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Megan · 23 min read · Tips and resources · October 21, 2020

Black Friday and Cyber Monday email marketing checklist

With so much craziness in 2020, how will the year's most chaotic sales weekend change with the times?

On November 27th, the holiday shopping mayhem will officially kick-off. Many businesses rely on this season for a huge percentage of their yearly revenue.

To maximize your sales, you want to promote your offer on as many marketing channels as possible. Email marketing is essential, as it gets your promotion directly in front of your customer’s eyes. But, you’ll need a good strategy to compete with the chaos.

So get ready! Optimize your servers, boost your website speed, double-check your checkout process, update your inventory and prepare your deals. Done? Great, now it’s time for your email marketing strategy. Here’s our Cyber Monday and Black Friday email marketing checklist.

Accounting for the busiest shopping period of the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the right times to drop your prices and generate boatloads of extra income. 

The Adobe Ecommerce report showed that 2019 witnessed the best Black Friday ever, with consumers spending a total of $7.4 billion online—an increase of $1.2 billion since 2018. Sales made on smartphones were the largest ever, with 61% of all traffic coming from mobile devices. 

This holiday shopping season is sure to be different. Customer shopping habits have already shifted online during the pandemic, and our shopping data tells an interesting story of what we might expect for this holiday season. While Black Friday/ Cyber Monday last year was the highest shopping period of 2019, we saw an incredible 45.4% rise in the average number of e-commerce orders in April 2020 (compared to Nov 2019).

Graph showing average orders per e-shop

This corresponds with the timing of COVID-19, as many people were in lockdown and spending more time online. And we can expect the rise in e-commerce shopping to continue, as more and more people will avoid physical shops and make more purchases online. This could make online shopping ginormous for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020!

This is the time to maximize your online marketing strategy. The numbers speak for themselves, and they’re getting bigger every year. So let’s break through the noise and help you make a top-notch email marketing campaign for Black Friday shopping and Cyber Monday deals. 

The holiday shopping days are upon us! To gain the most traction around your campaign, you can start early and finish a bit after the weekend. 

The number of emails you send depends on your strategy. RetailMeNot reported that 61% of retailers will release holiday deals from September at the earliest, suggesting that many people start shopping a few weeks before Black Friday. Similarly, you will hear the term ‘Cyber week’ a lot, as retailers will often extend their Cyber Monday campaign over several days. 

Here’s an example of a typical campaign series
  1. Teaser email sent a week prior to Black Friday

  2. Countdown email sent 3 days before Black Friday

  3. Main offer sent on Black Friday itself, in the morning

  4. Reminder sent during the day on Friday

  5. Cyber Monday preview sent on Sunday

  6. Cyber Monday main offer email sent on Monday morning

  7. Final email sent on Tuesday (if you want to prolong your campaign)

It’s normal to send more emails than you regularly would before and during the sales fiesta—just make sure every email is valuable so people don’t unsubscribe.

Take a look at this newsletter from theBalm cosmetics, who sent a “Mark your calendar” Black Friday email a week before the festivities were due.

theBalm Cosmetics Black Friday email example

Since many online shops will jump on the Black Friday bandwagon, it can be a challenge to stand out in the inbox. To make things easier, you can extend your campaign. Not many companies will still send emails after the 2nd of December. Plus, readers that missed the boat or weren’t in time will thank you.

And for next year, you can also start really early. Skechers is one of the companies that organized a Cyber Monday sale in the middle of July.

Skechers Cyber Monday Sale email example animated neon lights black background

Admittedly, a good open rate during Black Friday weekend is 50% skill and 50% luck. You can’t foresee how many similar emails the recipient will receive. However, there are some common practices to create subject lines that will stand out.

Research has proven that readers do pay attention to discount percentages and offers in our inboxes. It’s worth promoting your offer in the subject line (people expect this anyway).

Most subject lines include:

  • The word Black Friday or Cyber Monday 

  • A discount percentage

  • Words like free, save, discount, off, now and deal

  • Urgency (“Black Friday sale starts NOW” or “Cyber Monday ends in 4 hours”)

Any combination of the words “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday” and your discount percentage with a % is most likely your best bet. You can play around with emojis too. Lightning, black-colored emojis, electronics, people running, clocks, loudspeakers and fireworks are most used.

