Here’s a quick first look at what we’ve seen so far of certain Holiday-themed email since the beginning of November.  The table below shows weekly activity, between October 25th and December 1st, versus the period of comparable weeks in 2019.

  • Focus in Weeks # 1-5 is Black Friday themed email.
  • With Week #6, we break out each of Black Friday’s and Cyber Monday’s emails. We also show Black Friday-themed email sent on Black Friday, and Cyber Monday themed email sent on Cyber Monday.
  • The data show activity for fourteen major retail sectors we track on our data platform.
  • A detailed source note is just under the table.

We were curious to see how 2020’s severe COVID-related disruptions would be reflected in the year-over year comparisons, especially given how much more online shopping is certain to be occurring this year.  What we found surprised us.  Discussion begins after the table.

Cyber Monday

(Notes:  Weeks run Sunday through Saturday.   Weeks # 1-5 cover the periods 10/25 – 11/28 for 2020, and 12/27 – 11/30 for 2019.  Week #6 is abbreviated:  11/29 – 12/1 for 2020; 12/1 – 12/3 for 2019.  Week #5 is Thanksgiving Week and contains Black Friday.  Week #6 contains Cyber Monday. Data Source:  SparkPost consumer panel.) 

  • In both 2019 and 2020, send activity increases strongly, as expected, in each week leading up to Black Friday. However . . .
    • Although Weeks 1-4 show positive year-over-year activity trends, those trends go negative in Weeks 5-6, and that’s also reflected, both In Black Friday-themed emails sent on Black Friday itself, and in Cyber Monday-themed emails sent on Cyber Monday itself.
    • Read rate trends are positive through Week 3, but go negative thereafter.
    • But inbox performance shows consistent year-over year improvements throughout the analysis period.
    • This latter deliverability uptrend may offer a slight clue to the noted downtrends. Due to the pandemic-related economic dislocations, more retail customers have likely been inactive this year, limiting send sizes to audiences having more recent and actively engaged subscribers, at least for senders looking to protect their inbox reputations, which clearly seems to have happened.
    • Another possible factor in the send activity downtrend is simply that “Black Friday” has become such a generic term for “huge sale” that it’s been in year-round use across the promotional email spectrum for many years, and thus less likely to command special attention — or use — specifically for Holiday.
  • Other fun facts:
    • As we’ve seen in previous years, Black Friday themed emails are actually a relatively small proportion of email deployed by these senders during the analysis period. Still, even that proportion has decreased, to 6.8% in 2020 from 7.5% in 2019, on a base of total activity that stayed about the same year-over-year.
    • Messaging this year which included pandemic references constituted only about 2% of total period messaging, and most of those references appear to reflect disclaimers that retail order processing and shipment might be delayed by pandemic-related issues.

This is a preliminary look only.  We will publish a detailed analysis next week, including a breakout of major retail brands and a more complete view of Cyber Monday and subsequent Cyber Week activity.

~ John