Black Friday Email & SMS Marketing Preparation and Strategy Guide for 2023 

Black Friday Email & SMS Marketing Preparation and Strategy Guide for 2023 

In this guide we'll be covering detailed strategies around preparing for the Black Friday/Cyber Monday period in 2023. The goal is to put your Ecommerce brand in a position to get the best possible results from the email & SMS channels.

We'll reference the Klaviyo software quite a few times in this guide but these strategies are universal and work equally well regardless of which ESP or SMS platform you're using. Klaviyo just happens to be the one we're most familiar with.

So let's get right into it.

Along with this written guide there's also a full video version embedded below if you'd rather watch and listen. Both versions contain the same information.

The 6 areas of Black Friday email marketing we'll be covering:

The 6 areas of Black Friday email marketing we'll be covering:

Use the table of contents below to jump between sections if you'd like.

Part 1 - BFCM build up and preparation

Part 1 - BFCM build up and preparation

The preparation phase is crucial for getting best possible results during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Ideally preparation would start around September. There are activities to complete throughout September, October, and November in a perfect scenario.

Outside of the obvious campaign planning and finalizing your strategy ahead of time so you're not rushing at the last minute, there are several things which need to be done so you can email as many people as possible during BFCM safely and effectively.

Most importantly though -- for the best results you'll need to focus on building and warming up a list of contacts which is larger than the audience you send regular email campaigns to. 

The BFCM email audience is often 1.5 - 2x larger than normal for many Ecommerce brands.

In this section we'll be talking about the process you need to follow in order to make this happen as it is often skipped over, even by large brands.

Why is this warmup and re-engagement phase important?

It is far from ideal to simply start emailing a huge audience during BFCM comprised of many email contacts who haven't heard from you for months or even longer. The best results are achieved by ramping up your sending volume ahead of time and gradually re-engaging contacts in your lists and segments who are fairly unengaged, or have not been active for some time.

The goal is to re-activate as many of these people as possible before BFCM so they can safely be included in your promotional audiences.

This also prepares your account for sending to larger numbers of people than usual. We want a gradual increase in sending volume in the weeks leading up to BFCM, not a huge spike out of nowhere. See the Klaviyo graph below.

Luckily, the Klaviyo team have created a detailed step-by-step guide to clean, re-engage, and warm up as many people as possible on your various lists before Black Friday. Following this will put you in a position to safely email as many people as possible during BFCM.

You can see the full guide here. It is fairly beginner friendly and quite easy to implement.

We won't re-write the entire process here as it seems redundant.

Just check out the list warm up and re-engagement guide and follow it, even if you are not a Klaviyo customer - it applies regardless of which email platform you're using.

For a little context though before we move on, the basic principle explained in the guide is to gradually test some of your unengaged segments in the weeks and months leading up to BFCM so you know who you can safely email during the promotional period.

As mentioned, the goal is to have a BFCM audience around 1.5x the size of your regular email audience.

Klaviyo Black Friday email volume and list warming

Klaviyo Black Friday email volume and list warming process

Make sure you take the time to follow this process - it is well worth the effort.

If you're wondering what kind of campaigns can you send during this Black Friday build up period to re-engage more contacts, bleow are a few ideas to consider outside of your regularly scheduled emails.

At least a few of these campaigns will be relevant for you regardless of which market you're in or who your customers are:

  • Holiday gift guides
  • Wishlist building campaigns
  • Early access signups for BFCM deals
  • Halloween promotions
  • Sale preview campaigns and save the date
  • A fall giveaway opt-in campaign, push this on all channels
  • Launch a quiz lead generation campaign
  • Back to school campaigns if relevant
  • Test planned BFCM bundle offers to your best customers
  • Free shipping weekend
  • Veteran’s day

List warm up key idea:

Taking the time to warm up and re-engage as many contacts as possible from your overall list will pay big dividends during BFCM. Follow the Klaviyo guide linked earlier during the weeks leading up to Black Friday. Use campaign ideas from the bullet point list above to test on the lesser engaged segments of your list you want to re-engage before the holiday period.

Part 2 - Email & SMS list building and segmentation

Part 2 - Email & SMS list building and segmentation

You’ll want to acquire as many newly engaged email and SMS subscribers as possible before BFCM with different types of campaigns. We'll discuss and look at some examples in this section.

Try to think of new ways to get previous website visitors and warm ad traffic audiences onto a list if they’re not already subscribed.

Often brands are relying mostly on new customer offers on-site to drive lead generation and grow email lists using popups and other signup forms. Examples would include the classic 10% off first order, free shipping, etc. Just the regular on-site lead capture campaigns seen on most sites.

