It’s no secret.
Successful holiday campaigns live or die by a single ingredient: the offer.
But, in a season dominated by deal hunters and value-for-price shoppers, the offer is almighty.
Unfortunately, knowing that reality does nothing but intensify the questions that surround you:
Hark, we bring tidings of good news. In preparation for 2020, we dug deep and exhaustively compiled 2019’s …
Best Black Friday, Cyber Monday offers from 435 of ecommerce’s most successful brands.
To compile the study, we used three sources:
In fact, we did more than just compile them.
We categorized each by deal structure and type. Crunched the numbers. And simplified everything into one data-backed infographic.
But wait, there’s more 😉…
We also took 745 desktop, mobile, and social screenshots; labeled them by brand, event, and device; then dropped ‘em all into the ultimate swipe file.
Examining the full data set — and combining primary with secondary offers — reveals the five most-popular holiday season discounts:
Results vary slightly when we isolate DTC versus IR 500 sites and take only the primary offer into consideration. Most noticeably, free shipping as a stand-alone offer (though heavily merchandised onsite and via email) drops considerably:
At first, no discount may seem like an odd contender.
Reflecting on preliminary data we gathered with 2PM, Inc. two years ago, Web Smith forwarded a compelling hypothesis:
“The more creative and the less drastic the discount promotion, the better the odds of increased brand equity in the long-term. For many retailers, the best Black Friday deal is holding as firm as possible on pricing, service, and consumer trust.”
Among those that renounced discounting were brands like Allbirds, AWAY, and Warby Parker as well as subscription-based retailers like Stitch Fix and Italic:
More telling was the absolute dominance of sitewide discounts.
Within that category …
Again, parsing DTC from IR 500 reveals slight variations, particularly around deeper discounts from enterprise sites:
The real question is how do you use that data to shape your holiday campaign?
10 insights, backed by an army of examples, point the way. Make your holiday campaign …
Keep it simple, stupid scrooge.
Your sale should be clear, concise, and compelling. Obvious enough to be communicated boldly on your homepage — not in a tiny banner above your navigation that disappears after a scroll.
Whatever you’re offering, never make your visitor read it twice to understand.
Ensure the discount is automatically applied at checkout, to eliminate unnecessary steps. Anytime you introduce a code, you add friction. And the inevitable result is lower conversion rates.
The only exceptions to simplicity are genuinely exclusive codes for loyalty members, early access, and deep discounts or giveaways.
If you use a coupon code, stay away from words that are hard to spell or have two of the same letters in a row like “holidaze” or “gatherround.”
Outliers excluded, regardless of how premium your positioning, discounting on Black Friday, Cyber Monday rarely cheapens a brand.
If you look at our list, higher-end DTCs like Outdoor Voices, Brooklinen, Colourpop, Parachute, and Honest Co. decked their halls in cyber offers.
Just be sure your sale is really a sale. That means a minimum of 20%-off.
Otherwise, you risk customers saying, “What’s the point? I can get the same discount by giving you my email!”
If you discount less than 20%, your AOV should be over $500. In which case, make your discount $-off not %-off.
Speaking of discounts …
Needless to say, it’s Black Friday for a reason.
The real danger of discounting isn’t brand equity. It’s going into the red.
That’s where (1) testing profit projections and (2) driving AOV to offset acquisition costs come into play.
To address the first, we’ve created two calculators: a Holiday Fuel Profit Template and Holiday Budget Planning Sheet.
Within them, you’ll be led step-by-step through inputting your AOV, COGS, and discount levels to set spend, ROAS and CPA targets, as well as profit goals:
Together, they’ll help you maximize your offer in a way that makes sense for your consumer, your unit economics, and your overall goals.
Once you grab them and enter your numbers, you can then play around — sticking to the 20-30% off range if possible — until you find an offer you like.
To help with the second ingredient of profitability — increasing AOV — consider the next two insights …
If your unit economics don’t back out to at least 20-30% off, use a “Spend X, Save Y” or “Buy X, Get Y” model.
The former is best applied through a tier-discount, which we’ll cover next. The latter is a simpler version, though no less powerful.
There are a multitude of ways to shape this type of sale. QALO and Love Billy went with straightforward BOGOs:
Atoms modified its version with a “Buy Two & Save $60” offer tied to gifting:
And DIFFeyewear updated its previous year’s tiered sale:
With a less complex although still tiered 2019 deal:
While shockingly under-utilized, bundling products — especially if your sale will be on select SKUs collected on a landing page — or structuring your deal through tiered discounts.
