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Cyber Monday Email Marketing Activity & Sales Continue Weakening Trend

Chad White
December 02, 2020

4 minute read

With consumers struggling financially and retailers having succeeded in pulling holiday sales into early November and even October, the downward trend in sales and email marketing activity during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend continued on Cyber Monday.

Rising email volume

Oracle Marketing Consulting predicted a 10% increase in email volume on Cyber Monday during their Choosing the Best Days to Send Email Campaigns This Holiday Season webinar in August. However, official numbers show that B2C marketers sent 10.9% fewer emails on Cyber Monday compared to last year, according to data from Oracle Marketing Consulting based on a panel of more than 40 major national B2C brands using the Oracle Responsys Campaign Management platform.

On Cyber Monday, preliminary performance data shows that unique email open rates were down 13.1% year-over-year and revenue per email was down 35.6%, according to Oracle’s panel data.

“Just as Black Friday was really more of a Black Friday Week, with sales going all week long, Cyber Monday will likely play out similarly,” Clint Kaiser, Head of Analytic & Strategic Services at Oracle Marketing Consulting, told SmarterCX. “To get a sense of how they truly performed, companies will want to look at their email performance and sales over the entire Cyber Week—and then look at that within the context of their performance since the week of Veterans Day, which is when many retailers kicked off their holiday promotions in earnest.”

Slowing online sales growth

Consumers spent $10.8 billion online on Monday, a new one-day record that eclipsed Cyber Monday’s 2019 sales by 15.1%, according to Adobe Analytics. But despite hitting record levels, the performance was a major disappointment. First, the online sales tally came in far short of Adobe’s original forecast of $12.7 billion, according to CNBC. It also fell well short of Insider Intelligence’s forecast of $12.89 billion in online sales.

And second, the 15.1% growth represents the continued slowing of online sales growth. As previously reported, online sales grew at a 22% year-over-year pace on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. During the third quarter, ecommerce sales grew at a 46% year-over-year pace, according to Adobe Analytics and at a 36.7% clip, according to the US Census Bureau. There’s a very clear slowing trend showing during what’s usually the strongest part of the holiday season.

Compounded by falling offline sales

The weaker-than-expected online sales are occurring against a backdrop of plunging offline sales due to slower foot traffic in stores. From Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26) through Sunday (Nov. 29), store traffic fell 49% compared to 2019, according to Sensormatic Solutions. On Cyber Monday, store traffic declined 23% year-over-year.

Offline sales are still critical to overall retail sales since they represent 86.5% of all retail receipts, according to the US Census Bureau.

Overall, over the five-day period of Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, shoppers spent nearly 14% less on average on holiday-related purchases both online and offline, spending $311.75 each on average this year compared to $361.90 in 2019, according to the National Retail Federation.

Email messaging trends

Cyber Monday lived up to its reputation for having some of the best online deals of the year, with discounts on Monday appearing to be steeper than on Black Friday. While many large brands, such as Lane Bryant, Express, and Gap, promoted 50% off—which was the highwater mark on Black Friday—others, including Belk, Houzz, and Rugs USA, promoted “up to 75% off.

In terms of email design, live countdown timers that ticked down to the expiration of Cyber Monday sales were fairly common. Such countdowns were used by Saks Fifth Avenue, REI, Camping World, Bass Pro Shops, Eddie Bauer, and Gap, among others. Animated gifs were also quite popular in retailers’ email campaigns, with Michaels, Uncommon Goods, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Dick’s Sporting Goods, T.J.Maxx, and others using them.

Oracle’s December forecast

Oracle Marketing Consulting is forecasting that email marketing volume will be up year-over-year through Green Monday (Dec. 14), but then decline through Christmas Day as COVID-related restrictions likely increase. With COVID-19 hospitalizations at record levels and infections expected to spike in the wake of Thanksgiving, the risk of new restrictions impacting December retail sales is high, says Kaiser.

“Down the home stretch, we expect retailers to even more actively promote and incentivize curbside pickup and ‘buy now pay later’ services like Klarna,” he says. “We also expect them to offer plenty of ‘reward cards’ that are only redeemable in January to try to sustain some sales momentum into the new year and to convert some one-time holiday shoppers into regular customers.”

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Chad White
Chad S. White is the Head of Research at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. He’s also the author of “Email Marketing Rules” and more than 3,000 articles and posts about email marketing. Chad was named the Email Experience Council’s 2018 Email Marketer Thought Leader of the Year. Find him on Twitter and LinkedIn @chadswhite.
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