October 19, 2023
Reading Time: 10 minutes
As the BFCM countdown moves closer to the start of the holiday season, it’s time to blow it out of the water. For many ecommerce brands, this marketing toolkit always includes SMS and email marketing.
Both play an integral role in BFCM performance. And both have got to be treated differently. Email and SMS are ultimately very different owned channels that both play an important part in your customer journey and experience.
If you’re looking to take a truly channel-specific approach this holiday season, we’ve got 10 best practices you can tee up right now.
1. Establish a smart send strategy
Based on our data from BFCM 2022, there are roughly two major send periods that account for most of the volume (70%-75%) during Black Friday through Cyber Monday. Almost 50% of campaigns were sent between 9am - 2pm EST and 20% were sent during the hours of 5pm-8pm EST.
If you want a better chance of sending out texts that will cut through the noise, messages sent between 1pm - 5pm EST face far less competition for attention.
And it pays off in earnings too. Sending during off-peak times gains even more traction when we look at EPM (earnings per metric) data. At least for Black Friday, we see EPM spike to their highest levels in the entire day between 3pm - 5pm EST!
Stagger those sends. You do not need to schedule out an SMS campaign when an email campaign goes out. The better you spread out your holiday messaging, the more eyeballs you’ll get on them.
2. Offer the opt-out
Don’t waste crucial email and SMS sends to subscribers that don’t want to hear from you during the holidays. We always recommend giving subscribers the option on how they want to hear from your brand during the month of November by allowing different opt-out scenarios from them.
For example, we’ve seen brands take a truly empathetic approach, noting that for lots of people, the holidays are hard. Here’s an example of how to segment on SMS by requesting they reply:
A - Pause all campaigns until December
B - I only want to hear about promotions during BFCM
C - Send them all to me!
From there you can remove an unengaged segment from your holiday sends, focus on promotions for those shoppers and give your more engaged audience all the campaigns. Not only will this help your EPM, but it’ll keep unsubscribes low during this period.
We’ve seen brands take this approach over email as well—though it’s much easier to get subscribers to engage with a conversational response over SMS than over email. According to a study by The Manifest, 59% of consumers say that the most common reason they unsubscribe from marketing emails is because they are too frequent—which could hit your email unsub rate hard during a peak sales cycle.
The tl;dr is that better segments will equate to better sends on both platforms.
3. Educate your audience in various formats
For those smaller or more educational marketing moments, brands should play to the strengths of each channel. This means taking the time to understand your community and how customers respond/engage on that particular channel.
Email is great for longer form content (new blog posts, newsletters, and other educational content) in addition to being a great channel for reaching a wider audience (product launches, sales, etc).
Longform has no place for a subscriber’s phone. If you’re hoping to serve educational content over text, ask subscribers what they want to learn more about and give them the details they want straight to their phone, whether it’s how to measure a room to find the right size rug to questions about materials in your product.
4. Make it SMS-first for time sensitive messages
The average consumer will have one bajillion emails in their inbox come Friday morning (that’s a soft guess). If you are launching a flash sale or promotion that runs within a specific window of time, consider focusing your efforts over text. They have higher open rates and a whopping 75% of Americans check their phone notifications within 5 minutes of receipt.
5. Stand out with interactive content
SMS is uniquely suited for interactive content. It’s a great way to help with deliverability (as replies help show carriers that someone is engaged with your messages which helps improve long term deliverability). And subscribers who reply to texts are 4X more valuable.
Outside of just campaigns, you’ll want to think about how you handle automations which use event triggers to send out a message to the subscriber who took that action. These messages have a much higher conversion rate because these are higher intent actions.
It’s especially important to make sure you are taking advantage of these moments to send messages to subscribers across channels. Most automations are using events that happen on Shopify and the cancellation trigger (ie the reason someone stops getting messages) is also based on Shopify events, which means you can easily configure your emails and SMS messages using the same starting event and the same exit event.
6. Customize high intent automations
Some of the highest intent automations (not counting your welcome series) are tied to a subscriber starting the purchasing process (looking at a product on your site, adding to cart or starting checkout) and not getting all the way to placing that order.
There are industry regulations for SMS that limit the number of messages that can be sent to a subscriber (limited to one message per shopping cart event within 48 hours) which means email is the perfect partner in crime to help drive a subscriber to complete that purchase. The trick is just taking a look at the timing and making sure your messages aren’t conflicting. This won’t always look exactly the same as SMS is subject to waking hours which can cause a delay for those midnight shoppers, while there is nothing stopping your late night emails.
7. Add personalized promotions
When you think about the message you are sending out, not everyone is going to be useful to every subscriber. In order to best message your customers, you’ll first want to make sure you have done your homework to deeply understand your customers (see #2 on this list.)
For email, as long as you are keeping up with list hygiene there will be things you normally send to your full list like your newsletter, new product drops or big sales. But don’t let that fool you into believing segmentation doesn’t matter in email. There are still plenty of use-cases where getting the email narrowed down to a smaller group of subscribers makes it possible to better tailor the message to the recipient. Subscribers newer to your brand, might benefit more from educational content, or offers specific to someone who hasn’t purchased before (think free trials or samples depending on your product line). While your existing customers might get more of a VIP treatment in terms of accessing sales early or getting special offers that only VIPs qualify for.
