Naughty or Nice: How Did Your Black Friday and Cyber Monday Emails Actually Do?


For 2021, Webbula is launching a series of blog posts about email marketing metrics. We have a variety of esteemed authors from the email industry lined up to participate. Articles you missed:

  • Understanding and Leveraging the Power of Open and Click Reach Rates in Email Marketing by Jeanne Jennings. View that here.
  • Email as a Conversion Tool: 5 Metrics You Should Be Tracking by Tejas Pitkar. Read now.
  • Inactive Email Subscribers: Measure and Minimize Instead of Reactivating by Loren McDonald. Read it here. 
  • Click-to-Open Rates: The Best Measurement of Email Engagement by Betsy Grondy. Read it. 
  • 6 Ways Customer lifetime Value Can Drive Email Marketing Strategy by Emma Warrillow and Tammi Miller. Read it. 
  • Email Deliverability Guide: How to Interpret Delivery, Clicks, and Opens by Tom Blijleven. Read it now.

  • The Surprising Link Between Major League Baseball and Email Marketing Metrics by Chris Marriott. Read it Now
  • Email Metrics to Replace Open Rates After the iOS 15 Update by Dela Quist. View here. 
  • Open Rates Aren't Perfect: How to really know if your emails are engaging by Emily McGuire. Read it. 
  • Email Marketing KPIs: Rev Your RPM to Dominate Email Marketing by Shmuel Herschberg. Read it. 

Sign up for the discussion! 


Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) are finally over. Whew!

If you’re like many businesses whose biggest source of revenue for the year comes from BFCM and the year-end holiday season, it’s easy to say your email marketing efforts were a success and then move on to the next campaign.

But hold up. Did your holiday emails actually perform well?

Before you pop the champagne, let’s dig into the data.


Zoom out: It’s all about the trends

No matter what you’re tracking, what’s important are the trends.


Comparing to industry benchmarks? Nah. Comparing to your benchmarks? Yeah.

How do your Black Friday and Cyber Monday email campaign metrics compare to the same time last year? What’s the year-over-year (YoY) trend for the past five years? How does it compare to how this year has been trending so far month-over-month and each month YoY?

A 20% growth from last year may sound good, but if you typically see 30% YoY growth for this time period, then something’s not quite jiving. On the flip side, 40% sounds better, but if the previous months this year have been seeing 50% YoY growth, you’ll need to figure out why there’s a dip.

One thing to keep in mind about this year, too: BFCM sales dipped compared to last year, according to Adobe’s data and analysis, but sales for all of November grew nearly 12% YoY. Meaning, revenue was more spread out, so broaden your timeframe when looking at trends.


Zoom in: 8 email metrics you need to track

Surface-level email metrics like opens and clicks aren’t going to cut it here. Sure, they’re important, but they don’t provide the full picture of the impact of your holiday email marketing efforts.

So if you want to really impress your boss—and get that well-deserved raise—track the following metrics and their trends, too.

Revenue per subscriber and subscriber lifetime value

Shmuel Herschberg talked about revenue per mille (that’s per thousand emails), but I like to get more granular and look at average revenue per one subscriber. Why?

I tie a lot of metrics and decisions back to how much a single subscriber is worth, so I look at revenue per subscriber (RPS) and email subscriber lifetime value (LTV) first because it’ll be important for the next few metrics.

I use a simple calculation to get RPS: Take your email revenue from the past year and divide it by the number of active subscribers. It’s not perfect, but it’ll give you a general idea. (If you want to go the extra mile and be exact, deduct acquisition costs like advertising or giveaways.)

Revenue per subscriber (RPS) = Email revenue / Email subscribers

For example, if you made $3 million in revenue from email marketing, and you have 150 thousand active subscribers, then your RPS would be $20 per year.

Then, look at your unsubscribers during this same timeframe, and see what their average lifespan on your list was (count the time between their subscribe date and their unsubscribe date). 

Multiply this lifespan by your RPS to get your subscriber LTV.

Email subscriber lifetime value (LTV) = RPS x Email subscriber lifespan

So if your average active subscriber lifespan is 2.5 years with a RPS of $20 per year, then your subscriber LTV is $50.