We took a look at some of the subject lines in our inboxes, to see how online retailers went about it. What they all had in common was that they created a sense of urgency, and they made themselves as eye-catching as possible, using punctuation, capitalization and emojis. 

Black Friday email subject lines

🏴 BLACK FRIDAY S-A-L-E 🏴 These deals are going F-A-S-T 🏃

All Out for Black Friday! Up to 85% Off + FREE…

BLACK FRIDAY 👉 New deals added 👈 Shop NOW!

🏁Black Friday Sale: Ready, Set, Save! 🏁


Cyber Monday email subject lines



⏰ Tick. Tock. Cyber Monday Sale Ends Soon: Save Up To 65% Off

Last call : Cyber Monday is ending soon.

🏁 Get Ready, Get Set...Book! Our Cyber Monday Sale Starts Now >> Rooms Up To 65% Off

Alternatively, you can try something completely different, like Casper’s “Every Friday is Black Friday when your eyes are closed. Because you’re napping” or Forever 21’s “WARNING: you're gonna want everything.” These subject lines ditched all the Black Friday rules and first mentioned their discount offer in the email itself. Bold, but refreshing!

So how do you create an effective Black Friday email campaign, and/or a Cyber Monday newsletter? Put the spotlight on your offer and follow these best practices, complete with some of our top examples.

Choose uniqueness over shocking discounts

Black Friday weekend is essentially all about major discounts. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you can give your email campaign a more unique aspect. For example, support a humanitarian cause with each sale. Lower your discounts and give the difference to a good cause. A win-win!

Or, you could offer a free gift to your subscribers. This is a nice touch during the holiday season, as it makes your customers feel valued and appreciated. 

Unique Black Friday newsletter examples

Another idea is to create an exclusive collection just for Black Friday. This way, the urgency to buy comes with the fact that the edition is limited, not because the prices have sunk so much. Modernica sets a good example with this email below:

Modernica Black Friday email example black and white

Even if you don’t have a nonprofit initiative or limited edition product, you can still add a unique touch to make your offer seem extra special. We love this Black Friday sale email by Elizabeth Grant Photography, where she offers a discount for all her wedding albums and prints. But instead of just informing her subscribers about the price drop, she talks about the value of printed photos in a digital age, and how they can be used to surprise friends and family. This makes the offer feel so much more personal and unique. 

Elizabeth Grant Photography Black Friday email print pastel colors

Unique Cyber Monday newsletter examples

A great example of a unique Cyber Monday email is this newsletter by Everlane. They start their email by saying ‘this is not a sale”. This immediately makes them stand out from the crowd, because rather than bombarding their subscribers with special deals and discounts, they point out their prices are already 50% lower than most retailers. Clever? We certainly think so!

Everlane Cyber Monday email example

Make sure your newsletter is mobile-friendly

The only thing that can kill your conversions is when people aren’t able to read your newsletter properly. Make sure you send mobile-friendly newsletters so that your email is responsive and looks good on all devices. 

PracticalEcommerce reported that in 2019, the percentage of online shoppers using mobile devices to make purchases has dramatically increased, and this contributed to the biggest Black Friday and Cyber Monday yet. The bottom line? Your Black Friday email design should be responsive, so that it’s extra easy for your customers to buy things via their smartphones. 

When you create your newsletter using an email tool, you shouldn’t have any problems with the responsiveness. Most email software, like MailerLite, will automatically ensure that your email is displayed correctly.

Plan out your imagery and how you will use colors

Black Friday emails and Cyber Monday newsletters are something special. Your regular newsletters probably have a design concept that you stick to. However, for these emails, it’s totally okay (and even encouraged) to switch it up a little. 

For a Black Friday email, you can exchange your regular newsletter colors and create an almost or all-black email. The color combination black, white and one or two colors to accentuate works well.

As for the imagery, these emails are known to focus on the product or discount that’s being promoted. You’ll often see the discount percentage in a huge font, so it’s the first thing a reader sees. Make your offer the center of attention and pick images that let your deal shine!

Black Friday email design example

Check out this mobile-friendly email newsletter from Luonto, which sells furniture. They built their email campaign using MailerLite, so the content blocks will automatically display correctly on different devices. They use a grey and white color scheme, but mix it up with pops of yellow to draw attention to the most important details.

Luonto Black Friday email example black background

Cyber Monday email design example

We also love this Cyber Monday email example from Herschel Supply Co. They promote different offers as the subscriber scrolls through the email, which adds a nice interactive element to their Cyber Monday email marketing. Notice the bold black and white coloring, which accentuates the text.