Ideally we want to use some different strategies to these wherever possible in the build up to BFCM to get more users engaged - people who are maybe not ready to take advantage of an offer to save on their first order just yet, but are clearly interested in your brand.

This allows us to appeal to a wider segment of your audience and capture as many of them as possible before BFCM.

Here are some ideas:

  • Content campaigns/lead magnets: these are great in markets where a lot of education is required, such as health, skincare, etc.
  • Quizzes: fun and entertaining or for product recommendations, which are great for brands with large catalogues. Example below.
  • Black Friday early access lists: anyone who subscribes for early access to BFCM deals is likely a valuable lead. Examples below.

Use paid ads, on-site messaging, quiz tools, social channels, and your existing email list to drive subscribers and engagement for these pre-BFCM campaigns.

Giving people multiple ways and various reasons to sign up to an email list of yours before BFCM is a great way to grow your audience and maximize results during your biggest sale period of the year.

Below we see an example of a quiz campaign from Jones Road Beauty. 

These product recommendation quizzes are great lead generation tools to promote to both warm and cold traffic.

Customers are guided through a set of questions and given product recommendations at the end based on their answers, in return for an email address. This strategy not only gathers leads at a low cost, it also collects valuable data about future customers so you can market to them in a more personalized way using Klaviyo.

A quiz campaign is a great list building strategy to use year round, and definitely in the build up to Black Friday.

Jones Road Quiz

Jones Road lead generation quiz built using Octane AI

Here are some examples of campaigns designed to get people onto early access lists, as well as SMS subscriber lists for anyone who has given an email address but is not yet an SMS subscriber. Campaigns such as these can be run on multiple channels - on-site, social channels, your existing email list, along with social ads to engage warm audiences.

BFCM List building warm up emails

Various campaigns designed to get users onto early access email and SMS lists.

Thinking about Segmentation before BFCM

Unfortunately running a successful Black Friday campaign is not just about blasting as many people as possible with emails for 5 to 10 days in a row.

Segmentation is necessary to see the best results. 

Put some real thought into who you're going to message, when, and how often. We discussed warming and re-engaging your list at the beginning of this guide so you're able to create a large master segment that's bigger than any audience you usually promote to. However, emailing all of these people twice daily for the duration of BFCM is not a good idea.

We need to be more targeted.

Here are some useful segments to think about creating and using in the lead up to BFCM. You'll likely need a few, if not most of them:

  • VIP customers - however you want to define these
  • 30/60/90/180 day engagers
  • One time buyers
  • Repeat buyers
  • Buyers from various collections
  • BFCM or sale-only buyers
  • Early sale access requests
  • Email subscribers without SMS 
  • Customers on subscriptions
  • Largest segments for BFCM - potentially full list

We'll talk about specific use cases and exclusions for these segments later in this guide in the campaign sending strategies section.

Listbuilding and segmentation key ideas:

Try to get as many new subscribers as possible onto your lists before BFCM. Use all channels to do this. Content campaigns, giveaways, early BFCM access, and quizzes are all effective tactics. Try to pick a campaign idea you can promote widely across your website, socials, warm ad audiences, and existing email list for the best results.

Get your key segments defined and setup before BFCM. Do not plan on just emailing everyone for every send during the BFCM period. Later in this guide we'll talk more about choosing audiences for specific campaigns.

Part 3 - Black Friday & Cyber Monday offer strategies

Part 3 - Black Friday & Cyber Monday offer strategies

It's time to think about the offer/s you’d like to run. 

Choosing the right offer structure can have a huge impact on the overall success of your Black Friday period. This is true not just in the email and SMS channels, but across your entire marketing strategy for all channels.

The easiest but least exciting is usually a flat sitewide discount - 30% off everything for example. However it can often pay to be more creative and put together a set of offers designed to increase AOV, profits, and customer engagement.

Consider the following options:

  • Higher value bundle deals
  • Tiered offers based on order size
  • Different offers for various parts of the sale period - even daily deals

These can all be ways to improve profit margins and AOV, create more scarcity, and keep customers interested and engaged.

Here's why.

Higher value bundle deals: The most reliable way to increase AOV during times when ad costs are at their highest is to focus on steering your customers to purchase bundle deals wherever possible. We'll look at some examples later in this guide.

Bundle deals can work great on their own if you already have a good idea of what will sell in your market. Additionally you could also run a less attractive sitewide offer for people who only want to buy a certain product, but at the same time have BFCM bundles which offer much more attractive discounts.

Tiered offers based on order size: Another highly effective AOV boosting strategy. Setting minimum spend tiers in order to qualify for higher discount amounts is a tried and true way to ensure people are spending more on average.

