Expect Delays: 5 SMS Sending Strategies for Black Friday/Cyber Monday Weekend

Laura Serino

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Store owners and marketers are limbering up for the biggest ecommerce event of the year: Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend.

Last year consumers spent $9 billion on the web the day after Thanksgiving, up 21.6% year over year. Online sales on Cyber Monday reached $10.8 billion, making it the biggest ecommerce selling day of all time.

This is the busiest time of year even if you aren’t in ecommerce. Airports and highways are packed with holiday travelers and this expectation of delays trickles down into SMS marketing too.

It’s why we think of SMS marketing as a highway during the crazy shopping weekend. Carrier networks have told us to expect potential delays from Thanksgiving through Giving Tuesday. But these delays might not have much of an impact on your brand at all. Here’s why.

Using a shortcode is like traveling in the express lane. It’s built for high volume (and has a higher cost) so these roads are accustomed to high throughput. So even when there is a spike for BFCM it isn’t the same order of magnitude as a TFN or frontage road.

TFN (1-800 numbers) for SMS is like a multi-lane highway. TFN for MMS is like a 2-lane highway. When you hit BFCM you are adding a lot of additional cars onto those existing roads and that is going to cause delays, primarily for MMS messaging.

But we’re prepared. Last year Postscript delivered roughly 25 million messages during BFCM. This year we expect to increase that by 4 times to over 100 million messages.

In order to arm marketers for the biggest shopping weekend of the year, we’ve put together five crucial SMS marketing strategies to apply during Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend.

Send SMS Over MMS If You’re on a TFN

As soon as the last turkey sandwich is consumed on Thanksgiving night, shoppers all over the world are flopping onto the couch, device in hand, as the turkey coma sets in and the marketing messages go out.

With the onslaught of messages sent during this prime shopping weekend, you want to make sure your campaigns go out without delay.

Sending delays are most common for MMS campaigns using TFNs since media files like images and GIFs require more data to be sent. If you send using a short code, most of this doesn’t apply. Shortcodes are designed for high message volume where TFNs are designed for mid-level volume. The carrier networks don’t have the infrastructure in place to support a large spike in MMS traffic on TFNs the same way they can handle it on shortcodes.

All carrier networks as a whole can send roughly 250 MMS per second for toll-free numbers. This includes every SMS marketing platform combined that will be using up this limited resource. When you think through how many MMS messages are being sent over BFCM, you can imagine that this is why SMS is often the faster way to send if you are on a TFN. Shortcodes don’t have this same challenge and won’t see delays at all with SMS (and in very rare occasions using MMS) during peak times.

Long story short, you can still send MMS campaigns during BFCM, especially if they are crucial to your brand. Given the chance of delays, you’ll want to make sure you use MMS strategically and try to avoid specific times in your texts (i.e. Sale ends in one hour!)

Send to a Variety of Segments

When we consider how many messages are going out during BFCM, use every opportunity at your disposable to send campaigns to the right customers. Segments are powerful because they let you target different audiences and allow you to craft messages specifically for them.

Imagine you’re sending out a text promoting a BOGO for your best-selling candle. Without segmentation, you’d continue to direct customers who have already purchased to purchase again.

Not only is this a poor experience for the customer, but it comes across as spammy too. If you want to make sure you’re not sending the campaign to someone who has already purchased, create a segment to send that excludes those people.

You can use segments to give different offers too. You can choose to send one offer to VIP customers and a different offer to subscribers who have never made a purchase.

Stagger Campaigns

Rather than send a large campaign at one time, schedule your campaign over time. This helps reduce the number of messages in your carrier queue, specifically for Toll-Free senders.

According to Adobe, on Cyber Monday 2020 the peak shopping hour was between 8 – 9 pm Pacific, which reached a purchasing rate of a whopping $12 million per minute.

Mobile users will reach for their phones throughout BFCM weekend, but there are a few ways you can try and get ahead of the noise.

“Don’t send directly on the hour mark”, says Postscript Engineer Maddie Eriksen who works specifically on BFCM strategies. “There are times that are less busy, for example, mornings are good for sales but carrier networks tend to be slow. But sending during the off hours can increase your send speeds.”

Marketers can use campaign flows to cover their bases and try staggering a campaign message throughout the weekend at varying times.

Create Campaign Flows

There’s a lot going on for merchants and marketers during Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend and our campaign flows help automate some of the big sale day stressors.

Build out campaign flows and include time delays to help stagger messages over a period of time. You can choose between minutes, hours, and days. 

This is especially helpful if your messaging from Friday through Sunday doesn’t change, but you want to consistently remind your list that your sale is still going on.

You might consider doing a flow that sends out a message:

  • The evening your sale goes live
  • The next evening as a reminder to shop (24-hour delay)
  • The next morning with a last chance reminder (12-hour delay)
  • A final push to drive to the sale before it ends (6-hour delay)

You can also include criteria that will remove subscribers from the flow if they have purchased.

With a campaign flow and time delays, you can actually set and forget your Black Friday promotion and not have to worry about creating multiple campaigns and varying segments. You might even have time to do your own holiday shopping.

Engage in Conversations

Texting with your customers boosts sales and helps improve deliverability. When carriers see subscribers actively engaging with your brand, it tells carriers you’re a credible brand and can help improve message deliverability in the future.

Running a flash sale or deep discounts during BFCM is not a one-size-fits-all approach. For some brands, running a big sale isn’t a part of their marketing strategy for the holidays, which is where customer conversations can be a way to join the BFCM fun.

Consider sending a Happy Thanksgiving greeting in the morning and ask customers to respond if they want early access to your brand’s gift guide.

Let customers know they can text with your customer service team directly if they need help with suggestions for holiday shopping. 

Or poll your audience to find out which Thanksgiving side reigns supreme (even though we all know it’s stuffing). 

Either way, remember the power of conversational commerce. When other brands are sending messages pushing sales and deep discounts, your conversational approach will stand out in their inbox.

Don’t let potential delays stop you from taking action, planning ahead and making the most of the holiday season. If you have any questions about your current campaigns or simply want to know how to get started, feel free to book a time during our Postscript 101 Office Hours right here

Here’s to smooth texting (and travels) ahead!

Laura Serino

Laura is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Postscript. She honed her writing chops as a magazine editor in New York before moving into the ecommerce world as a copywriter for L.L.Bean. She led the content and community at eCommerceFuel, manufactured and sold her own skincare line and ran the marketing team at Bella Luna Toys before landing herself at Postscript. When she isn't writing about her favorite topic (marketing) she's hanging out with her two sons on an island off the coast of Maine. Follow her on Twitter at @laura_serino.