Don’t shout the loudest, shout the smartest: Cut through the Black Friday noise using SMS

With Black Friday 2020 set to be a bumper year for online sales, the race is on for eCommerce brands to make themselves heard. Only those that embrace conversational commerce will stand out from the crowd.

Grab your pitchforks everyone - consumerist shopping bonanza Black Friday is back for another year. The day itself falls on 27th November, whilst the start of the following week (30th Nov) marks Cyber Monday. Although originally conceived as two separate events for brick and mortar retail and eCommerce, in recent years the two have merged into an important long weekend sales event for both sectors. 

This ongoing conflation of offline and online commerce will only be accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. During the first half of 2020, global eCommerce sales jumped 30% as lockdowns consigned shoppers to their homes. With some studies suggesting a whopping 70% of us have no plans to return to a physical store in the near future, it seems certain this trend will continue. 

But whilst fewer of us will be queuing up at 4am to fight over discount TVs in Walmart, the holiday checkouts are unlikely to stop ringing. Adobe Analytics predicts that US consumer spending will top $189 billion in 2020 - a 33% increase on 2019.

Much of this business will be done online, as more buyers than ever swap shop floors for laptops and smartphones. ECommerce checkouts will take $10.3 billion on Black Friday alone, before raking in a further $12.7 billion on Cyber Monday - both significant increases on previous years.

US consumer spending is predicted to rise by 33% vs 2019 during the holiday season | Source: Adobe Analytics Holiday Forecast 2020

An unprecedented rise in online sales is predicted for Black Friday weekend 2020 | Source: Adobe Analytics Holiday Forecast 2020

For eCom brands this means two things:

1)  There are rich pickings to be had for those that get their strategy right this year.

2) There will be a heck of a lot more digital noise to cut through (as if there wasn’t enough already).

For many this will mean doubling down on existing channels of communication - the logic being that shout the loudest win the most. Emailing campaigns will be ramped up, social accounts will go into overdrive and websites will be optimised. 

Now that approach is all very well and good, but the problem is that, well - it’s fairly obvious. It’s how brands promote their Black Friday offers every year, and if you’ve thought of it, there’s a good chance your competitor is doing exactly the same thing.

An already saturated Black Friday online space, made even more congested by the stay-at-home effects of the pandemic, calls for fresher thinking. To win in this year’s consumerist royal rumble, brands need to shout the smartest - and to do that, they need SMS.

A direct line to your customers

Every year consumers are bombarded with a bewildering array of Black Friday offers throughout the course of the weekend. Much of this will be done via email and social media. Sending marketing messages via SMS however, offers a more direct, less well-trodden route to your customers’ attention. 

Traditional channels of brand-to-customer communication are saturated and deliver consistently low conversion rates | Source: Shopify 

Across the world, 5 billion people currently use SMS as a means of communication, and well over half of whom, do so via smartphone. On average, SMS messages are opened at almost 5x the rate of emails, whilst a text is typically replied to within 90 seconds.

SMS conversion rates sit at 32%, far higher than the sorry 3-4% delivered by mass mailing campaigns. And yet, staggeringly, 65% of brands today have no SMS strategy in place to leverage this highly lucrative channel. 

Marketing KPIs of SMS are far superior to those of email | Source: Esendex

Brands using SMS own a much more immediate, relevant and direct channel to consumers than those that don’t. They know that their messages will almost certainly be read by their target audience, and much more likely to be acted upon.

During the chaos of the Black Friday sales, this is a huge commercial lever. The speed at which SMS messages are read by consumers can be powerfully exploited to create a sense of urgency around your deals and offers. The medium also lends itself to ‘drip campaign’ tactics where messages are delivered before and during the event, creating yet more ‘buzz’ around a particular promotion. 

Your messaging can also be more targeted via SMS - important when 72% of consumers will only engage with personalised messages. Having a mailing list linked to a specific mobile number allows you to segment your audience, and use historical data to offer promos based on what individuals have already purchased. 


That’s all great, you might be thinking - but so what? More customers reading your marketing comms does not a profit make. And you’d be right. How does SMS help you actually make online sales during Black Friday?

Well, first of all, by communicating via SMS you are meeting consumers right where increasing numbers of them are handing over hard cash - on their smartphones. This year, 44% of all online shopping will be done via smartphone. Throughout the holiday season, consumers will spend $28.2 billion on such devices this year - a 55% increase on 2019.  

Sales via smartphone have risen rapidly in recent years | Source: Adobe Analytics Holiday Forecast 2020

Increasingly customers are prepared to use their phones not just to communicate, but to buy. By sending them SMS messages to their phones, you are reducing friction in the purchasing journey. Why would a customer need to open an email on a desktop, click through to a webpage, add items to a cart, log in and enter card details, if they could do all that seamlessly through the device in their pocket? 

This is where the concept of the one-click purchase comes in. Customers you’ve interacted with before can follow a link sent via SMS to a ready made online checkout. If you get your targeting right, this will lead an individual to a personalised offer, with payment and shipping details already filled in. The customer can then make a purchase with just one click - thus massively reducing friction and abandoned carts, whilst increasing retention and revenue. 

In a year where online competition for wallet share during the Black Friday weekend will be more intense than ever, brands who rely too heavily on well-worn, poorly performing conversion channels will come unstuck. Those that shout the smartest, not the loudest, and exploit SMS marketing to its full potential will win in this year’s Black Friday bear pit. 

You can check out some great (and not so great) examples of how eCommerce brands have incorporated SMS into their marketing strategy here.

To find out more about what SMS can do for your brand, check out what we’ve been building:

Thumbnail image courtesy of CNN.

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