Raking in a combined $281 BILLION last year alone, Black Friday and Cyber Monday continue to be two of the biggest shopping days of the year

The only problem?

Every other retailer knows that, too.

In fact, SendGrid says they processed over 8.8 billion Black Friday emails and another 8.9 billion Cyber Monday emails (those are in BILLIONS with a “B”), and that doesn’t even account for all of the promotional push notifications, SMS messages, and WhatsApp messages your customers are also receiving.

It really makes you wonder how your messaging can stand out in all of this noise. Is another discount really going to do it?

In order to help, we queried our database of eCommerce messaging to give you an overview of what everyone else is sending and some practical tips on how your messages can more drive more conversions.

Black Friday/Cyber Monday messaging trends

First things first: Why you should focus on push notifications, SMS, and WhatsApp vs. email this BF/CM:

Don’t get us wrong, email certainly has its place, but you can’t mess with the stats:

Salesforce reported that 76% of eCommerce traffic came through smartphones in 2022, and this is only going to increase year over year. On top of that, push notifications have been shown to get 10x the open rates and higher Click Thru Rates (CTR) compared to email, and SMS messages can get CTRs 10x higher than that!

All of that considered, it only makes sense that a significant portion of your effort should be put into optimizing your push notification, SMS, and WhatsApp campaigns.

Push notifications, SMS, and WhatsApp messages are also shorter-form and easier to create, and customers typically tolerate receiving more of them per day — What’s not to love?!

If you can send push notifications, SMS, or WhatsApp messages, you should. Period.

When should you send Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotions?

Constant Contact says the best time to send Black Friday messages is early in the morning, but we beg to differ — This is one of those examples where, once everybody follows the “best practice,” it’s no longer a best practice. Your competition has likely read the same advice you have, and now your customer is going to wake up to an avalanche of emails all at once, and it’s much easier to delete in bulk. 

If you’re not THE most exciting message (email, SMS, Push, or WhatsApp) when your customer first checks their phone, your chances of conversion success go down to near zero.

The simple answer, of course, is not to send “early in the morning,” but to send at the right time for each user. How to do that is much too nuanced to capture in this blog, but luckily, we’ve already written about it here: When is the best time to send push notifications? (We put nine of the most prevalent opinions head-to-head with real data in that blog. It’s definitely worth a read.)

Timing aside, how else can you ensure messaging success?

What type of messages will be most successful on Black Friday/Cyber Monday?

Let’s dive into the data:

To construct this data, we queried our database of over 28,000 recorded push notifications and filtered it for eCommerce notifications, including notifications from major retailers like Walmart, Wayfair, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Lazada, and others. Then, we constructed formulas to look for patterns and trends in these messages. (You can view this same data here.)

Here’s what we found:

56.2% of messages offered a discount

…and this wasn’t even limited to Black Friday/Cyber Monday messages.

In fact, a full 81.1% of the messages we reviewed contained at least one of the words “discount,” “free,” “deal,” “deals,” “off,” “clearance,” “save” or “savings” or had other discount or value-based messaging. 

This percentage was much higher for those messages that were explicitly focused on Black Friday or Cyber Monday (95.5% of those messages offered a discount):

Is yelling really the only way to stand out on Black Friday/Cyber Monday?

It makes you wonder, is everyone offering discounts because they’re effective, or because they don’t know what else to do?

So, how much of a Black Friday/Cyber Monday discount should you offer?

Of those messages that included a discount, this was the distribution of discount percentages:

How do discount amounts relate to conversions? Keep reading to find out!

50% was the most popular discount percentage, so to stand out, you could offer a discount greater than 50% or consider offering an odd discount amount, like 33%. (There are countless articles talking about the perceived additional value that odd pricing can offer).

That said, our data has shown that offering big discounts may not actually drive more conversions:

20-30% off drove more visits, but lower discounts (15-20%) actually drove more conversions

Do higher discounts drive more sales?

Maybe not.

Our data found that discounts of 20-30% drove higher engagement vs. control (encouraging more views than the control group who didn’t receive a discount), but lower discounts (15-20%) actually drove more conversions.

This means, generally speaking, the higher the discount percentage, the better it was at driving ‘window shopping,’ but the less effective it actually was at driving conversions. 

(In the case of the 35% discount, the control group actually made more purchases than the discount group. In other words, when offering 25% and 35% discounts, this app was essentially giving away money — paying people to do what they were going to do anyway.)

That said, we need to ask ourselves, is offering a discount really the right thing to do?

The problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win. - Seth Godin

What if there was a better way to drive conversions without offering the discounts?

As it turns out, there is: product recommendation messages like these.

Product recommendations have been shown to be incredibly effective:

  • Salesforce found that, while item recommendations make up only 7% of eCommerce traffic, they account for 24% of orders and 26% of revenue.
  • They also found that consumers who interact with product recommendations are 4.5x more likely to add items to their cart and complete a purchase, and 52% of orders from customers who clicked on product recommendations include a recommended product.
  • 49% of consumers said they had purchased a product they didn’t initially plan on purchasing after receiving a personalized recommendation.
  • Finally, 54% of retailers claimed that product recommendations acted as the key driver of AOV (average order value) in customer purchases, and product recommendations accounted for up to 31% of eCommerce revenues.

Even if a shopper didn’t buy anything, shoppers who clicked on product recommendations were found to be 20% more likely to return to the retailer later.

Product recommendation messages drive all the intrigue and clicks without sacrificing any of your precious margin

From the data we collected in a test with over 1.2 million messages sent to over 800,000 users, we found that product recommendation messages were much more effective than standard lifecycle “discount” notifications, driving 300% as many clicks and 289% more checkout events (again, without sacrificing any margin):

What do you think is really going to stand out during Black Friday/Cyber Monday? ANOTHER discount, or a personalized and relevant product recommendation?

The answer is easy, isn't it?

So how can you start sending product recommender messages?

Obviously, you can’t just start sending random products to random people, because that’s incredibly annoying. Also, sending “most popular” items also doesn’t tend to be effective (as we’ve seen that the “most viewed” products are seldom the most purchased ones).

Most viewed ≠ Most purchased

We won’t go into detail here, but notice that the most viewed items (little boxes at the top row) are seldom the most purchased items (boxes at the far right). Some of the items that are most likely to led to a purchase are only in the 50-70% rank for views. 

If you’re interested, you can find more details here.

The good news is that sending product recommendations through your messaging is actually pretty easy.

At Aampe, we’ve designed a lightweight but powerful recommender system that’s optimized for learning your users and then inserting relevant product recommendations into your messaging.

Our system has been designed to optimize conversions (not just views) and is based on consumption sequences (e.g., “people who have bought this, typically buy this next”) which means our recommender system is easy to set up for product catalogs of all sizes and computationally lightweight.

Here’s a quick video showing how we integrated an app’s blog content into messages into our recommender system in under 5 minutes:

Oh, and you can also import things like stock levels, price, promotions, and more.

This means you can easily implement logic like price drop messages, low stock alerts, or browse abandonment messages, which drive even higher conversion rates.

So, will you be racing to the bottom this Black Friday/Cyber Monday?

...or will you be standing out and driving conversions with product recommendation messages instead?

Start sending high-converting product recommendations with Aampe today and make every day as profitable as Black Friday.