[7 Powerful] Black Friday Email Marketing Ideas & Tips

Last updated January 30, 2020

It’s easy to over complicate Black Friday email marketing and Holiday campaigns in general.

When I first started doing holiday email campaigns many many years ago, I felt like I was chasing my tail, frazzled and trying anything and everything to increase email revenue.

Now, I’m older, wiser and will be smoothly running 5 holiday campaigns this year…

Here’s the thing. There IS a lot riding on your holiday campaign. On average, holiday sales account for 20-30% (depending on the industry) of annual revenue. And email influences a whopping 25% of those sales.

Scroll down to the bottom to download 6 Free Shopify Email Templates For Mailchimp (HTML included just upload and send). Template welcome series and cart abandonment.

No pressure right? But at the end of the day, they’re just bigger and badder versions of your other campaigns. There are tons of tiny details you could consider and many we don’t have time to cover in just one blog post (we’ve included a few at the end if you’re hungry for more), but if you take a step back, regroup and follow these 7 black friday email marketing ideas & tips, you’ll totally kill it this year.

Follow this guide to:

  1. Come up with a theme, today.
  2. Make a calendar.
  3. A/B Test. Now.
  4. Use Coupons Wisely
  5. Don’t overlook gift cards
  6. Don’t Work in a Silo
  7. Stay focused

1. Come up with a theme, today.

Stop throwing spaghetti on the wall. If you don’t have a theme, you’ll desperately be throwing anything and everything against the wall, in this case – email boxes, and seeing what sticks and gets revenue.

This is a sure fire way to annoy your customers. And during a time of year when it’s survival of the fittest for email box attention, you have to walk a fine line of being aggressive and charming.

Coming up with a unique theme that is aligned with your brand is the best way to make sure you stand out this year.

Stuck on how to find your unique angle…Here are a few of my favorites.

Multi-product stores (i.e. jewelry, clothing, misc. gifts)


These are by far my favorite to plan. A 12 Days of Gifts campaign is a no brainer. Here’s how it works.

Each day is a different “sale”. Some examples of sale variations include; BOGO Skincare, Spend $100 get $20 OFF, $10 OFF men’s clothing, 20% OFF sitewide, 50% OFF all watches, Spend $50 get a free lip balm.

This angle is far more exciting than running 15% OFF for 4 weeks straight. Plus, if you have the resources to create a dedicated landing page where you share your “sales calendar”, this will excite customers and encourage them to check their inbox specifically for your emails. Example: Ulta’s 21 Days of Beauty.

Single-product and/or Recurring Subscription stores

These require a little more creativity and “theme-based” strategy. But pairing a witty theme with  offering varying discounts throughout the course of the holidays, single-product stores can have just as much success as multi-product stores.

Single product or recurring subscription stores can benefit the most from leveraging their current customer based. Create a special series of emails just for past customers and encourage them to buy as a gift.

Your current customers have already drank the koolaid and are your biggest cheerleaders. Use them.

In this great example below, the New York Times targeted their current customer base, and asked them to give the “gift of truth”.


As you look for your perfect theme, find inspiration by searching holiday emails with one of my favorite sites, Really Good Emails: https://reallygoodemails.com/?s=holiday


2. Make a calendar

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It can be a google sheet or a physical desk calendar from staples. You have to get visual. Use it and stick with it. Make sure to identify the basics:

  • Name of campaign
  • Subject Lines
  • Send Date
  • Draft Due by Date *Give yourself atleast a 1 week buffer between draft and send date.
  • Items for sale in email
  • Discount code & offer
  • List/segment being sent to
  • Changes or preparation needed to the website
  • Total Revenue: To be completed after campaign

Plan on mapping out 20-30 emails. It may seem aggressive, but it’s a dog-eat-dog world with inboxes during the holidays. According to Klaviyo, those who sent 20-30 emails compared to those who sent 10 emails, saw anywhere from 17x – 77x increase in revenue.


It should be noted not everyone will receive 20-30 emails. Most people should received approximately 15 emails when lists are segmented properly and emails sent accordingly.

3. A/B Test. Now

This tip is two-fold…And important. If you fail to A/B test both before and during your holiday push, you’ll be leaving money on the table. This is because discovering how to boost click through rates by even a few percentage points can have a huge impact on your holiday email campaign revenue .So how to do this?

