September 12, 2023
Reading Time: 6 minutes
Store owners and marketers worldwide are gearing up for the biggest ecommerce event of the year: Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend.
According to Adobe Analytics, consumers spent $9.12 billion in 2022 on Black Friday, up 2.3% from 2021. Cyber Monday results roared past 2021’s revenue record with consumers spending $11.3 billion, an increase of over 5% compared to 2021– making Cyber Monday 2022 the biggest shopping day in history.
This is the busiest time of year even if you aren't in ecommerce. Airports and highways are packed with holiday travelers and this expectation of delays trickles down into SMS marketing too.
It’s why we think of SMS marketing as a highway during the crazy shopping weekend. As Twilio’s preferred SMS provider, our carrier and network partners have told us to expect potential delays from Thanksgiving through Giving Tuesday. But these delays can vary based on several core factors.
Using a shortcode is like traveling on the German autobahn. It’s built for high volume so these roads are accustomed to high throughput. So even when there is a spike for BFCM it isn't the same order of magnitude as a toll-free number (TFN) or frontage road.
TFN's are like a multi-lane highway, however the number of lanes varies based on if you are sending SMS or MMS. For brands sending MMS, imagine yourself on a 2-lane highway vs an 8-lane highway. BFCM is like hitting extreme rush hour traffic, you are adding a lot of additional cars onto those existing roads and that is going to cause delays, primarily for MMS messaging.
But we’re prepared. Last year, we tripled the amount of bandwidth we received compared to BFCM 2021. That means better throughput for Postscript merchants on both toll-free numbers (TFNs) and short codes (say hello to the express lane on the highway)
In order to arm marketers for the biggest shopping weekend of the year, we've put together six crucial SMS marketing strategies to apply during Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend.
Set up your SMS program before game time.
Postscript isn’t just dedicated to optimized deliverability and throughput speeds during Cyber Weekend. This is our jam all year round! Our team ensures that every dedicated short code and TFN is verified before a brand begins sending. Postscript takes care of the heavy lifting to submit your TFN verification request so your brand can focus on getting the rest of your SMS program set up compliantly for BFCM weekend. Carriers require numbers to go through a verification process prior to sending. Not only does this allow carriers to weed out any potential bad actors & reduce spam, this unlocks better throughput and deliverability of messages all year long.
If you are looking to make the move to Postscript, we encourage you to install the app at least three weeks before BFCM weekend so we can kick off the TFN verification process and you can hit the ground running the week of BFCM.
Postscript also has a review process for your very first campaign and campaign flow send. Our team reviews the content of your message and ensures your TFN verification is complete in order to maximize deliverability of your first campaign and those that follow. If you are sending your first campaign during business hours, you can expect the campaign to be approved or denied that very same day.
To speed up both the TFN verification and campaign approval processes, be sure that your website is not password-protected and that your catalog of products is visible. Remember the TFN verification starts prior to the first campaign message being sent so having your site visible earlier on will speed up this process.
Send SMS over MMS if you're on a TFN
As soon as the last turkey sandwich is consumed on Thanksgiving night, shoppers all over the world are flopping onto the couch, device in hand, as the turkey coma sets in and the marketing messages go out.
With the onslaught of messages sent during this prime shopping weekend, you want to make sure your campaigns go out without delay.
Sending delays are most common for MMS campaigns using TFNs since media files like images and GIFs require more data to be sent. If you send using a short code, most of this doesn’t apply. Shortcodes are designed for high message volume where TFNs are designed for mid-level volume. The carrier networks don’t have the infrastructure in place to support a large spike in MMS traffic on TFNs the same way they can handle it on shortcodes.
All carrier networks as a whole can send roughly 250 MMS per second for toll-free numbers. This includes every SMS marketing platform combined that will be using up this limited resource. When you think through how many MMS messages are being sent over BFCM, you can imagine how crowded that 2-lane MMS highway gets. And it will be a lot faster if you are on the SMS 8-lane highway. Meanwhile, shortcodes are driving along the German autobahn with clear roads ahead. and won’t see delays at all with SMS (and in very rare occasions using MMS) during peak times.
Long story short, you can still send MMS campaigns during BFCM, especially if they are crucial to your brand. Given the chance of delays, you’ll want to make sure you use MMS strategically and try to avoid specific times in your texts (i.e. Sale ends in one hour!).
