6 Steps for making your ecommerce Sale Event a massive success

I’m proud to say that we hit it out of the park last year with  our e-commerce business’s Black Friday email campaign, surpassing what I thought was an ambitious revenue goal. In fact, our black Friday email campaign delivered an 800% sales boost with 5 just emails.

Here’s a play-by-play of what we did for our Black Friday email campaign last year, which can be used as a successful campaign example for any event-driven, or secret sale to your email list.

The Background

Back to school is very big for us,  so the timing of U.S. Thanksgiving is ideal for us to clear out more seasonal merchandise. We almost never go on sale throughout the rest of the year, though we do offer select subscriber discounts to incentivize list growth. This is important because it allows us to maintain a high perceived value for our products, and makes the sales we do have that much more exclusive.

The Strategy

The strategy was to run an exclusive sale in advance of Black Friday that only our list would have access to, during which they would get an additional 15% discount. This accomplished 3 goals:

  1. It allowed us to reward our subscribers and make them feel like they had an exclusive relationship with our e-commerce business
  2. It incentivized more people to become subscribers since we were promoting a “secret sale” through our social media channels
  3. It allowed us to get out in front of the glut of Black Friday choices people would have by starting our promotions nearly 1 week early

We picked a door crasher, clearance items and dates

We have lunch boxes that can be purchased as a set with our toddler backpacks – but a lot of people buy the backpacks without a lunch box, so we had quite a few left over. We priced these at $7 – an irresistible deal (regular price is $20). We also picked the other merchandise that we wanted to clear out, which in our case was about 25- 30% of our SKUs.

I promoted the door crasher 4 days before the sale started.

The Subject line was: Black Friday Preview – $7 Toddler Lunch Boxes. Having a number – especially a low one – in the subject line got people’s attention and built anticipation for the sale. This email saw an extremely high open rate – nearly 40% on average, and even higher in Canada (we segment our list between Canada and the US).

I sent the “VIP launch” email Monday morning

The launch email included a link to a private page displaying our sale items along with a discount code. ( If you are using Shopify – and if you aren’t you should be – the private page is easy to set up. Just create a collection with the items you’re putting on sale but leave it out of any navigation). The headline and subject line touted the exclusive, limited time opportunity. As Monday tends to be a prime day for online shopping, and having successfully built anticipation with the previous email, this was our biggest day of the entire sale.

I re-sent the launch email Tuesday evening to Monday’s “No-opens” with a different subject line.

Mailchimp allows me to create a sub-segment of my list based on open activity so I only sent this email to people who did NOT open the previous email. I changed up the subject line to focus on the doorcrasher so that it would appear to be a new email. This predictably had a much lower open rate than the original (about 12% vs nearly 40%) but these were all net new opens. This is a great trick to get more out of your email correspondence when you are promoting a one-time sale or event. Note also that I sent this at a very different time of day – in the evening vs the morning for the previous launch email.

I sent the “Last chance for VIP access” email late Thursday morning

While the sale was going to continue through the weekend, this email was intended to create some urgency for subscribers to realize the additional 15% savings that would expire at midnight that day. I sent it a little later in the morning due to the US holiday, which I assumed would have people rising later. ( I have no idea whether this made any difference)

I sent the “Sale ends tomorrow” email  – with a specific inventory number on Sunday night.

For this email I picked a low-priced item with low inventory and featured it in the subject line: The subject line for the US was: Only 13 Left:  $7 Blue Dino Lunch Boxes

The idea of using an actual number, which builds credibility, and introducing scarcity was key. This email also saw a relatively high open rate and we got a final sales surge, even after Black Friday fatigue had set in for many people.


This successful Black Friday email campaign example lead to not only our biggest online revenue week of the year, but our biggest online week ever – even surpassing the weeks in August when we also do large volumes online. Our Black Friday email campaign driven clearance achieved online revenues of more than 8X our weekly average, though margins were lower due to the volume of discounted merchandise.

This successful Black Friday email campaign example can be used as a playbook for any clearance sale that we’ll definitely be using again this year, perhaps adding a few more nuances now that we have the basics down.

Have any questions about our successful Black Friday Email Campaign Example? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll get back to you.
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