SMS during Cyber Week 2020:
Trends, Analysis, and Store Successes.
2020 Cyber Week — undoubtedly the most unique cyber week in commerce history — is officially behind us. The “Super Bowl” of online retail, and all of its’ successes and failures, are now ready for us to analyze.
While many families across the country were celebrating and enjoying time together — whether virtually or safely in-person — retailers were busy tightening their ad copy, watching their revenue dashboards, and fielding customer service requests left and right.
Now comes the time for stores to look at what worked and what didn’t work. While it is common to do an overall look at Black Friday and Cyber Monday marketing campaigns, lots of brands also introduced SMS to their channel marketing this year — and saw great results.
Overall, our SMS campaigns alone (excluding flows) made up 10-20% of our Black Friday and Cyber Monday revenue. Last year we did not have any SMS systems in place. We only began our SMS efforts a bit over 3 months ago, so it was exciting to see how well it performed with a relatively small list.
Let’s dive into what happened with brands that used Postscript to send SMS campaigns during the week: what were the most common trends? How did this year compare to 2019? What might brands improve on next year?
If you want to skim this post and see the high-level details, here is what happened during BFCM for SMS:
- SMS was a very popular way for brands to communicate to customers during BFCM. If there is one thing to take away from this article, this is it. Growth on the Postscript platform peaked at 254% year over year, with the majority of messages sent on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Message send volume was ~3x higher than comparable days earlier in November.
- Stores started sending SMS well before BFCM began. This was a prediction made by many, especially since Amazon moved Prime Day to October 13-14 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Holiday shopping is no longer just a week. It is now a whole season.
- Thanksgiving was a big sales day. Thanksgiving was huge for ecommerce overall, with $5.1 billion in sales being reached on that day (21.5% growth over last year). For the SMS channel, stores saw the highest AOV on that day as well as a 200% growth in the number of messages sent.
- Promotions were the most popular message type. Compared to a typical weekend in fall 2020, a higher % of sent messages offered a percentage-off discount deal during BFCM weekend, and the discount offered was larger than usual.
- ...but, SMS wasn’t just a one-way channel. During the BFCM weekend, brands grew their lists and received incoming messages at about a 20% higher rate than normal.
- Mobile traffic continued to dominate. Mobile traffic during Thanksgiving accounted for 47% of sales, and that number rose throughout the rest of the week.
The above might help you get a quick understanding of what the week looked like for the average retailer, it may be helpful (and just plain interesting) to look at what happened in specific industries, on specific days, and even for specific brands. After all — it is never too early to start planning for next year, and the more detailed analysis, the better.
So get this. We took a look at every single brand that used Postscript for SMS this BFCM and dug into the important questions, like: When did they send texts? How many did they send? What were the most popular campaigns and automations? What were the trending emojis?
Since over 2,000 brands use our platform, that’s a lot of data points. We’ve broken it down into:
- trends by day,
- overall analytics,
- and vertical-specific analysis.
All of this is segmented into individual days, including:
- Black Friday
- Small Business Saturday
- Sunday (a.k.a. “Super Sunday”)
- Cyber Monday
Along the way, you’ll hear from brands and agencies what they witnessed during the busy week. And this is chock-full of examples sent from actual brands. Let’s dig in.
What Happened on Each Day of BFCM: Stats and Analysis
It should come as no surprise that Black Friday and Cyber Monday were the top days for text message sending, — although we saw solid numbers throughout the week.
The most popular day for SMS sending was Black Friday, with 33% of texts being sent on that day. Cyber Monday was a close second with 31%, followed by Saturday (13%), Thanksgiving Thursday (12%), and Sunday (11%).
For brands who were using Postscript in 2019 and 2020, there was significant growth in the volume of messages sent.
Now that we know how many texts were sent… how much money was made?
The average order value (AOV) for Cyber Week was $83, with shoppers surprisingly spending the most on Thanksgiving.
AOV Per Day:
Overall Average: $83
This AOV remained the same year-over-year compared to 2019 statistics, which is interesting given the widespread economic downturn many people are facing.
It goes without saying — we saw unprecedented growth in message volume this year. More stores sent SMS as part of their marketing strategy than ever before.
But what else was trending during Cyber Week 2020?
Overall SMS Analytics: Commonly Used Emojis, Automations, and More
Many brands saw Cyber Week as an opportunity to not only gain (a ton of) revenue but also to reconnect with past shoppers, explore your brand voice, and delight customers.
An easy way to do that? Emojis 👋
Most Commonly Used Emojis
These were the most commonly used emojis during Cyber Week 2020. No real surprises here: the most commonly used emojis were👇, 👉, 🛍️, 🔥, 🎉, and 🎁.
