This post provides a deep dive into Black Friday and Cyber Monday themed emails, updating last week’s Flash report, which included only a partial view of Cyber Week.  This updated post provides complete data for Cyber Week; breaks out year-over-year related activity for nineteen major multichannel retail brands, including five that are UK-based; and shows examples of high-performing and other notable emails sent during the period.

The table below shows weekly activity, between October 25th and December 7th, versus the period of comparable weeks in 2019.

  • Focus in Weeks # 1-5 is Black Friday themed email.
  • With Week #6, we break out each of Black Friday’s and Cyber Monday’s emails. We also show Black Friday-themed email sent on Black Friday, and Cyber Monday themed email sent on Cyber Monday.
  • The data show activity for fourteen major retail sectors we track on our data platform.
  • A detailed source note is just under the table.

We’d been curious to see how 2020’s severe COVID-related disruptions would be reflected in the year-over year comparisons, especially given how much more online shopping would be occurring this year.  What we found had surprised us, and adding complete data for Week #6 (containing Cyber Monday) extends the pattern we’d previously reported.

(Notes:  Weeks run Sunday through Saturday, covering the periods 10/25 – 12/5 for 2020, and 12/27 – 12/7 for 2019.  Week #5 is Thanksgiving Week and contains Black Friday.  Week #6 contains Cyber Monday.  Data Source:  SparkPost consumer panel)

  • The negative year-over-year activity trends we’d seen beginning in Week #5 continued through all of Week #6, while Inbox Rates maintained their uniform improvement, and Read Rates eroded, except for Black Friday-themed emails in Week #6 (Black Friday having already occurred in the previous week).
  • As seen in previous years, “Cyber Monday” emails extended strongly through what has become “Cyber Week.”

Our detailed look at specific retail brands is in the table below. UK brands are the lower five listed.


  • Amazon and Wayfair deployed the largest number of campaigns; Best Buy, Walmart and Wayfair the largest number of emails.
  • Amazon (US and UK), Tesco and Waterstones ((UK brands) drove the highest read rates in this group; Dick’s and Walmart the lowest.
  • Year-over-year activity and performance trends are a mixed bag:
    • Amazon increased its related period campaign sends, but decreased its actual deployed email volumes.
    • Costco sharply reduced both campaigns and volumes.
    • Target sharply increased its campaigns, but decreased send volumes.
    • Old Navy and Walmart sharply reduced both campaigns and send volumes.
    • Inbox trends were positive year-over-year for all but Wayfair, which shows a serious erosion in deliverability.
    • Year-over-year Read rates improved for about half of these brands (note especially Best Buy and Target; also the UK brand Waterstones); decreased for the others
  • As in previous such analyses, the Black Friday/Cyber Monday themes comprising this activity reflect only a small proportion (about 3% for both 2020 and 2019) of total email activity deployed by these brands, and generally drives lower read rates than tracked for the total activity during that period.

(Notes:  Covers mailings with “Black Friday” or “Cyber”-themed mailings over the periods 10/25 – 12/5 for 2020, and 12/27 – 12/7 for 2019.  Data Source:  SparkPost consumer panel.)

 The table below shows fifteen related email campaigns which exemplify some combination of high performance and high send volumes for the analysis period.  The campaigns are ranked by read rate.

  • Not surprisingly, they’re all highly promotional, many sporting discounts of up to 50%.
  • The word “deals” appears in ten of these subject lines.
  • The highest read rate (30%) in a high-volume campaign was a Macy’s mailing which went to over 15 million customers. The campaign carried a Black Friday theme, and deployed almost two weeks before Black Friday.  Wayfair also shows a high-volume (32M) Black Friday-themed campaign, four weeks before Black Friday, but that campaign’s read rate was only 15%.
  • The highest read rates belong to campaigns whose subject lines carried explicit product references. They’re also promotional, and one of them carries time-urgency.  The small send volumes on these campaigns suggest precise message targeting to customers likely to purchase from the featured categories.
  • Time-urgency also figures in four of these other subject lines, and two others contain product references as well.

Amazon sent the highest volume campaign on this list, to over 102 million customers, driving a 21% read rate.

~ John