Herschel Cyber Monday email black background white text
Quick tip for a good e-commerce template

Apart from the colors, you also want to pay attention to the layout itself. If you’re not sure how to get started, you can visit our gallery of newsletter design examples for inspiration or pick one of the pre-built e-commerce templates when creating a new campaign in MailerLite.

Use GIFs to grab attention

Subscribers love to receive interactive content in their emails. Flashy imagery and subtle movements have proven to draw the eye’s attention, which you can use to your advantage. For your next Cyber Monday campaign or Black Friday email, try to see what elements in your newsletter can be highlighted. Maybe a certain product, a discount percentage or the CTA? By turning an image into a GIF you can increase clicks and improve email engagement.

Interactive Black Friday emails

Take a look at this Black Friday email marketing example by Carhartt below, which features a window blind being lifted to reveal the second part of the text. 

Carhartt Black Friday email example animated curtains

Or you could follow Hello Fresh’s approach by having flashing text. It draws the eye across the page and highlights their special offer. 

Hello Fresh Black Friday email example animated green

Wild + Co. took it a step further, with moving text and images for their holiday email marketing.

Wild + Co. Black Friday email example collage animated

Interactive Cyber Monday emails

We like this creative Cyber Monday email by Loft, which uses a GIF of a computer loading, to create imagery around customers being able to load up their closets with new items of clothing. 

Loft Cyber Monday email example

And of course, the GIF of a dog jumping out of the car with the caption ‘don’t let Cyber Monday get away’ is just pure genius!

J-crew Cyber Monday email example

Convey urgency by using a countdown timer

Countdowns can be used for your pop-up, landing page and emails. They do a great job of expressing urgency.

MailerLite customers can easily drag & drop a countdown timer block in their email. Then, all you need to do is set the day and time and the timer will automatically start counting down. We love countdown timers because they make your email interactive and add urgency to your offer. Check out this article to learn fun ways to use an email countdown timer in your Black Friday email or Cyber Monday campaign. 

Black Friday countdown timer example

Forever 21 has a countdown timer embedded right at the top of its email campaign, drawing the subscribers’ eye and creating a sense of urgency around its special offer. 

Forever21 Black Friday email example big letters sale red background

Cyber Monday countdown timer example

Happy Plates even add in TWO countdown timers to their Cyber Monday email for maximum effect! They also strategically place a CTA button next to the timer, so that subscribers can take action immediately. 

Happy Plates Cyber Monday email example countdown timer

Send personalized coupon codes using dynamic email content

Have you heard about dynamic email content? It’s kind of like magic. For almost all content blocks in your newsletter, you’re able to select which recipient group(s) will see the content.

If you want to use email personalization and send different coupon codes to different recipient groups on your email list, you can! For example, you could have a different code for customers that have never made a purchase at your shop.

In MailerLite, you would:

  • Create a group that includes every subscriber with a purchase count of 0

  • Add a content block and insert the voucher code

  • Click the eye icon on the upper right side and select that the block is only shown to the group

You can also reward loyal customers with an extra discount or give them early-bird access using dynamic blocks for the secret announcement.

Black Friday dynamic email content

Withings offer a special VIP access card to their subscribers for Black Friday, giving them exclusive deals “one day before everyone else”! This secret announcement will make people feel special and valued, and they’ll be keen to take advantage of this exclusive offer. 

Withings Black Friday email example VIP access deals

Cyber Monday dynamic email content

Periodic Audio makes their subscribers feel unique by sending a personalized email campaign ‘just for you’! They also add to the element of secrecy by reminding them to ‘keep it quiet’, as it’s a special offer reserved exclusively for friends and family.

Periodic Audio Cyber Monday email example text one cta button

Incorporate social media in your emails

Make your marketing strategy come full circle by connecting all your marketing channels. When setting up your Black Friday emails and Cyber Monday campaigns, you probably also thought about your social media posts. Maybe you’ll host a giveaway on Instagram or create a special event on Facebook.

Whatever it may be, it’s worth promoting this in your newsletter too by embedding the post. Our social blocks make this super easy to do. Drag the social block into your newsletter while you're in the newsletter editor and add the URL of the post or event. This works for Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Integrating social media in a Black Friday campaign

Check out this Black Friday sale email from Medusa’s Makeup, which promotes cruelty-free and vegan cosmetics. Beneath the promotion are social media blocks promoting their Instagram page, so that they can simultaneously build engagement with their social media campaign. 

