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First! Thanksgiving Retail-Email Volume Surpasses Black Friday: Responsys

11/27/12

By Ken Magill

Shhhhh. Don’t tell retailers email is dead.

For the first time, America’s leading retailers sent more promotional email on Thanksgiving than on Black Friday, according to marketing services provider Responsys.

Not that Black Friday is an email slouch, mind you.

More than 79 percent of major online retailers sent their subscribers at least one promotional email on Black Friday; slightly fewer than last year when 81 percent of retailers sent their subscribers email, according to Responsys.

More than 83 percent of major online retailers sent their subscribers at least one promotional email on Thanksgiving, according to Responsys.

Meanwhile, retail-email volume for the week ending on Black Friday edged slightly up to 5.9 Promotional emails on average in 2012 from 5.7 in 2011, according to Responsys.

“We saw an all-time high last week and I think we’ll see a new all-time high this week,” said Chad White, research director at Responsys. “We’re already into an all-time record for annual email volume. 2012 email volume passed 2011 on Thanksgiving Day in the early afternoon.

“We’re in record-setting territory on both counts,” he added. “I expected the number of retailers sending mail on Thanksgiving to go up this year, but I was quite surprised that Thanksgiving was a bigger email marketing day than Black Friday. Not only did email volume increase on Thanksgiving, the number of messages sent on Black Friday actually declined year over year.”

Black Friday is traditionally the official start to the Christmas-shopping season. It falls on the day after Thanksgiving and is named as a result of conventional wisdom that says it is the day retailers’ books go from red to black.

Over the past several years, retailers have been increasingly starting Black Friday sales on Thursday, believing many consumers will be willing to go shopping as soon as dinner is over.

Target Corp. opened its doors at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving this year, three hours earlier than last year. Sears, which didn't open on Thanksgiving in 2011, opened at 8 p.m. on Thursday. Toys R Us opened at 8 p.m., an hour earlier than 2011.

As a result, it stands to reason that more marketing resources will be channeled into Thanksgiving-day efforts, said White.

“Very clearly, we are seeing Thanksgiving taking a bite out of Black Friday on the email marketing front,” said White. “Marketing resources are being pulled from Black Friday and marshaled into Thanksgiving day. Now some of that is promoting Black Friday, but a lot of it is releasing Black-Friday deals early, so there is this Black-Friday creep going on.”

Meanwhile in another record-setting development, 93 of retailers sent promotional messages yesterday on so-called Cyber Monday. Last year, 88 percent of major retailers sent messages on the Monday after Thanksgiving, according to Responsys.

The term “Cyber Monday” was coined in 2005 by the National Retail Federation to refer to the spike in sales online retailers saw on the Monday after Thanksgiving when people returned to work and took advantage of their employers’ broadband Internet connections to shop online.

Though most Americans no longer need their employers’ broadband—they have their own—and, therefore, don’t have to wait for Monday to do their online shopping, the term Cyber Monday has stuck.

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