Brands can take advantage of previous purchase information or preferences they have gathered about a subscriber to send content that is most relevant to a particular subscriber.
SMS is a more personal channel (remember your texts are showing up alongside messages from Mom) so making sure your message is more tailored is critical. We’re hearing more and more from brands that almost never text their full list anymore, but rather text their full list in segments—still hitting all subscribers but with smarter messaging.
The difference in copy for someone who hasn’t purchased vs someone that has might be minor, but it can go a long way.
8. Sprinkle in holiday cheer
When brands send messages that aren’t personalized or feel generic, they are unlikely to maximize the potential of the channel, leaving money on the table, driving up unsubscribe rates and providing a poor customer experience. When you think about brands that are just constantly bombarding you with coupon code after coupon, aside from being conditioned to always look for the sale, you aren’t always getting a ton of value as a consumer.
The way you surprise and delight your subscribers looks pretty different on email vs SMS. For email, this can come in the form of content that is more educational or inspirational in nature. This might look like a gift guide or giveaway. Brands might also send updates on their loyalty status to give their top customers that VIP feeling or ask only previous customers for feedback via a survey. Email can also be a great way to let your subscribers know about upcoming events (segmenting down to local customers for local events might make more sense for some brands than others), these could be online webinars or in person classes.
If there is ever a time to delight subscribers—it’s during the holiday season! Share your gingerbread house fail! Send out a sugar cookie recipe! Spin up a holiday baking playlist! Ask for their worst gifting catastrophes ever!
Use response branching inside Postscript to give you more flexibility to have multiple possible responses that go down one path or look for words/letters that are contained in a particular answer. Subscribers will automatically go down the first branch they are a match for, which can be used to send back an automated reply and/or add a tag to the subscriber if you want to add preferences or other information about a subscriber. So many options, so little time.
Clocks + Colours turned early access to a new collab into a bit of a game. Subscribers who correctly guessed Fender or Telecaster were tagged to get the first update about their upcoming drop.
9. Create Epic Post Purchase Journeys
What happens the moment you convert someone during BFCM? Is it a basic ‘Thanks for your order’ email and then crickets until it ships? We can do better than that.
Change up your Order Confirmation emails and Post Purchase SMS automations specifically around the holiday season.
You can use this opportunity to share some gratitude for their purchase or to simply try and upsell them with a limited-time promotion if they can back and buy again within a specific range of time.
Just don’t forget to also connect with them as soon as that product has been delivered. We love a request for UGC over SMS a week after their order has arrived (which is 100% easier to receive than over email.)
Consider teeing up a holiday specific post purchase text with gift wrap tips, instructions on how to use their products or to just text you back with any questions.
10. Test and tweak as you go
Brands might test slight differences in their tone across both email and SMS until they find what works best for their brand. Email works best when it sounds like the message is coming from the brand while SMS is more conversational in tone and ultimately sounds like the subscriber is talking to the people behind the brand. These two tones need to live in harmony which is why brands tend to test slight shifts so new messages aren’t too drastically different (subscribers are less likely to feel messaging shifting over time).
Brands also find themselves testing when to send various messages. Depending on the nature of the message, they might send to the full segment at the same time (such as limited product drops or sale is almost over reminder) or they might adjust the message to be sent based on the subscriber’s time zone. The right time to send an email might be at 2am so the message is sitting at the top of their inbox first thing in the morning when most consumers check their email but the right time to send a text might be 9am local time. The window of options for email will be inherently larger because sending an email at 2am isn’t going to wake anyone up in the middle of the night.
For SMS, brands will need to make sure they are within waking hours. The other factor in finding the right time is that most consumers check their texts frequently (several times an hour and often within 5 minutes) while consumers check their email a few times per day.
When testing emails, brands also need to decide on a subject line, the number and place of CTAs and the usage of imagery (many brands will have a template that is more stylized where they can add images based on the content). Some of this is really hard to test especially with the recent changes to iOS.
When it comes to testing on SMS because consumers are very fast to react to texts (checking their phones constantly), it’s a great option for rapid testing. Email tests tend to take a bit longer with more elements to potentially test and consumers being slower at checking their email. Since testing should only change a single element, it’s tricky and more time consuming to test out changes to email. Generally when brands want to get a faster read on if one offer is more enticing than another, they can gauge success faster on SMS.
Here’s to another successful and fruitful BFCM season! Want some help with a textpert to help you with a killer strategy? Feel free to book a demo—there’s still time before cyber week!
Principal Market Intelligence Manager
Mindy Regnell is the Principal Market Intelligence Manager at Postscript. Over the last 15 years in ecommerce, she has run an online store, studied over 30 different ecommerce platforms, and tracked the latest trends. When she isn’t geeking out on SMS or ecommerce, Mindy can almost always be found quilting up a storm.