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For years, Black Friday has been the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. It marked the time when many retailers would finally get into the black after negative sales numbers for the first 11 months of the year. Black Friday is commonly associated with doorbusters and deals worth waiting in line for as retailers opened their doors for shopping in the early hours of the day after Thanksgiving.

Over the past decade, however, there’s been a shift toward Thanksgiving shopping—what’s now being called Grey Thursday or Black Friday Thursday. Retailers are beginning to take notice and open their doors Thursday night for shoppers.

Some are even staying open the entire holiday.

The extra shopping time means consumers spend more money each year. According to the National Retail Federation, the average shopper was expected to spend more than $1,000 in 2018. Ultimately, they spend more than $717 billion dollars between November and December.

So, what can you do to encourage your customers to spend that holiday money at your company? Your holiday campaigns should include Grey Thursday, but there’s a certain way to do it in order to be successful.

Read on to discover the best ways to include Grey Thursday email campaigns in your digital marketing strategy.

The growth of Grey Thursday shopping

The number of people shopping and the amount of money spent on Thanksgiving continues to increase each year. According to a 2018 holiday shopping study, 26% of people say they’ll shop in stores on Grey Thursday. The majority of the shoppers who visit stores on Thanksgiving say they will be there before 6 p.m. Most of these shoppers say they are out on the holiday because they don’t want to miss the best deals.

Chart that shows the reasons why shoppers plan to shop in-store on Thanksgiving Day

Source: Deloitte

Most people who get together for family or friend dinners tend to do so in the early afternoon or evening. It appears most big Thanksgiving purchases are made during this time as well, rather than after dinner.

However, the biggest Grey Thursday shopping trends appears to be online. Adobe Analytics reports that online shopping in 2018 accounted for $3.7 billion in sales. Compare that to the previous year, and it’s an increase of almost 28%. Black Friday still accounted for about double that amount, but the Thanksgiving year-over-year online shopping trend is one of the largest one-day e-commerce increases in history.

Despite the increase in shopping over the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s fair to point out the majority of consumers still prefer to wait until Black Friday or Cyber Monday for their holiday purchases.

In fact, more than 60% of people say they won’t consider shopping on Thanksgiving at all.

How email metrics differ between Grey Thursday and Black Friday

Even if they don’t want to shop, that doesn’t mean your customers don’t want to open emails. Of the 95 million mails sent by our customers on Thanksgiving in 2016, more than 17 million were opened. Assuming all were successfully delivered, that’s an overall open rate of about 18%. Those metrics are slightly below what we saw on Black Friday that year, but still a good indication that people are willing to check emails while waiting for their food to cook or if they need a break from family time.

Interestingly, we also discovered the most popular time to send emails on both days was in the morning. For Thanksgiving, 10 a.m. and noon were the peak times. On Black Friday, it was 9 and 10 a.m.

Ways to implement Grey Thursday emails into your digital marketing strategy

A different marketing strategy is necessary when communicating with your customers on Grey Thursday. During Black Friday, people are more inclined to think about holiday purchases because it is the traditional day for shopping. Most brands will send some sort of Black Friday promotional email encouraging customers to buy something that’s on sale.

On Thanksgiving, you need to change tactics. Emails sent this day should be more generous and focus on giving back, family time, and gratitude.

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t still send promotional emails on Grey Thursday. Whether you’re looking for a good reason to nurture your leads or you’re trying to push conversions, there are a few different strategies to consider for Thanksgiving marketing campaigns.

Here are four ways to create a Grey Thursday email marketing plan to engage with your customers without looking like a turkey.

1. Set the right mood.

Your customers are likely thinking about two things on Thanksgiving: food and family (or friends that feel like family). Make sure your marketing campaign captures the happy and fulfilling emotions that come with the holiday.

Set the right mood by focusing on colors and photos that are synonymous with this time of year. Think autumnal colors and photos of dinner tables full of Thanksgiving feasts.

You can even use this idea for a promotion. Take a look at how food delivery service Postmates used the concept of a Thanksgiving dinner for this clever email:

Thanksgiving email from Postmates encouraging customers to order Thanksgiving dinner to be delivered

Source: Really Good Emails

The email does a great job mixing the desire for a perfect Thanksgiving dinner with the pain point of actually making the food without something going wrong. The CTA works as a simple solution to the problem.

2. Give thanks.

There’s no better time to thank your customers for their support during the past year than the day where everyone is giving thanks for what they have. An email with a simple and sincere message can go a long way to building positive sentiments about your brand.

The email doesn’t need to be elaborate, consider this example from the NCAA:

Thanksgiving email from NCAA thanking contacts for supporting student athletes over the past year

Source: NCAA

The NCAA scores big with this simple message saying thanks for supporting student athletes across the country.

3. Send your Black Friday emails a day early.

With more money being spent on Thanksgiving, it can be difficult not to try for a piece of the pie. If you are going to send a promotional email to your customers, consider doing it in lieu of a Black Friday message. Birchbox has a nice strategy for this type of email:

Thanksgiving email Birchbox offering Black Friday discounts a day early

Source: Campaign Monitor

If you send a promotional message on Thanksgiving and then another on Black Friday, it might seem like overkill to your customers that opened both messages. There’s a simple trick here to avoid that. Create a Thanksgiving weekend drip campaign with custom workflows. If a contact opens your message that was sent Thursday, do not send one on Friday. However, if your customer doesn’t open your Thursday email, set up your workflow so they’ll receive your normal Black Friday message the next day.

There is a chance that customers who don’t open your Thursday message right away will still get the Friday email. However, if they are seeing the messages in their inboxes a few days later, chances are they won’t open them anyway.

4. Show that you aren’t open for business.

A less frequently used tactic, but one that could be successful, is to send an email specifically telling your customers that you’re not open. An email like this will do nothing to drive immediate conversions, but it could help position your brand in a more positive light, especially with people who are against the idea of Thanksgiving shopping.

If you consider this strategy, use messaging that conveys the reason you are closed is so your employees can spend the holiday with their families, just like how your customers should spend it with theirs.

Wrap up

It’s almost a necessity for businesses to have some sort of digital marketing campaign centered around Thanksgiving weekend. Even if your brand already has plans to promote deals and discounts for Cyber Monday and Black Friday, there is still room for you to engage with your contacts on Thanksgiving. Consider some of these Grey Thursday email campaign ideas:

  • Use pictures of Thanksgiving feasts and autumn-themed colors or templates to create a positive mood for your emails
  • Send an email thanking your customers for their support over the past year
  • Run a campaign specifically promoting that you aren’t open for the holiday and encourage your customers to spend the day with their families
  • When all else fails, take advantage of the Thanksgiving online sales growth and send your Black Friday email a day early

Whether you plan to nurture your leads or try to convince them to make a purchase, follow these suggestions for a successful Grey Thursday digital marketing plan.

‘Tis the season to start thinking about what you’ll do for your holiday email campaigns. Check our list (or check it twice!) of ultimate holiday email marketing suggestions and tips you can use to create a successful holiday email marketing campaign.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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