New Black Friday Data Suggests Customers Prefer Lower Discounts, Fewer Choices
By Bernard Meyer, Director of Content and Research, Omnisend
Black Friday can be quite a hectic time, and ecommerce owners and marketers are constantly looking for ways to improve their chances of success.
Recently, Omnisend analyzed more than 229 million emails sent out during last year’s Black Friday-Cyber Monday period. We wanted to see which email elements, such as CTAs (buttons), images, phrases, subject lines, etc., could lead to better engagement and conversions.
Our results were pretty eye-opening: people seem to want less, not more.
More specifically, we found that:
- Emails that have two-three CTAs (buttons) have the highest click rates
- Discounts offering between 10%-25% off have better click rates than bigger discounts, like 50% or 60% off
- Emails with no more than 480 words show better click rates than those with higher word counts
There’s much more in our report, but the main thread seems to be something that marketers (should have) learned a long time ago: keep your messages concise and focused.
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Let’s take a deeper dive into the main highlights.
Lower discounts offer better sales
One particularly interesting result from our analysis showed that discounts 25% and under show better click rates than any other discount range.
By click rates, here we mean click-to-sent rates, which compare the amount of clicks vs. the amount of email sent, rather than click-to-open rates that compare clicks to the amount of opened emails.
In the graph below, we see the click rates for various % discount ranges as green bars . We can also see the amount of emails sent, or the popularity of the % discount ranges, as the beige line.
While discount ranges from 20-25%, 30-35% and 50-55% were the most popular, 20-25% had the best click rates.
This is particularly surprising, since it’s often casually accepted that customers would prefer higher discounts.
However, the data seems to suggest that there may be a sweet spot for % discounts. It’s possible that higher discounts (for example, 80% off) can be perceived as a reflection of the low quality of the product. In the age of Wish and AliExpress “surprises,” such deep discounts could be regarded as too good to be true.
Fewer buttons can lead to better clicks
Following those insights, it seems that the same theory holds for the amount of CTAs (buttons) merchants are including in their emails.
Essentially, we found that after three CTAs, the click rate begins to lower gradually.
This isn’t as much of a surprise, as it’s a newsletter best practice to not overwhelm your readers with too many options that may cause analysis paralysis.
Based on this data, adding up to three CTAs to your newsletter gives average click rates of around 2.3%. This gels with the idea that your newsletter should be focused on selling a main product, with some supporting, relevant products.
We also discovered that the classic “shop now” copy on the CTA still has one of the best click rates (2.2%).
Lower word counts are important
The trend continues when looking at word count in both emails (related to click rates) and subject lines (related to open rates).
We see that subject lines that have up to 7 words are not only the most popular, but they also have good open rates, roughly 15%-17%.
The most popular word count range for subject lines is 5-7 words, with more than 61 million emails sent. The average open rate for this range is 15%.
You’ll also notice that the highest open rates are for subject lines with 0-3 words. However, because it has such a low send volume, you should most likely take this with a grain of salt.
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We see a similar pattern when looking at the optimal word count in the email body.
The highest click rates here seem to be for very low word counts, ranging from 0-100 words. However, the amount of emails sent for this range is pretty low, and therefore it may be less significant. Similarly, we see a spike in click rates for emails with 640-720 words; however, these have a low amount of emails sent, and therefore are less significant.
Instead, the range for 100-480 words is both stable in terms of click rates and has a good count of emails sent, with the most popular word count being 240-320 words. This range of 100-480 words brings in a stable 2.2%.
In total, when looking at the similarity in insights for discount size, number of CTAs, and word counts in subject lines and email copy, it becomes clear that less is better for both the customer and the merchant. However, there’s most likely a caveat here: less is better when your communication is focused and the reader has a clear understanding of what they should do after having read the email.
If your email is confusing or muddled in any way, then it won’t matter how many words or CTAs you use. The conversions will most likely be low.
The highest-converting words to use in your emails
Besides the question of how much or how many to use in emails for the best chance of success during the BFCM period, we also wanted to understand which words or phrases gave ecommerce merchants the best rates.
For this we looked at four questions:
- When trying to communicate urgency, such as “sale ends soon” or “two days left,” which phrase was the most successful?
- Is it better to offer free shipping or a discount code?
- Of the four days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, which day gave the best conversions when mentioned in the subject line?
#1 Comparing terms of urgency
One of the best ways to get recipients to respond to promotional emails is to add a sense of urgency: if they don’t act now, they’ll miss this special offer.
In order to see which terms of urgency had the highest open rates, we compared the following:
- Hours left
- Days left
- Last chance
- Last day
- Sale ends
- Sale starts
- Miss out
Out of these terms, “sales starts” came in with the highest average open rate at 15.5%. While “last chance” and “today” were the most popular to use in a subject line, they had lower open rates, coming in at 14.2% and 13.9% respectively.
#2 Best terms for promotions
The essential driving question here was to understand how “free shipping” compares to other special offerings. For example, within the ecommerce space, there’s a lot of discussion of free shipping for a regular-priced product being better for sales than a lower-priced product with paid shipping.
We wanted to see if there’s any evidence of free shipping being better when used in subject lines. In total, we compared:
- Special offer
- Free shipping
- Use code
- % off
- Chance to save
- Up to
The results? Using “free shipping” in your subject lines didn’t necessarily bring the best open rates. In fact, it wasn’t even in the top three.
According to data from last year’s BFCM, using the term “chance to save” is more intriguing for subscribers and customers, garnering a 17.2% open rate. This is followed by “coupon” (16.4%) and “special offer” (15.9%).
#3 Terms related to BFCM days
Surprisingly, the highest open rates belong to the term “Thanksgiving” (15.4%) while the lowest is for “Cyber Monday” (13.9%). “Black Friday” and “Small Business Saturday” are somewhere in the middle (around 15%).
However, there are two important things to note here: it is far more popular to use “Black Friday” in subject lines for BFCM than “Thanksgiving,” and this can impact the average open rates since outliers have a bigger impact when the number of campaigns sent is lower.
On the other hand, “Black Friday” is both a day and a period, and ecommerce businesses may be sticking with this term for multiple days. It’s also possible that, because of the lower popularity of the word “Thanksgiving” in subject lines, there’s also lower competition, and a potentially higher chance of success there.
What does this mean for ecommerce merchants?
There’s a caveat here, which is a caveat that should apply to all types of analyses: what works for them may not work for you.
Our analysis of BFCM campaigns from 2020 showed what works on average for all campaigns, but it would be a mistake to say that these would work for every business, every time.
Instead, ecommerce merchants should take this as another data point along with knowledge of their own business. In terms of this specific analysis, it’s best that merchants put this in their backlog of things to try out.
Generally, our data showed that customers most likely prefer getting a unified, targeted message in which it is easy to focus on one or a few things. When you try to add too many elements, it can confuse or overwhelm your customers.
This applies not only to the number of CTAs or length of emails, but also to the size of your discounts: keep it within the 15%-50% range and see how that works for your business, rather than giving customers a major 80% discount.
Test out the ideas from this analysis and see if they can help give your business an edge this Black Friday.
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