Highly Trending Emojis 2020 vs. 2019
And here are the up-and-comers that weren’t used often last year but were popular this year: 🚨, 🥳, 👇🏽, ⚠️, ⭐, 😊, and 🦃. Check out that turkey!
Interesting note: We saw an overall trend in emojis with darker skin tones — perhaps a nod to the US political climate and Black Lives Matter movement, as well as an influx of more diverse brands using the Postscript platform.
Top-Trending Words/Phrases in 2020
While each shop has its unique voice and style of writing, there were some similar phrases used in text messages:
- Happy Shopping
- Before they’re gone
- All weekend long
Most Commonly Used Automations
Out of the distinct automations sent by stores, the categories were broken down by:
Abandoned Cart: 32%
Welcome Series: 27%
Post-Purchase Promotions: 16%
Customer Winback: 4%
One quick note — this is broken down by the number of stores sending an automation of the given type, not the total # messages sent per automation.
Average AOV Per Automation
Here’s the average amount each automation received per order. It makes sense that Abandoned Cart automations had the highest amount since those messages are capturing customers with the highest purchase intent.
Average Order Value Per Automation
Welcome Series: $83
Abandoned Cart: $89
Customer Winback: $65
Post-Purchase Promotions: $70
SMS vs. MMS
SMS are plain-text messages (which can contain words, emojis, and links.)
MMS contain images, like GIFs, PNGs, or JPEGs.
2019: 23% of holiday campaigns sent were MMS, 77% were SMS.
2020: 20% of holiday campaigns sent were MMS, 80% were SMS.
Going into the holiday season, we knew that there might be deliverability issues with cell phone carriers and MMS, so we urged brands using Postscript to consider using SMS instead of MMS. (SMS is just as impactful and brings the same open rates and CTRs as MMS, and is less expensive.) This shift may be a result of that.
The median message length for 2020 was 162 characters (and yes, emojis count).
The longest message was 1,416 characters and the shortest was 60. This is no significant change from last year.
Most Popular Time of Day to Send Messages
While we saw messages being sent during all waking hours, there were concentrated times of high-volume sending.
The most popular time to send texts during BFCM was 11 AM EST.
The second most popular time was noon EST.
The holiday season isn’t just about connecting with your current customers. It’s also about building your lists and finding new people to shop from your brand.
Postscript customers grew their lists about 20% faster over the Cyber Week period compared to a typical recent Thursday-Monday period.
Vertical-Specific Analysis: Apparel, Home Goods, Beauty/Cosmetics, Food & Beverage, and Health/Wellness
While it is important to get a comprehensive understanding of how SMS performed overall, each industry has its own set of standards, best-practices, and trends. As you look to plan your campaigns for next year, make sure to bookmark this page to see what your specific industry looked like in 2020.
Most Commonly Used Emojis Per Vertical
Emojis are a great way to add a splash of color and fun to your text messages. Here are the most commonly used ones per vertical in 2020.
Apparel: 🛍️, 🎉, 🔥, 😍, 🖤
Home Goods: 🐶, ⚡, 🎁, 🛒, 🖤
Beauty/Cosmetics: ✨, 🛍️, 🎉, 👉, 💕
Food & Beverage: 👊, 😮, 🎁, 🍝, 🥑
Health/Wellness: 👇, 🚨, 💥, ⚡, 🔰
Top Trending Emojis 2020 By Vertical
Top trending emojis are ones that we didn’t see used in 2019 but were popular with brands in 2020.
Apparel: 🌈, 💲, ☃️, 🕺, 💸, 🎀
Home Goods: 🐶, 🤦, 💡, 📸, 🍸
Beauty/Cosmetics: 💰,👇🏽, 🙌🏽, 👑, 🌱
Food & Beverage: 🍝, 🥑, 🍃, 🍅, 🍎
Health/Wellness: 🔰, ⛄, 🏂, ⚾, ➕
Some interesting callouts? A dog for home goods, rainbow for apparel, and the shield for health & wellness. 🔎
AOV Per Vertical
Home Goods saw the largest average order value at $95, probably because those items come at a higher price-point.
Average Order Value Per Vertical
Home Goods: $95
Food & Beverage: $71
A Look Under the Hood: Message Intent, Discount Percentages, Charitability, Etc.
Now that we know how many texts were sent and how much money they brought in, let’s peel back the curtain and dive into what the messages actually contained.
Breakdown of Message Intent (Discount? Product Release? Check-in? Etc.)
What did the messages say? What was the goal of them?
67% of messages sent were percentage off promotions, and the median discount advertised was 30% off. This is slightly higher than the non-holiday periods in Fall 2020, where the median was lower at 25%.
One thing to note: many stores advertise their highest discount (“Up to 50% off!”) but may not necessarily offer all products at such a discount.