A mere 5.42% of all the Black Friday, Cyber Monday campaigns we examined made their sitewide discount tied to a tier.
To do that, take inspiration from sites with tiered deal structures like ModCloth, Bonobos, MeUndies, and RHONE (there’s even more in the swipe file of screenshots):
Notice the difference between Barn & Willow’s percent-off structure versus Burrow’s dollar-off tier — especially as it relates to their respective price points:
The shining star, however, is Brooklinen.
Last year, it created a savvy %-off based on spend tier that it used both onsite as well as in its ads. It also layered on a free gift at $150 — triggered automatically and shown immediately via a pop-up.
As if that wasn’t enough, it then integrated the entire process into the checkout … prompting shoppers with exact $-amounts and suggested products to hit the next discount threshold.
True holiday hype is an elusive thing.
Up against an increasingly crowded market, what really matters isn’t so much going big nor even getting new … but rather making the deal, marketing, and onsite merchandising joyful in themselves.
Along these lines, three examples …
First, 100% Pure.
For three years now, this all-natural beauty brand has kicked off its Black Friday event with $10 “Beauty Deals” combined with a $45 cart-threshold to “Unlock” a constantly updated collection of select SKUs:
Second, Pura Vida Bracelets.
Similar to 100% Pure, Pura Vida has led its most-recent holiday seasons with a sitewide 50%-off deal. No codes. And no exclusions. Its secret, however, lies in two “Mystery” upsells delivered at the cart level:
And third, if you do go big, Fashion Nova.
Already famous for its flash sales, year after year Fashion Nova has gone all in on escalating discounts delivered via social media and email with each reveal:
At first glance, you’d be tempted to think DTC royalty Dollar Shave Club should be placed in the “None” category.
Afterall, its homepage over Black Friday (left) and Cyber Monday (right) didn’t contain a single nod to a sale nor discount. You’d be wrong.
Rather than unleash its offer upfront, Dollar Shave Club sent a torrent of SKU-based deals by email only:
What’s more, the brand also drove traffic — organic as well as paid — to build up its email list rather than release the deals at large.
Inkbox followed a similar path by announcing an early Black Friday deal exclusive to its loyalty program members.
First sent via text, email, and Facebook Messenger, the special was also made public on social and heavily promoted to add new members in the week prior to Black Friday.
That same discount was unveiled universally on Black Friday. And, then, increased slightly on Cyber Monday:
Of course, if you’re going to make it exclusive … that doesn’t mean you actually have to exclude anyone.
With ~48% of BFCM sales coming from customers who engage prior to the holiday — and, 75% of CTC client’s revenue generated from remarketing — the value of existing audiences and loyal customers cannot be overstated.
Balance comes from not pitting multiple offers to multiple audiences against each other.
Steve Madden, for instance, placed a bonus discount front-and-center onsite: 40%-off for its loyalty members versus 30%-off for non-members.
This kind of offer — much like Dollar Shave Club, though more accessible — incentivizes new holiday shoppers to connect more deeply and simultaneously rewards existing customers with ease of access.
Still, pride of place goes to theRealReal.
As a luxury goods retailer, it essentially stacked three offers:
The most successful holiday marketing campaigns beyond DTC root themselves in emotional soil.
Past standouts include REI’s #OptOutside, Starbucks Red Cups, Google’s Santa Tracker, and Apple’s “Misunderstood” (to name just a few).
But how do you infuse gravity — elevated storytelling — into your ecommerce offer?
As a model, take note of NOBULL’s three-phase rollout …
Phase one, jump-start the holiday season with an October preview of “Who I’ve Always Been” — a short-film starring NOBULL athletes unveiled at the brand’s late-November Fitness Film Festival.
Phase two, follow up with an equally epic hype reel and scarcity-heavy, social-proof-laden promotions for its holiday collection.
Phase three, bring it all together onsite in one crescendo:
Lastly, the most-neglected deal type was gamification.
Out of the 435 brands, only four — Shinesty, Chubbies, Anker, and Fenty x Savage — took advantage of this approach.
The first two rapidly released new free-gifts to keep the excitement high:
Anker, in contrast, built a digital “Prize Carnival” that dealt out discounts and prizes in exchange for email subscriptions:
And Savage x Fenty left no holiday stop unpulled …
All that’s left now is to …
Aaron is the VP of Marketing at CTC. Previously the Editor in Chief of Shopify Plus, his content has appeared on Forbes, Mashable, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, The New York Times, and more. Connect with Aaron on Twitter or LinkedIn (especially if you want to talk about bunnies or #LetsGetRejected).