these through the month. 

In addition, for anyone who made a purchase on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, create a customer service follow-up campaign. In these emails, you can achieve several wins:

  • Thank them for their purchase
  • Give shipping updates
  • Include instructions on how to use or care for a product
  • Ask for reviews
  • Send new offers

Doing this shows customers you care about their experience, not just their money, and it will result in fewer returned products and better customer loyalty. 

14. Vary your subject lines 

If they don’t open your emails, they can’t see your offers. And sustained low open rates increase the chances your emails will end up in the spam folder.

But Black Friday is a busy email season, and inboxes will overflow. What can you do with subject lines to increase open rates? 

To really get noticed, you need to employ some subject line variety.

Imagine opening your inbox and seeing 20 Black Friday subject lines from different companies, and all of them say “20% sitewide discount!”, “30% sitewide discounts”, or “30% off everything in store.” 

Paraphrasing The Incredibles, if everyone’s offer is great, then no one’s is. In other words, all those subjects say the same thing, so the deals don’t seem like anything special.

Here’s how to create some Black Friday subject line variety: 

  • Use urgency — we’re in the final hours! 
  • Use humor — yes, even corny and silly humor makes a subject line stand out
  • Use curiosity — make them wonder what’s inside
  • Use personalization — especially on the targeted emails
  • And yes, make some subject lines ‘on the nose’ obvious like the examples above

The point is, use all of these techniques, not just one of them. This will make your Black Friday marketing emails stand out from the crowd and earn more opens.

15. Time-saving Black Friday email tips

Businesses have a lot to work on if they want to get the most out of Black Friday weekend. It’s a busy season. But the thing is, it will happen again next year. 

That’s why part of your Black Friday strategy this year should be to make it easier next year. Start working on things you can re-use and re-apply in future years, perhaps only requiring a little tweaking. Here are a few examples:

Use Black Friday email templates

You can find Black Friday templates online and probably within your email platform or CRM, or you can create them yourself. And while you may not want to use the exact same template every year, once you have a few you like, it will be much faster to just change them a little bit here and there. You won’t need to start from scratch with new Black Friday email templates each year.

Templates make your emails look better and work better, and they speed up the process of designing and sending them. If you struggle with the Black Friday email design process each year, using templates will be a huge help.

Use marketing automation

We’ve hit on a few ways to use email automation during Black Friday already in this article, such as abandoned cart emails. 

But you can also create automation for situations that come up every year around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

For example, you’ll get new customers every year. Create a Black Friday welcome email that goes out to all new customers.

You’ll also get new email subscribers during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and beyond. Not all may make a purchase, but they’ll be on your list. Create a welcome email for these new subscribers that’s unique to Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or the holiday season — or all three. You could use a slightly different email for each situation depending on when they subscribe.

You might also create automation around specific products that sell every year around Black Friday. Anyone who buys these products receives a special email. This email might suggest a complementary product. It could include instructions or other information you get asked for related to this product. 

And remember, with automation, you want your subject line to be clear and descriptive. For example, “This goes well with your ‘product item just purchased’”.

And, if your email opt-in process allows people to select the product categories or other types of segments they want to take part in, create automation around that as well. 

For example, if they select a segment that sends email updates about new product releases, get them excited by sharing some testimonials from happy customers who bought new products in the past.

Repurpose content 

You won’t have to write all these welcome emails and your other Black Friday email automation copy from scratch each year. The basic message probably won’t be that different, at least in parts. Re-use the same content when it works, including a subject line that seemed to perform exceptionally well, and you’ll save yourself even more time.

And, look for other ways to repurpose content. If you have an FAQ landing page but you keep getting asked questions that are on there, that probably means hardly anyone is finding that page. So, repurpose your FAQ page content and make it part of your Black Friday email marketing campaign.

16. Don’t forget Cyber Monday

Many businesses follow up Black Friday with a Cyber Monday sale, and often that sale runs through the whole week. 

You’ll do best here if you create some Cyber Monday email campaigns that will go out after Black Friday weekend has ended. You can send Black Friday emails all the way into Sunday, but by Monday, the language needs to shift, and so should the offers. 

You probably can’t use everything in this article for Black Friday email marketing. So take some ideas you don’t use for Black Friday, and use them in your Cyber Monday campaigns.

That may mean new segments, a variation on the original theme or an entirely new one, a different prize giveaway, a new set of surprises and teasers, different CTA text, different offers, and more.

And since Cyber Monday is really Cyber Week, you have time to let your Cyber Monday campaigns breathe a little. 

Start your Black Friday email campaign

If you’re like many online stores, retail, or ecommerce businesses, your Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaigns need to generate a significant portion of your annual revenue. 

If you haven’t already begun planning your Black Friday email marketing, or are in the thick of it but feeling overwhelmed, hopefully you can take a few of the strategies and Black Friday email examples from this article and put them to work so you’ll have your best Black Friday sale yet.

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