Start now

Don’t wait until black friday to see how your customers respond to emojis in their subject lines. Test just one aspect at a time. Automated flows, like abandoned cart and welcome series, are a great place to A/B test.

If you do plan on testing emojis in your subject lines, use a service like https://emojipedia.org/ where you can search, copy and paste email friendly emojis.


Run each A/B test for a week each, then move onto the next test. Aim to get open rates above 15-20% and click through rates of 3% – at a bare minimum.

*If your open rates are dipping below 10% and click through rates less than 1%, you need to seriously evaluate your strategy. Continuing to send with low open and click through rates will tell gmail and other email providers that people are not interested in your emails and will send you straight to the spam folder.

If you start now, you’ll have good enough insight into your customers behaviors to make calculated moves by the time black friday comes around

Subject Lines

Don’t just look at open rates. A great open rate is nothing if the click throughs are half of your “loosing” subject line. The best click through rates comes from a good subject line that is beautifully in line with the message of the email. It’s not uncommon to see the “loosing subject line” have a higher click through rate.

For example, in the following campaign, Email B had higher conversion even though it had a lower open rate. Why? The content within the email was directly related and even directly referenced black friday. The smooth transition from subject line to email content makes sense and doesn’t feel forced. When an email feels forced, the reader will feel like they’re in a “gotch-ya” situation and will be less likely to continue the conversation with you.

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From Name

Marketers are getting pretty creative when it comes to “from names”.

For example, test: Mary from Little Lamb Shop  v. Mary // Little Lamb Shop.

The latter is more visually interesting with the “//” and stands out in the inbox without trying too hard. Overall, open rates increased by close to 30% with this tactic.

Another fun “from name” angle is to change the from name for each send. The cooking magazine, Epicurious, is a great example of this. (Check out my personal favorite, “Teri Yaki”…)


Preview Text

Please do not let your preview text say “View this email in your browser”. A lot of people overlook this one (including Epicurious above), but it can have a big impact on your open rates. Make it an extension of your subject line, tease with a little more info on what’s inside.


Do your customers respond better to image heavy emails or personal text based? CTA placement? Do some industry standard A/B tests.


Send times

Evening (7pm-9pm) is becoming a more popular time to send e-commerce emails, when people are settling down for the night and simultaneously watching TV and playing on their phones. But, if you’re in the beauty industry for example, early morning (7am-9am) might work well for you considering this is when women are doing their daily routines and beauty products are top of mind.

Be careful of becoming obsessed with one metric. Again, great open and click through rates mean nothing if they don’t result in revenue. Identify what helps get your customer across the finish line.

Don’t stop.

Continue to A/B test during the holidays. This can be a little tough since most email marketers will be sending email every day or every other day. Set up your first A/B test for 11am for 20% of your email list and push the winner out from 7-9pm.

4. Use Coupons Wisely

Don’t offer deep discounts if you don’t have to

This one is risky because consumers have become programmed to shop with coupons, especially during the holidays. But if you have a truly unique product that usually sells well without coupons, don’t go crazy or get desperate just to compete with someone else offering 50% off, reign it in. You can do this by creating a cohesive theme and showing your unique value in your emails. (If you have a lot of direct competitors, don’t go this route. You’ll get murdered.)

Don’t send to everyone

Segment a list of people based on their coupon habits. Make a list of people who only buy with a coupon and those who have never used a coupon or rarely need one. Send your emails accordingly.

Switch it up

People respond to different types of sales, mix and match your sales, i.e. $10 off versus 10% off, spend $10 get $10.

5. Don’t Overlook Gift Cards

Over 60% of people look forward to getting a gift card. Include information on gift cards and how to buy in your holiday emails. And dedicate 1-2 specifically with the goal of selling gift cards.

Here are some great examples:

This first example from Airbnb is great because it doesn’t just say, “Give a gift card”. Boring, right? You have to offer some kind of action or visualization behind the messaging. Here, AirBnb said, “Where will Dad go first?” This allows the reader to get the warm and fuzzy feeling of how much of a great time dad will have on this trip.

