December 15, 2016

Top 100 Retailers’ Black Friday & Cyber Monday email experience (2016).

Welcome to 250ok’s Top 100 Retailers’ Black Friday & Cyber Monday Email Experience (2016). This blog is a collection of data and insights from around the industry and from our survey of the Top 100 Retailers.

Forget the turkey, shoppers went FULL HAM during 2016’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday, spending $12.8 billion online in the US during the five-day period from Thanksgiving Day through November 28, according to Adobe Digital Insights. That spend represents a 15% increase over 2015.

Adobe’s final numbers indicate Black Friday 2016 surpassed estimates, with $3.34 billion—21.6% growth, year-over-year (YOY). Mobile accounted for $1.2 billion, a 33% increase from the year before. Walmart reported more than 70 percent of website traffic on Thanksgiving was on mobile devices.

It seems consumers are gravitating to shopping from home or wherever is best for them; data from the National Retail Federation’s consumer survey found 108.5 million people shopped Black Friday deals online, while 99 million went to stores.

Email crushed it, again

Email marketing was the third-highest e-commerce driver (outperforming social) according to the Adobe study, with 17.8% of online sales derived from a consumer’s inbox. Email also played a critical role in Cyber Monday’s high sales, driving 19.9% of online sales throughout the day. That’s YOY growth of 32.7%.

How did the Top 100 Retailers use email during Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2016?

At 250ok, we decided to report on the email experience we had with the Top 100 Retailers’ Black Friday & Cyber Monday Email Experience (2016) during these shopping events. Here’s what we discovered:

Promotion start dates

Our first Black Friday email arrived on October 14, and the first Cyber Monday email arrived October 31.

Many of the presale offers came with significant discounts.

Retailer participation

In our experience, 88%of the Top 100 retailers sent messages specifically targeting Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or both.

Of the participating retailers, 78% sent messages targeting both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, while 14% focused solely on Black Friday and 8% focused on Cyber Monday.

Of the remaining 12% of retailers that did not reference either event, 9% sent generic promotions or referenced a “holiday sale.” Finally, we failed to receive promotional messages from 3% of the Top 100 Retailers.

Number of emails sent per retailer

In our survey, 57 retailers sent 10 or fewer messages, 21 retailers between 11-20 messages, and 10 retailers sent 21 or more messages.


Out of the more than 600 emails we received, only one message was placed in the spam folder by Gmail. Other emails from the same sender, as well as every other message from the Top 100 Retailers, found its way into the Promotions tab; however, senders beyond the Top 100 Retailers hit the spam folder more frequently.

The Top 100 Retailers invest heavily in their email programs, from having their staff or external agencies institute best practices, to 24/7 monitoring for issues, to tracking consumer engagement at a granular level to find key insights. Making a proper investment in email and delivering what they promised consumers appears to be paying off for the Top 100.

Subject line analysis

We examined the most common words used in the subject lines of messages sent by the Top 100 Retailers during this event period.

Of those retailers that sent messages for either event, nearly 8% leveraged a personalized name in the subject line.

We found 35% of participating retailers included an emoji in the subject line of at least one email.

The complete collection of emoji’s used in subject lines:

Free shipping offers

Of the 88% of retailers that sent us Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaigns, 68% offered some level of free shipping.

Of the 68% of retailers offering free shipping, 41% required no minimum purchase.

There was a range of minimums among the 28% with purchase requirements for free shipping.

Email body marketing tactics

Thankfully, all messages we received were responsive and offered an unsubscribe option.

Approximately 80% of participating retailers offered a presale or extended deals beyond the event dates.

All emails received were responsive, and 39% included motion graphics. GIFs and CSS animations are not fully supported across all email clients, so this is something critical to consider in your design planning.


Surprisingly, only 5% used name personalization within the email body. Given the amount of personalization hype in 2016, we anticipated seeing more of it.

Only 5% of participating retailers promoted their mobile apps in their messages. We also anticipated greater app promotion by the Top 100 Retailers. Considering mobile accounted for $1.2 billion, a 33% YOY increase, we expect to see a bigger push by retailers in 2017 to get consumers into their mobile apps.


We hope you found our review of the Top 100 Retailers’ Black Friday & Cyber Monday Email Experience (2016) helpful. If you are interested in maximizing your email program performance, please contact us to explore our advanced email analytics and deliverability platform used by many of the Top 100 Retailers.

Looking for more screenshots of this year’s email experience? Check out our SlideShare presentation.

Author: Joe Montgomery

Joe Montgomery is a marketing bro that believes all brands should market less and mean more. Prior to stepping in as VP of Marketing at 250ok, Joe developed and deployed strategies at a wide range of companies, from Fortune 500 businesses to startups.

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