Medusa's Makeup Black Friday email example colorful pink

Integrating social media in a Cyber Monday campaign

Quiz shared their Cyber Monday promotions, before offering subscribers the chance to view their latest photoshoot on Snapchat, thereby opening up another marketing channel with their audience. 

Quiz Cyber Monday email campaign neon pink black background

Seal the deal with an abandoned cart campaign

With so many promotions happening simultaneously, customers often forget about their order or leaves your shop to browse other deals. No worries, you can automatically trigger an abandoned cart email to reengage them. A quick reminder a few hours later can urge the reader to complete their order before the promotion is over. These types of emails can win back 12-15% of your shoppers!

Black Friday abandoned cart email example

This online business kept track of their customers’ abandoned carts, and used it to promote their Black Friday deals. This personalized email strategy meant that their campaign was more targeted, and their customers had a reminder to complete their purchase. 

Columbia Black Friday email example clothes

Cyber Monday abandoned cart email example 

We love this abandoned cart email by Perigold. It isn’t pushy or overwhelming, and the minimalist design makes the product stand out and look even more appealing. 

Perigold Cyber Monday email example
Are you a Shopify or WooCommerce user?

Then you can use the MailerLite abandoned cart feature to get customers to finish their order. Click here to read how this feature works.

Maximize your sales with recommended products

Did you know that Amazon generates 35% of its revenue from product recommendations? You can too!

Let’s say a customer buys a laptop on Black Friday. They might also need headphones or a laptop sleeve, and you’ll have a promo for these accessories on Cyber Monday! Wouldn’t it be great to highlight this to people that just bought a laptop? 

Customers who run their e-commerce with Shopify have the possibility within MailerLite to send product emails with recommendations based on previously bought products. Check out this article about our latest Shopify integration updates

Auto resend unopened campaigns and reach more subscribers

As much as we wish for this to happen, your email will likely not be read by 100% of your audience. This doesn’t mean that these readers are not interested. Maybe they didn’t see your email the first time because of all the other Black Friday campaigns. With our auto resend feature, you can resend an email to subscribers who didn’t open it the first time. So you get a second chance!

The feature automatically groups those recipients that received your first email but didn’t open it. It then sends the same email (or a variation, if you make edits) to this group. What you’ll normally see happening is that a lot of recipients will open your email the second time around. Auto resend is the easiest way to boost email visibility during these crazy times!

Lastly, don’t forget to A/B test if you can

Black Friday emails and Cyber Monday newsletters are very time-sensitive, which is why it’s not always possible to A/B test your campaign during this time. However, we recommend using A/B testing when you have the time for it.

This feature tests 2 versions with a percentage of your list during a time-frame of your choice. After this time is up, it automatically sends the winning version to the remaining part of your subscriber list. 

By sending the best email to the majority of the people on your list, you increase the success of your Black Friday email campaign.

There you have it, everything you need to know about how to prepare effective Black Friday email campaigns and Cyber Monday newsletters. And don’t forget: Once you get those sales, make sure to nurture these relationships with emails afterward so you can turn your new customers into life-long friends.

To recap, here’s your checklist:

The Black Friday and Cyber Monday checklist

✅ Decide on the length and timing of your email campaign

✅ Use urgency, %, discounts and “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday” in your subject line

✅ Go beyond crazy discounts to make your offer stand out

✅ Make your email responsive

✅ Decide on newsletters colors (going for an all-black theme or just accents?)

✅ Use GIFs to draw attention to important information

✅ Create urgency with a countdown timer

✅ Send personal offers using dynamic content blocks

✅ Make it multi-channel by embedding social media posts

✅ Seal the deal with an abandoned cart campaign

✅ Send product recommendations when people buy

✅ Increase the open rate with the auto resend feature

✅ A/B test your campaigns to maximize success

What are you planning for this year’s Black Friday or Cyber Monday email campaign?

Editor's note: This article was originally published in October 2019. It has been updated with new data and examples for Black Friday/Cyber Monday 2020. 

Megan de Graaf

I’m Megan, Senior Content Writer at The Remote Company. Ever since I started working remotely, I pick my homes depending on the seasons: Europe during spring and summer, NYC for autumn, and winter escapes in Mexico.