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For your regular holiday emails, include information in a secondary section of your email which directly links to your gift card page. Include it on most if not all of your emails. Also, consider swapping out one of your email header buttons to just “gift cards” and make it stand out. Also consider doing this on your website as well. Do not make people dig to find info on your gift cards.

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6. Don’t work in a silo.

Running your amazingly awesome holiday campaign in a silo is the kiss of death. I see this mostly with smaller companies who outsource marketing efforts or where everyone works remotely. The two never talk.

Get the two on the phone and have them coordinate their efforts and timing. Those people opening your emails are also on social media (and so are the ones who didn’t open your email probably!). Hit them twice and you’ll have more success.

You can easily do this by repurposing email images and resizing for your social media channels. Services like canva.com have “magic resize” buttons that will automatically resize and reformat for all major social media channels.

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7. Stay focused

Do not get distracted by the latest and greatest app someone on your team passed along to you, unless you truly think it will impact your sales. T-minus 5 weeks until the busiest shopping day of the year is not the time to create a loyalty program from scratch unless you have the resources to have it up and running absolutely smoothly.

nancy reagan

Instead, make sure you have your basic automated flows set-up: abandoned cart, browse abandonment, welcome flow, and thank you to new and repeat customers. These can account for 10-20% of sales alone.

Extra Tips To Kill Your Black Friday, Cyber Monday & Holiday Email Marketing

Avoid spam filters

Make sure you’re open rates are above 10% before you start pushing lots of emails out for black friday. If you’re consistently below 10%, you’ll start to trigger spam filters. Run a segment labeled, “inactive – master”. How you pull this list depends on your business, but one example and good rule of thumb is to remove people who have not purchased at least once in the last 6 months OR have opened an email zero times in the last 6 months.

Avoid the dreaded opps email

There are some prideful people reading this who just said, “Ha, that’ll never happen to me.” But be careful, it’s easier to do than you think, especially during this time of year. If you make a mistake, you make it 20…30…700,000 times depending on your email list. Double, triple check everything. Subject line, preview text, every. single. link. Have at least two sets of eyes review the email.

Author: Mary Coggins

Howdy! I’m an Email Marketing Automation Expert and Klaviyo Partner. I left my corporate job 3 years ago to pursue freelancing and have since become a Top Rated Upwork Freelancer. I think small to medium sized e-commerce businesses deserve emails that are just as beautiful and profitable as the “big guys”. I geek out over automation and segmentation daily. I’m also a classically trained pastry chef, but that’s a different blog post…

giles thomas


Hi, I’m Giles Thomas. Founder of AcquireConvert, the place where ecommerce entrepreneurs & businesses go to learn how to increase conversions & profits. I’m also the founder of ecommerce growth agency Whole Design Studios. I’m a head marketing mentor at the Google Launchpad Accelerator & Google Marketing Expert. Ps. Check out my new blog RisePro.co


12 Responses or Pingbacks

  1. vikas says:

    Good Post to share,
    this article helps with e-mail marketing and get ideas to do e-marketing.Thank you for this Post…

  2. Rohit says:

    I Found this post very informative , after reading your article i Hope my open rate will definnitely increase..

  3. seekday says:

    Thanks for sharing your great information………..:-)

  4. Great and wonderful article to read this
    thanks for sharing great post……………… 🙂

  5. 10seos says:

    Yes indeed, happily there are many opportunities to dramatically improve customer engagement/retention with email marketing. Two additional suggestions:

    Merchandising emails – integrate CRM data and product attribute data in real time. Price, category, inventory level, etc.

    Repeat orders – some e-commerce businesses have the inbuilt advantage of repeat orders, but different SKUs have different lifespans

  6. Really very attractive post.Thank you for share.

  7. Sunny says:

    Thanks for sharing its informative to me. I learn many more things it mind blowing.

  8. Good points.

    One more thing to add – just do SOMETHING.

    Don’t get caught in analysis – paralysis, just send the email – you’ll sell more than if you don’t send anything.

    I hate to see people losing income just because they think they have to have a perfect template.

    KISS (keep it simple, silly) for the win!

  9. John says:

    Like it, will use these tips next year!

  10. pratibha says:

    thank you for giving this tips..its really helpful

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