Cyber Monday Storms the Inbox: Was Gold Delivered or Inbox Combustion?

The Monday after Thanksgiving is the kickoff of the crucial do-or-die online shopping season and the official starting line for your inbox as the place to be if you’re an online retailer. Social networks may get plenty of chatter during the next five weeks, but email will be moving product. Cyber Monday 2011 stats support that this is a huge day and a bridge to the black for many retailers looking at red on their boxes for the first 11 months of the year. Initial reports show sales were up 18 percent from last year’s Cyber Monday sales and could hit $1.2 billion, according to The Los Angeles Times.

It’s even become part of our culture much like camping out in line in order to fight one other for a door-buster-priced flat-screen TV. Six percent consider this day to be a family tradition, according to PriceGrabber.

It’s all about the deals, of course, and email brought deals to the masses.

Email marketers have always battled inbox fatigue, but this holiday season seems to be bringing an emotional element to the fatigue not seen as frequently in earlier holiday seasons. It’s pushing many off the opt-in cliff they once embraced. On Twitter, many consumers voiced their displeasure.

Jackie510 said, “Black Friday started on Thursday, Cyber Monday extended to Tuesday & it’s been one big email blitz since last Wednesday. UNSUBSCRIBE.”

Moore commented, “Every year on this day I’m suddenly reminded of how many email lists I need [to] unsubscribe from. Cyber Unsubscribe Monday”

D_Squeeze added, “Now that Black Friday AND Cyber Monday are over, can my email inbox chill a little? Please?”

I evaluated 45 emails that came during a specific window of Cyber Monday to find out any common themes and narratives that stood out on this special day. Here are some random rumblings:

Subject Lines That Didn’t Stand Out

Twenty-two of the 45 emails I reviewed contained “Cyber” in the subject line. That isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but when glancing at a preview pane and pondering which of the 15 emails to read, subject lines can often place you at the top of the list or ensure you don’t get deleted on mobile devices, so very similar subject lines lead to “inbox mutation” – all of the emails begin to join together and look alike.

Prominent Social Sharing

Now I didn’t count including a Facebook/Twitter icon in the header or footer, as that is the new “tell a friend” feature – included in all email creative and rarely used by its subscribers. I’m talking about integrating sharing opportunities into the body of the email at the right place. This was just shocking, especially considering that many daily deal sites continue to miss out on this. From my evaluation, just 11 percent of the emails had any kind of social sharing outside of the aforementioned headers/footers. For the four of these five that did, I’m being generous, as the execution was poor but the attempt was there.

DailyCandy utilized social networks in the strongest fashion with its prevalent sharing options tied to each special offer.


A few other asides on the Cyber Monday email barrage:

  • One-quarter of Cyber Monday shoppers anticipate using mobile devices, according to the National Retail Federation. Yet, most emails weren’t optimized for mobile devices. A big miss, and I expect 2012 to experience a sea change on this front.
  • Home Depot teased another Cyber Monday email special coming Monday, December 5. I’m always a fan of setting subscriber expectations, so this was a nice touch.
  • B2B publishers like The New York Times and Nation’s Restaurant News didn’t want to be left out and pushed special savings to their email subscribers’ inbox in an attempt to drive new subscriptions.
  • Gilt Groupe, one of the best email marketers among the flash sale/daily deal sites, teased sister site Jetsetter, which in this context was relevant and appropriate. Many sites force sister sites down your throat or fail to cross-promote at all.


What emails got you to click and buy? And who bombed in your book?

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