Different offers through sale period: Using this strategy can help keep customers engaged and give you different things to talk about, rather than simply pushing to same 25% off sitewide sale for 7-10 days, or longer.

You might create different offers for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, or run daily deals throughout your sale period. This is one of the best ways to keep customers coming back each day to see what the offer of the day is.

Below are some examples of different bundle offers for BFCM.

We have a lot more email examples coming up later in this guide.

Black Friday Bundle Emails

Black Friday bundle offer email examples. These are great for boosting AOV.

Offer strategy key idea:

Think of ways to increase AOV, profitability, and novelty for customers during your BFCM promo period. Some of the best ways to do this are by offering your best deals on product bundles and also using tiered discounts - the more you spend, the more you save.

Part 4 - Black Friday email and SMS campaign strategies

Part 4 - Black Friday email and SMS campaign strategies

In this section we'll talk about actually sending your email and SMS campaigns, timing, which audiences and segments to include, and more.

Let's start with early access or pre-sale campaigns as most brands are running at least one of these. They're highly effective and generally recommended for any Ecommerce retailer wanting to push as hard as possible during the BFCM period.

Dates and timings for Black Friday promotions get earlier each year but generally any early access campaigns perform well a week or less before BFCM.

Try to keep them short - even one to two days can work very effectively.

We see great results with a 48 hour VIP only sale a few days before BFCM. This is a good starting point if you don't have other ideas.

It is important to get clear on exactly who you’re sending to for any early sale promos well before the campaign launch date.

These promotions are generally reserved for segments containing your VIPs, your best customers, and anyone who’s specifically requested early access by joining an opt-in list. Keep this exclusive. 

Remember to have these campaigns planned, signed off and scheduled inside your ESP well in advance because Thanksgiving is only a few days away and lots of people are traveling during this time.

Let’s look at an example VIP promotion.

Example: Running a 48 hour VIP only sale a few days before BFCM.

Segments: VIP customers 3+ lifetime purchases, or however you decide to define VIPs for your brand.

Schedule: 4 emails and 2 SMS campaigns over the 48 hour period.

Here's a potential sending schedule for this sale:

8AM - 10AM



VIP Day #1

Email #1 - VIP Sale Launch

SMS #1

Email #2

VIP Day #2

Email #3 - VIP Sale Ending

SMS #2

Email #4 - Final Hours

This example schedule for a 48 hour VIP only sale is fairly standard. You can either be more or less aggressive depends on your goals and the market you're in. 

Note the timing windows are a range (8AM - 10AM for example) rather than a specific time such as 8:15AM.

This is because we recommend scheduling emails to be sent over a 2-4 hour period during BFCM which is the busiest time of the year for inboxes. This can help deliverability, rather than trying to send a huge amount of emails all at once within a few minutes of each other.

Here are some example Black Friday VIP email campaigns.

Black Friday VIP email examples

Black Friday VIP email examples

Let's first talk about the text heavy email example in the middle. Sending text based emails, even full text without the HTML or image button, can work fantastically during big sale events. This is especially true for VIP customer sales in our experience.

Don't be afraid to mix in some text-only campaigns to your BFCM schedule. They're also great to use during the last few hours of a sale to get those extra few sales in the door.

The other two graphic based templates are good examples to model for BFCM VIP emails.

Generally you'll want a clear hero/header image so people instantly know what the email is about and can click through if they wish. In the section underneath deep linking to specific areas of your store works well. These links can be to bestselling product pages, collections, or ideally landing pages you've built for Black Friday bundle offers.

If you're able to personalize these deep link sections based on what people have purchased in the past - especially for your VIP customers - then expect these emails to perform even better.

We'll talk a little more about personalization during BFCM a little later in this guide.

Campaign Strategies for your primary Black Friday sale

Start dates are getting earlier and earlier every year now in the build up to BFCM.

Many brands are already in full sale mode at the beginning of Black Friday week. Outside of any early access events, below you'll see an example campaign cadence for email and SMS from Thanksgiving through Black Friday weekend.

Note that we recommend a lighter touch during Thanksgiving if you're based in the US. There isn't much need to send 2-3 sale heavy emails plus an SMS on Thanksgiving day itself, which is the Thursday before Black Friday.

Early AM

Early PM


Day #1 - Thanksgiving


Email #1 - Thanksgiving Message


Day #2 - Black Friday

Email #2 - Launch

SMS #1

Email #3

Day #3 - Small Biz Saturday

Email #4

SMS #2

Email #5

Day #4 - Sunday

Email #6

SMS #3

Email #7

Here are some example email layouts for your primary Black Friday email campaigns.

