10 SMS Sale Strategies & Promotions To Try Before And After BFCM


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There’s a lot of game-day pressure when it comes to BFCM performance. But this historically epic weekend is not the only time you should be pushing holiday sales. In fact, with the realities of shipping delays once again this year, the earlier you run promotions, the better off you are.

According to a report from Adobe, the growth of BFCM is slowing, coming in at just 5 percent YoY for the 5-day period (less than the season overall at 10 percent YoY). Adobe expects Cyber Monday to remain the biggest day of the season (and year) but this slow down in growth could reflect the changing landscape where retailers are pushing sales earlier and earlier in the season.

Want to crush some SMS holiday strategies before, during, and after BFCM? Here are some SMS sale strategies and promotional ideas to urge subscribers to shop before and beyond the ubiquitous holiday shopping weekend.

Friends & Family Event

The original concept of a friends and family sale event was to encourage goodwill among existing customers by offering them a sale event that they could extend to their own friends. 

Friends & Family sales also tend to be a sitewide discount with a promo code, often a brand’s steepest discount of the year. 

If you plan on running one, give your SMS subscribers access to the event before email subscribers or sitewide visitors. 

A Friends & Family Sale event can be used as a great SMS list growth strategy. Let visitors know that if they opt-in to your SMS list, they’ll be the first to know about your exclusive sale event.

When to run It: After the holiday season. Tease the event for list collection and then run it after the holidays are over to help ease the slowdown of sales.

VIP Exclusives

When you’re trying to push sales during the holiday season, focus on your most active customers first. You’re more likely to convert someone that is on your VIP list than you would a lapsed buyer, so make sure you roll out the red carpet and offer an exclusive sale just for those subscribers. 

VIPs are used to receiving early access to sales or product drops already, so consider running a limited sale just for them. Roll out a unique promo code that goes out just for VIPs to receive a discount on anything in your cart.

Be clear in your copy that this will not be open to anyone else except your top subscribers. Access to private and unique events will keep your top customers happy and engaged.

When to run it: Before or after BFCM when the offer will stand out most.

Flash Sale

Urgency moves the needle when it comes to holiday sales. A flash sale encourages subscribers to hop on a deal quickly. 

This is a great sale to run using a campaign flow, that includes multiple reminders about the sale if the subscriber has not completed a purchase in the previous step. Here’s how you might set it up.


We’re making spirits BRIGHT! Take an extra 25% off our entire holiday collection with promo code JOLLY.

> 12 hours later, send:


Put down the egg nog. 25% off our entire holiday collection ends at midnight PST. Now ho-ho-hurry and shop now with promo code JOLLY at checkout.

> 6 hours later, send:


Hear that? It’s sleigh bells. Or is it SALE bells? Bad jokes aside, this is your last chance to take 25% off our entire holiday collection which ends at midnight PST! Use code JOLLY at checkout.

Flash sales are more fun as an MMS send where you can get creative with the content – just don’t send an MMS during BFCM where delays are most common

When to run it: Anytime. But if you do send it during BFCM, stick to SMS over MMS campaigns.

Daily Deals

Announcing a week of daily deals sets the expectation that someone will be waiting at their phone for that text to appear. Merchants can get super creative and brand the event with anything from 12 Days of Giving campaigns to 5 Days of Deals—the options are endless.

Use this as an opportunity to brand an event that becomes a holiday sale that subscribers look forward to year after year. 

When to run it: These are great promotions to run after BFCM since customers are more likely to convert rather than wonder if they’ll miss out on deeper discounts during cyber weekend.

Scavenger Hunt

It’s easy to get caught up in the BFCM craze and forget that not every text sent during the holidays needs to be a promotion. 

The holidays are a great time to get subscribers to your store without a deep discount. A scavenger hunt allows customers to spend time digging around in your store with the hope that it’ll lead to discovery: both in the actual item they’re searching for and in your store’s offerings too.

Be strategic in your scavenger hunt, especially in where you want subscribers to land. If you have a category or product that isn’t selling as fast as you’d hoped, landing subscribers on that page could generate traffic without discounting that item.

Or consider an SMS-only hunt where you drop clues over text for subscribers to unravel a puzzle. Incentivize entrants with a free gift card or discount code to up the engagement.

When to run it: When you don’t have a need to run a sale or discount.

Bonus Rewards

This is a great strategy for merchants who run a loyalty program. A double points day on every order encourages active and engaged customers to spend more to earn more. It also incentivizes subscribers to sign up and earn more on an order.

For loyalty programs that have a tiered approach, consider making the reward bigger based on the tier they’re on. 

After the holidays are over, send an SMS campaign reminding people to come back and use their rewards to shop a post-holiday sale and create more traffic during a historically slower time of year.

When to run it: Anytime.


Everyone loves a BOGO. It’s even fun to say aloud. In fact, 93% of customers have purchased a BOGO deal before and 63% claim it’s their favorite type of promotion.

Choose your products wisely and be sure to take inventory levels into consideration when you run this type of sale. This promotion is an opportunity to push high-margin products and gifting ideas together throughout December.

When to run it: Anytime.

Spend X, Get a Free Gift Card

When thinking through holiday promotions, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers during the holiday season. A free gift card event can help bring in repeat customers after the holidays are over when many merchants are seeing a steep decline in sales.

Offer a free promotional gift card to any subscribers that spend over x amount and don’t be shy about putting terms around it. If it’s a promotional gift card, make sure it has an expiration date. Encourage customers to use it in the first few months of the new year to help with that postseason slump.

Send out an SMS reminding them to use it during a January sale and another follow-up text to use it before it expires.

When to run it: Anytime.

Free Gift

Customers love free gifts. In fact, 90% of free gift receivers said they were “somewhat likely” to buy more frequently from an online retailer after receiving a gift.

If you’re rolling this out during the holiday season, a free gift doesn’t have to be a product pulled from your existing inventory. Gifts like a branded tote bag or free gift card (see above) are a great way to encourage brand loyalty and offer an incentive.

When to run it: Anytime.

Free Shipping

If you’ve noticed an uptick in customers expecting to receive free shipping on any order, you’re not alone. Thanks to big-box retailers like Amazon, free shipping is quickly becoming the norm, which can be a big hit to a merchant’s bottom line.

In a study from the National Retail Federation, they found that 60% of shoppers expect free shipping from retailers, and 79% of consumers say free shipping makes them more likely to shop. 

The good news is that it can be super impactful as a promotion any time of the year, especially during the holidays. If you already offer free shipping over a dollar amount, consider lowing the threshold for a limited time. 

When to run it: Early on in the season. You don’t want to offer free shipping and have to pay expedited rates for packages to arrive in time for Christmas.

Wishing you all a prosperous holiday season ahead!

Special thanks to our friends at Postscript for their insights on this topic.
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Steve has entrepreneurship in his DNA. Starting in the early 2000s, Steve achieved eBay Power Seller status which propelled him to become a founding partner of VisionPros.com, a contact lens and eyewear retailer. Four years later through a successful exit from that startup, he embarked on his next journey into digital strategy for direct-to-consumer brands.

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