While promotional SMS campaigns can seem a bit redundant when everyone is sending them, some brands took the opportunity to do them in a unique way.
For example, Peachy Keen Boutique made subscribers solve a joke to get their promotion.
Peachy Keen Boutique SMS Example
SMS was a non-negotiable part of my marketing strategy. I used Postscript to advertise all of my sales over the weekend and market it to my customers! I wasn’t using SMS this time last year - it has become a key part of my marketing strategy.
— Grace Sammarco, Owner, Peachy Keen Boutique
Whimsy + Wellness SMS Example
And last but not least, HydroJug urged subscribers to visit them on Instagram to hear more about their Cyber Week Deals. They also limited the deals to the first 100 shoppers, which created urgency.
HydroJug SMS Example
Prompt Coffee SMS Example
Whispr SMS Example
For more examples of high-performing texts during Black Friday - Cyber Monday 2020, check out Fantastic Texts.
Giving-Related Messages During BFCM 2020
Buy-one-give-one and percent-to-charity are both popular business models for modern ecommerce brands. BFCM was a great time to continue to spread that message. Here are a few examples of brands who sent SMS related to their charitable nature.
Fun with Keywords
Lalo SMS Example
Holiday Welcome Series SMS from Original Grain
A common mistake made by ecommerce brands is thinking that SMS marketing is one-way.
It isn’t — especially during a period of high-volume sales. Customers (and potential customers) want to talk to you, learn more about your products, and feel like they are having an actual conversation with you.
The ability to chat back and forth with your customers is a benefit unique to SMS marketing. Brands that do it well see increased repurchase rates, happier customers, and happier support agents.
So how often did customers actually write back via SMS during the busy Cyber Week period?
How Often Did People Respond to Text Messages?
Compared to a typical Thursday - Monday period, 19% more customers actually responded back to brands SMS campaigns.
This signals a few different things, including the need for customer support via SMS. If you don’t already have that set up, do it now. For Postscript customers, we’ve made it easy via integrations with Gorgias and Zendesk.
What Did SMS Subscribers Want to Talk About?
The most common responses were about payment (29%), followed by shipping (20%) and general questions (19%).
Broken down by vertical, all stores had payment as their top incoming message topic, but after that, home goods, food/drink and health/wellness had more messages about shipping while apparel and cosmetics had more product-related messages.
What Emojis Did SMS Subscribers Use?
💙, 💜, 🤣, 👀, 🖤, 💗, ✅, 🙏, 💯
Insights From Agencies & Postscript Customers
It’s safe to say — a lot went on during BFCM 2020, especially for brands using SMS.
While SMS Was a New Addition for Many, Email and Other Channel Marketing Remain Important
Ultimately, anyone's channel is only successful if your entire marketing mix works well together.
"It was definitely the driving force of our sales. We don't have an overly responsive email list, but when they (SMS and email) play off of each other is where the magic really happens. Not to mention the ramping up of our abandoned cart texts really up'd our conversions and revenue before we lost the sale." — Tyler Fernandez, Digital Marketing Manager, Trulean Nutrition
Email marketing continues to be a good complement to SMS, with many brands using both in strategic ways this BFCM.
"We released our first line of pajamas right before BFCM last year and did only a small amount of promotion since we were still so new.
This year, we had a better understanding of our audience and how to reach them. Through a comprehensive marketing approach utilizing email, search, social, and SMS, we were able to achieve tremendous growth." — Sophia DiPersio, Marketing Manager, Printfresh
Our email performance was amazing but we did see a slight drop in engagement. It was amazing to have another channel to make pushes on without worrying about drops in engagement and deliverability.
When we sent out SMS you could see the spike in our Shopify analytics!
Wrapping Up: SMS Is Here to Stay
Going into this year, we knew that the holiday season would be completely different.
- We knew that shipping delays were going to cause people to shop earlier than usual.
- We knew that more people than ever were going to do their shopping online.
But there were also a lot of things that we weren’t sure of — like which days were going to be the most popular (some predicted Cyber Monday, but we see Black Friday continue to trend upward), what message intent would be, and how customers would respond to an increased volume of SMS messages.
“We expected there to be a rush online because of the pandemic, but it was honestly bigger than we even predicted. We were expecting the past few months to show a trend (which it had consistently), but it ended up ever larger than we extrapolated from that trend.” — Erik Huberman, Founder and CEO, Hawke Media
One thing is for certain: SMS is here to stay for BFCM.
We will likely see more SMS in ecommerce next year as well. It is important for brands to understand the nuances of the text message channel, like:
- Don’t spam your lists.
- Be a human. Customers will expect a human response.
- Use SMS for more than just promotions to get the best bang for your buck.