To add extra oomph to this metric, compare this to your business’ average LTV of customers who never joined your email list (hint: your email LTV is probably higher).

Note that you’ll want to get LTV for different groups depending on your business. For holiday sales in particular, how does the value of incentivized subscribers differ from everyone else?

Now let’s see how to put these numbers to use.

List growth

Holiday sales are an email acquisition goldmine. How many new subscribers joined your email list during your promotional period? More subscribers mean more potential revenue in the future, and that’s great for your business’ bottom line. (Insert happy dance here.)

To give your list growth meaning, though, share its value. That’s where the LTV comes in.

If you gained 10,000 new subscribers, and your email subscriber LTV is $70, and each of those new subscribers already spent $20 during your BFCM sale, then that growth is worth half a million dollars more!


List churn

The BFCM boom makes it easy to lose sight of who you lost, but those unsubscribes are important to look at, too, especially since inboxes are flooded with emails during this time.

If you lost more than you gained, see which of your emails were the worst culprits. Was it a specific message or offer? Review your frequency and cadence. And assess your segmentation strategy (you had one, right?).

Don’t forget to look at how many new subscribers left your list at the same time. This gives you a pulse on the effectiveness of both your acquisition tactics and email nurture flow. Incentives usually attract fleeting subscribers, so don’t be surprised if churn is higher for this group.

Referencing this with your RPS and LTV is a quick way to gauge how much this churn burns.

In fact, I’d sometimes use this as a way to not send an extra email by getting granular with my RPS. I’d take my average revenue per email and divide it by the number of subscribers it was delivered to get the average RPS per email. Then, I’d forecast unsubscribes and multiply that by the RPS. If the projected total value lost is more than the predicted email revenue, it’s a no-go for me.


First-purchase conversion rate and customer retention rate

For most businesses, not every subscriber is a paying customer. So the first-purchase conversion rate is a great metric to track. How many subscribers did you convert to first-time customers? 

First-purchase conversion rate = first-time customers subscribed before the promo period / non-customer subscribers before the promo period x 100

This cohort might have a coupon or discount affinity, and you can dive a bit deeper into that by also looking at your customer retention rate. How many existing customers made another purchase? How many first-time customers from last year’s sale are just now making their second purchase?

Customer retention rate = repeat customers subscribed before the promo period/customers before the promo period x 100

This kind of data can inform your strategies for segmentation, promotions, loyalty, and re-engagement or win-back campaigns. For example, if you discover that a large part of your list only shops during BFCM, then you need to ensure your win-back campaign doesn’t churn anyone until at least 13 months of purchase inactivity.


Average order value and frequency

There are a bunch of different sale strategies—flash sales, daily deals, constant reminders, and more—and your subscribers’ average order value (AOV) and average order frequency are two good metrics to help dial in on what’s resonating, especially if your strategy was different this year.

If you sent an email every day for a two-week promotion, but customers purchased only once, you may want to either shift your content strategy to cross-sell or upsell or gifting based on the products purchased, change your promotional strategy to vary the offers throughout the promo period or exclude those who already purchased from the rest of your sale emails.

Accordingly, if AOV is low, check to see if frequency went up before you call it a fail.


Optimize for next year

Remember, much of the value of these metrics come from looking at trends over time. Seeing how they compare to previous months or years can help you find out how successful (or not) your holiday email marketing truly was and where you can improve for the next go around.

You’ll still want to keep an eye on email activity as a quick check on your email program’s general health, but be sure to hone in on business impact using the metrics I shared here as a starting point.

The holiday season can be challenging for email marketing—so you deserve major kudos no matter this year’s performance. And next year? You’ve got it in the (Santa) bag.


About the Author



Magan is a data-driven, human-centered email geek with over a decade of email marketing experience—and now manages email and lifecycle marketing at Bolt, helping make online buying easy, trusted, and consistent for millions of shoppers. She believes in marketing with a heart and creating authentic connections with your audience.

Magan is also a green living enthusiast who loves fantasy/magical books and is always looking for the best local ice cream. Say hi on LinkedIn and send recommendations her way!


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