Black Friday email template examples

Black Friday email template examples

Similarly to the VIP emails we looked at earlier, a good design layout to follow is having a clear hero image which is then followed by deep links to various other areas of your site promoting either bestsellers, specific collections, or bundle pages.

Notice the third email in the image above from Perfect Keto. They're using a few of the offer strategies we mentioned earlier to increase AOV along with customer engagement. They've got tiered discounts - so the more you spend the more you save - along with a daily bonus deal section to keep people coming back each day to see what the day's special offer is.

Again if you're able to personalize these emails based on existing customers' purchase history you'll see better overall results.

Campaign Strategies for Cyber Monday and beyond

Cyber Monday campaigns follow a similar structure to what we've seen already. Hopefully you have an offer that's at least slightly different for Cyber Monday. If so you might choose to use Sunday to launch it early, or continue Black Friday messaging on Sunday.

The day following Cyber Monday is Giving Tuesday. This is usually the final day of the BFCM promotional period for most brands. By this point the messaging tends to feel a little tired, especially if you started with an early access Black Friday event or a pre-sale. In this case you've likely been running a sale for last 7-10 days.

This is the time to finally shut down promotions and focus on giving all of your new BFCM customers a great experience and hopefully turn them into loyal repeat buyers. We'll talk about that more in the next section.

Early AM

Early PM


Day #5 - Cyber Monday

Email #7 - Launch

SMS #4

Email #8

Day #6 - Giving Tuesday

Email #9 - Final Day

SMS #5

Email #10 - Close

Here are some examples of solid Cyber Monday email campaigns.

Cyber Monday email design examples

Cyber Monday email design examples

Segmentation and Personalization for BFCM emails

It is important to spend some time thinking about your segmentation strategy for the BFCM period. If you're able to personalize your emails as well then that's certainly a bonus. We'll talk about these topics briefly now.

Segmentation is key.

Segmentation really is powerful throughout the entire Black Friday period.

Although we mentioned earlier that some brands can email their entire list at this time of year, you do not want to be doing this for the duration of the promotion - and definitely not multiple times per day.

You can use your biggest engaged BFCM segment a few times throughout the sale. This is the one you've hopefully been warming up in advance with test campaigns as described in section one of this guide. Having said that, you don't want to email this huge audience - which might be your entire list - 2-3 times a day for 7 days or more in a row.

Use your largest segment a few times during BFCM. For the other sends remove some of your less engaged audiences, remove bounced emails, remove VIPs and and some recent buyers from a few of the emails.

Think about customers on subscriptions - do they need to be included? Do they need to be sent something different?

Another thing that's tempting to do is continually re-sending campaigns to unopeners - people who received your email recently but didn't yet open.

Try not to get hung up on constantly resending to these people throughout BFCM. Focus more on contacts who have been active in some way but have not yet purchased. This would be people who have opened an email but not yet bought during the sale, visitors who have been active on your site, etc.

Lastly you don't need to exclude recent buyers from all emails, but try not to contact them 3x daily for an entire week across email and SMS after they've bought. It is not necessary.

The main thing to keep in mind is having some level of balance in who you're emailing throughout your sale. Think about who does and doesn't need multiple touch points daily, and who might need a day or two off. This is different for each brand.

It is difficult to get your sending strategy majorly wrong. People are either buying or they're not, so if your offer is good you'll do well.

Just try not to alienate too many people during BFCM. It is always a balancing act between how many emails you send to maximize sales, and giving your subscribers a little breathing room. There is no one perfect formula for this so use common sense.

The power of personalization in BFCM emails.

We've mentioned the importance of personalization a few times in this guide but have not yet looked at it properly.

If you're able to personalize the campaigns you're sending - especially for your VIPs and repeat buyers - you'll reap the rewards of higher revenues and conversion rates.

Remember that 80/20 says a relatively small portion of your subscriber or customer list will always contribute a disproportionately large amount of the overall sale revenue. This group is your VIP customer segment or repeat buyer segment, depending on how you define each.

With this in mind we want to personalize email content for our best customers where possible. This is fairly simple to do if you're using Klaviyo or something similar, and have a product range with a handful of collections. 

At the most basic level you'll want to segment your best customers by their purchase history if you can. For example, if you have 4 main product collections and can see that certain customers tend to buy from different ones then it makes sense to send separate emails for each group of customers. Give them content and offers focused on the type of products they're already bought.

You can also use features like dynamic product recommendation blocks to recommend products customers have been looking at recently. Or similar items to what they've purchase in the past.

Below is an example of what personalization during BFCM could look like for existing customers or VIPs.