Send to a variety of segments
When we consider how many messages are going out during BFCM, use every opportunity at your disposal to send campaigns to the right customers. Segments are powerful because they let you target various pockets of your SMS subscriber base, crafting messages specifically for that pocket, and ultimately, creating a more relevant and personalized customer experience.
Imagine you’re sending out a text promoting your best-selling mattress. Without segmentation, you’d continue to direct customers who may have recently purchased this mattress to purchase again. Not only is this a poor experience for the customer, but it comes across as generic too. If you want to make sure you're not sending the campaign to someone who has already made a specific purchase, create a segment to send that excludes those people.
For products that are purchased more frequently, consider leveraging segmentation to tailor message copy according to if you’re addressing repeat buyers versus prospects who have never purchased from your store.
You can use segments to give different offers too. You can choose to send one offer to VIP customers and a different offer to subscribers who have never made a purchase.
Consider staggering your campaign sends
Rather than send a large campaign at one time, schedule your campaign over time. This helps reduce the number of messages in your carrier queue, specifically for Toll-Free senders.
Mobile users will reach for their phones throughout BFCM weekend, but there are a few ways you can try and get ahead of the noise.
“Don’t send directly on the hour mark”, says Postscript Engineer Maddie Eriksen who works specifically on BFCM strategies. “There are times that are less busy, for example, mornings are good for sales but carrier networks tend to be slow. But sending during the off hours (i.e. not sending at the top of the hour) can increase your send speeds.” To optimize sending speed, you may consider avoiding sending on the half hour mark as well.
Marketers can use campaign flows to cover their bases and try staggering a campaign message throughout the weekend at varying times.
Harness the power of campaign flows
There’s a lot going on for merchants and marketers during BFCM weekend and our campaign flows help automate some of the big sale day stressors.
Build out campaign flows and include time delays to help stagger messages over a period of time. You can choose between delaying for a certain amount of time or until a specific date.
Setting up campaign flows is especially helpful if you want to have a series of messages over the course of the holiday weekend and don’t want to worry about creating additional segments to remove subscribers who have purchased since receiving a message. This makes it easier to keep your brand’s sale top of mind over the full weekend.
You might consider doing a flow that sends out a message:
The evening your sale goes live
The next evening as a reminder to shop (24-hour delay)
The next morning with a last chance reminder (12-hour delay)
A final push to drive to the sale before it ends (6-hour delay)
Consider sprinkling in some educational tidbits or product benefits within this flow message. This gives your subscribers an additional incentive to purchase. You can also set a cancellation trigger to remove subscribers from the flow if they have purchased.
With a campaign flow and time delays, you can actually set and enjoy your Black Friday promotion without having to worry about creating multiple campaigns and varying segments. You might even have time to do your own holiday shopping. 😎
Engage in conversations
Texting with your customers (not at them) boosts sales and helps improve deliverability. When carriers see subscribers actively engaging with your brand, it tells carriers you’re a credible brand and can help improve message deliverability in the future.
Running a flash sale or deep discounts during BFCM is not a one-size-fits-all approach. For some brands, running a big sale isn’t a part of their marketing strategy for the holidays, which is where customer conversations can be a way to join the BFCM fun.
Consider ditching the coupon cannon approach and kicking off Cyber Weekend by sending a Happy Thanksgiving greeting in the afternoon and asking customers to respond with an image of what their day (or Thanksgiving grub) looks like. Alternatively, you may consider running a UGC campaign. Postscript supports incoming MMS so you can collect user-generated content while engaging in conversations with your customers.
You can also let customers know they can text with your customer service team directly if they need help with suggestions for holiday shopping. Or poll your audience to find out which Thanksgiving side reigns supreme (even though we all know it’s stuffing).
Similarly, you can offer to send them a personalized product recommendation based on interest, budget, or who they’re shopping for this holiday season. Either way, remember the power of conversational commerce. When other brands are sending messages pushing sales and deep discounts, your conversational approach will stand out in their inbox.
Don’t let potential delays stop you from taking action, planning ahead and making the most of the holiday season. If you have any questions about your current campaigns or simply want to know how to get started, feel free to chat with a member of our team!
Here’s to smooth texting (and travels) ahead!
Senior Manager of Content and Community
Laura is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Postscript. She has spent the past decade working in ecommerce. When she isn't writing about her favorite topic (marketing) or listening to podcasts about her other favorite topic (ecommerce), she's hanging out with her two sons on an island off the coast of Maine.