Checking your email on Black Friday is like coming back to work after two weeks off.

When you're inbox is flooded, it can be a job in itself to separate the wheat from the chaff, with most emails perhaps more worthy of the trash rather than your attention.

So, did any retailers manage to pique my interest this year? Here’s a run-down of some Black Friday emails to hit my inbox, categorised by strategy, and what impact they might have on consumers.

Early bird (River Island and Body Shop)

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are no longer day-only events. Now, many retailers hold sales events across an entire week, with emails being a key driver for capturing early consumer spend.

River Island is one retailer to attempt to capture clicks before Black Friday itself, letting users know they could get their hands on deals the day before. 

Other brands went even further than this, with Body Shop sending out an email on Wednesday to signal its own event. 

This strategy is somewhat risky, with unclear communication potentially leading to confusion over when and how long the sale is running for. Similarly, it could also lead to the brand peaking too soon, with consumer interest subsequently dwindling or being diverted elsewhere on the day itself.

Point of difference (Firebox)

Black Friday is better known for electronics and big-item bargains, however, one tactic used by retailers is to let consumers know that there’s something different on offer.

Firebox differentiates itself from others in its email copy, telling users that Firebox is the key to escaping ‘Black Friday mediocrity’.

 

The retailer also creates a frustrating level of intrigue with its ‘Black Friday box’, which includes a box of best-selling items usually worth £130. Nice, different, interesting.

Subtlety (Anthropologie)

While Firebox goes against the Black Friday grain, other brands choose to take an even subtler approach, with no mention of the event itself or the most commonly associated words or phrases.

Anthropologie does this, sending out emails with a subtle 20%-off discount code. The email includes no mention of the sale, instead simply integrating its usual product-focused creative, and clearly avoiding the ‘Black Friday’ bandwagon altogether.

Anthropologie is not a brand typically associated with offers and discounts, so it would be strange if it suddenly started shouting about it.

In this sense, it is a good example of how to offer loyal consumers something of real value, without compromising on brand image or pricing strategy.

Urgency (Debenhams and Warehouse)

Naturally, many retailers go for the insistent approach, using urgency in emails to prompt consumers to click through.

Debenhams' highly urgent subject line aims to light a fire under consumers, indicating that now is the time to bag a bargain (but is that the best approach?). 

Warehouse goes one step further, telling users that they have a limited amount of time to shop the 25% offer.

It also integrates some nicely-crafted copy to encourage users to shop online instead of heading in-store.  

Intrigue (John Lewis and Amazon)

Instead of promoting how much money consumers can save, some retailers choose to hold back vital information in emails, with the hope that a level of intrigue will further prompt consumers to click through.

John Lewis does this, merely letting consumers know that the event is on. The similarly dark and mysterious email design also contributes to this intrigue, making it all the more tempting to click through and find out what’s on offer.

Of course, this tactic does not guarantee sales, but it can be an effective way to counteract the often repetitive and salesy nature of the event – and the consumer frustration that can occur as a result.

Amazon is another brand that does this, using the double whammy of urgency and intrigue to make consumers think they might be missing out on something special.

Product promotion (House of Fraser)

The problem with Black Friday sales is that it can all be a bit overwhelming, leading many consumers to avoid browsing retail sites altogether.

In order to capture interest via email, a good tactic is to help narrow down choice by showing exactly what products are included in the sale, along with how much money customers can save.

Here, for example, House of Fraser chooses a featured or hero product, alongside the number of people that have already been looking at it. This is an effective bit of social proof, indicating the popularity of the product and this particular discount.

Blanket sales (ASOS and H&M)

While the aforementioned tactic can be effective, limited sales or discounts can also put people off. After all, there’s nothing more disappointing than searching to see if a particular item is on sale, before realising it’s not included.

With hundreds of different brands sold on its site, ASOS avoids this issue by making it clear that consumers can get 20% off every single one.

Including the names of big name brands like Nike and Ralph Lauren in the copy also emphasis this, making it sound much more appealing to customers.

Finally, despite the email design being rather bland and disappointing, H&M also takes this no-fuss approach, reassuring customers that the sale covers everything in-store and online.

More on Black Friday 2017:

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Nikki Gilliland

Published 27 November, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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