This would simply involve segmenting customers based on collections they've purchased from before, and sending each group a tailored version of that day's campaign which is most relevant for them. The three emails below could all be sent on the same day, just to different customer segments based on their purchase history.

Black Friday email marketing personalization

Black Friday emails promoting various collections from the same retailer

Part 5 - Black Friday email automation strategies

Part 5 - Black Friday email automation strategies

With all of the planning and preparation needed to drive the best possible results during BFCM it can be easy to overlook your email automations. However, you don't simply want to leave them as-is and running like normal during the biggest promotional period of the year.

At a minimum you need to make sure customers do not receive conflicting messages and offers in your BFCM emails and automated sequences.

Ideally though you'll optimize your key automations in Klaviyo or your ESP of choice to ensure the highest conversion rates, made possible by leveraging your BFCM offers.

Here are some key Black Friday email automation updates to think about.

Welcome series: For many brands the Welcome series is the highest volume email sequence. It is also often the first impression people get of your brand's emails. With this in mind, leaving your regular Welcome series intact and unchanged during BFCM is a mistake. 

At a minimum, duplicate your Welcome email automation and re-brand it for BFCM.

This means switching out your previous offers such as 10% off your first order and putting your BFCM offer front and center. Run this duplicated version of the email sequence to anyone who joins your list during the BFCM promo period. Your on-site lead capture efforts such as popups and other signup forms should also be changed in the same way.

Doing this means your Welcome sequence emails will likely convert at a higher rate than your regular sequence normal during BFCM, and customers will not be confused by seeing different offers.

You don't want a new potential customer being sent a unique 15% off coupon code from an old Welcome email during Black Friday week, then realizing it cannot be used on-site in conjunction with your BFCM sale promo which is probably more attractive anyway.

Abandonment emails - checkout, cart, and browse: The various abandonment email flows you're running should be updated for the same reasons. At a minimum make sure your cart and checkout abandonment emails contain your BFCM offer - let people know they're eligible for big savings on the items in their cart and be sure to highlight the sale end date for genuine scarcity. 

Browse abandonment emails aren't as important during BFCM as you're already sending a high volume of campaigns highlighting all of your deals. However, if you choose to keep them running then be sure to make similar updates.

Creating a new post-purchase experience: It is a good idea to think about building a new post-purchase email series for buyers from your BFCM promos. Especially for any new customers - hopefully you'll be getting a lot of these.

Acquisition costs are high in Q4 in most markets with steep advertising CPMs and deep discounts on-site. Due to this we want to maximize the number of new customers who come back to purchase again during the holiday season, this is especially true for BFCM customers.

Try creating a unique post-purchase series to give your new customers an extra special experience, and potentially an offer to come back and buy again before the end of the year. Focus on unique codes, gifting opportunities including gift cards, and educating new buyers on your full product range and USPs. Many of them could be relatively unfamiliar with your brand after just seeing an irresistible BFCM offer on Instagram.

Make sure you set yourself a reminder to change back to your pre-sale messaging across all areas of your email and SMS programs after the BFCM period has finished.

BFCM automations key idea:

Be sure to give all customers and prospects consistent messaging during BFCM across your on-site lead capture efforts, promotional campaigns, and your automated emails. Everything should be congruent and up to date. Also consider creating a new post-purchase experience for all new buyers with a goal of turning as many of them into repeat customers as possible before the end of Q4.

Part 6 - Our 13 BFCM Email & SMS quick fire tips for success

Part 6 - Our 13 BFCM Email & SMS quick fire tips for success

Lastly, here are some quick fire tips to ensure you get the most out of your email & SMS marketing campaigns during the BFCM period in 2023.

  1. Take the time to warm up your list and ramp up volume
  2. Build sale specific landing pages - great for bundles
  3. Lean in to SMS and get as many people subscribed as possible
  4. Send your biggest emails over the course of 2-4 hours
  5. Segment properly. Don’t hit your best customers too hard
  6. Don’t obsess over continuously re-sending to un-openers
  7. Focus on heavily discounted bundles if you can
  8. Mention and promote gift cards heavily starting in November
  9. Personalize emails where you can, especially for customers
  10. Make sure all buyers from BFCM last year are included
  11. Build a custom post-purchase experience for new buyers
  12. Mix in some plain text email campaigns, great for closing promos
  13. Don’t forget to change ALL of your messaging post-sale

By Ryan Turner 

founder of ecommerce intelligence

Ryan is a 10+ year Ecommerce growth expert and the founder of Ecommerce Intelligence. He currently leads the strategy here and helps our team get the most out of the email and SMS marketing channels for the brands we help.