It’s no secret.
Successful holiday campaigns live or die by a single ingredient: the offer.
Sure, creating a profitable Q4 strategy matters. True, the right ad creative fuels those results. And yes, nailing down your tactics and timelines are musts.
But, in a season dominated by deal hunters, the offer is almighty.
Unfortunately, knowing that does nothing but intensify the questions that surround you:
- How will your offer stack up against the competition?
- Where can you turn for holiday sales inspiration?
- What should your promotion (your deal) actually be?
Hark, we bring tidings of great joy. To get you ready, we dug deep and compiled the best …
Black Friday, Cyber Monday offers from 437 of ecommerce’s most successful brands.
In fact, we did more than just compile them. After pulling our selected brands from 2PM’s DTC Power List (as of Nov. 2020) …
We categorized each offer by deal structure. Crunched the numbers. And simplified everything into one data-packed infographic.
But wait, there’s more 😉
We also took 1,897 desktop, mobile, and social screenshots; labeled them by brand, event, and device; then dropped ‘em all into the ultimate swipe file.
Ecommerce Holiday Campaigns & Offers: The Big Picture
Examining the full data set and combining primary with secondary offers reveals the most-popular holiday season discounts:
- Sitewide: 28.7%
- Free Shipping: 18.7%
- Select SKU(s): 18.2%
- None: 15.4%
- Free Gift(s): 8.0%
- Subscription: 5.9%
- Tiered: 4.1%
- Buy X Get Y: 0.8%
Compared to last year, sitewide discounts held strong as the most frequent (28.7%). “None,” on the other hand — meaning, no sale or discount — dropped significantly: from second place in 2019 (25.3%) to fourth place in 2020 (15.4%).
Even with that drop, no discount may seem like an odd contender.
Reflecting on preliminary data we gathered with 2PM Inc., Web Smith forwarded a compelling hypothesis:
“The more creative and the less drastic the discount promotion, the better the odds of increased brand equity in the long-term. For many retailers, the best Black Friday deal is holding as firm as possible on pricing, service, and consumer trust.”
Among those that renounced discounting were brands like Peloton, Allbirds, and Warby Parker as well as subscription-based retailers like Stitch Fix and Italic:
More telling was the absolute dominance of sitewide discounts. Within that category …
- Just under half offered between 20%-25% off
- Less than a quarter hosted discounts in the 30% range
- And 14.21% marked down 50% or more
1. Easy: Sitewide and No Coupon Codes
Keep it simple, stupid (scrooge).
Your sale should be clear and concise enough to appear boldly on your homepage — not in a tiny banner above your nav bar that disappears after a scroll.
Whatever you’re offering, never make your visitor read it twice to understand.
Make sure that the discount is automatically applied at checkout, to eliminate unnecessary steps. Anytime you introduce a code, you add friction, and the result is lower conversion rates.
(The only exceptions are genuinely exclusive codes for loyalty members, early access, and deep discounts or giveaways.)
If you decide to have a coupon code, stay away from words that are hard to spell or have two of the same letters in a row like “holidaze” or “gatherround.”
2. Valuable: Less Than 20% Is Not a Discount
Regardless of how premium your positioning, discounting on Black Friday, Cyber Monday rarely cheapens a brand.
If you look at our list, higher-end DTCs like Outdoor Voices, Brooklinen, Rowing Blazer, Parachute, and Tracksmith decked their halls with cyber offers.
Just be sure your sale is really a sale. That means a minimum of 20% off.
Otherwise, you risk customers saying, “What’s the point? I can get the same discount by giving you my email!”
If you discount less than 20%, your AOV should be over $500. In which case, make your discount $-off, not %-off.
So, how do you develop an offer that checks all the boxes and ensures you meet your bottom-line goals?
3. Profitable: Stay ‘Black’ All Through Q4
Needless to say, it’s Black Friday for a reason.
For most, the danger of discounting isn’t brand equity. It’s going into the red.
That’s where (1) testing profit projections and (2) driving AOV to offset acquisition costs come into play.
To address the first, we’ve created a Holiday Offer Calculator. In it, you’ll be led step-by-step through your AOV, cost of delivery, and discounts to set spend, ROAS, and CPA targets:
The goal? Maximize your offer in a way that makes sense for your consumer, your unit economics, and your overall goals.
Once you enter your numbers, you can then play around — sticking to the 20-30% off range if possible — until you find an offer you like.
To optimize the second ingredient of profitability — increasing AOV — consider the next two insights …
4. Paired: Multiple Products and Free Gifts
If your unit economics don’t back out to at least 20-30% off, use a “Spend X, Save Y” or “Buy X, Get Y” model.
The former is best applied through a tier-discount, which we’ll cover next. The latter is a simpler version, though no less powerful.
There are a multitude of ways to shape this type of sale. QALO and Love Billy went with straightforward BOGOs:
Atoms modified its version with a “Buy Two & Save $60” offer tied to gifting:
And DIFFeyewear updated its previous year’s tiered sale:
- Buy 1 🔥🕶 Get 30 % Off ⚡️💸💕
- Buy 2 🔥🔥🕶 Get 40 % Off ⚡️💸💕
- Buy 3 🔥🔥🔥🕶 Get 50 % Off ⚡️💸💕
With a less complex although still tiered deal:
- Buy 1 🕶 Get 1 🎁
- Buy 2 🕶🕶 Get 3 🎁🎁🎁
Even more economical are free gifts or ‘gift with purchase’ (GWP).
In Aug., our own skincare brand, Bambu Earth, racked up its single biggest sales day in company history. How?
With a simple, two-tiered offer driven by email, remarketing ads, and an onsite banner:
- Spend $50, Get a $28 gift
- Spend $200, Get a $160 gift
What’s the holiday lesson?
Dave Rekuc, VP of New Brands, explains …
“When shaping offers for Black Friday weekend, remember that there’s two ways to drive big revenue days:
- Drive an incredible response (conversion rate)
- Push up the value of orders dramatically
“During the holiday season your customer file is a mix of people who will respond to higher AOV offers — bundles, threshold offers, gift with purchase, etc. And, those that won’t.
“Use a mix of conditional, but exceptional offers to hit those high-AOV folks as well as sitewide percentage-off.”
5. Stacked: Boost AOV & Margins via Bundles or “Tiers”
While shockingly under-utilized, bundling products or structuring your deal through tiered discounts can be massive.
A mere 4.1% of all Black Friday, Cyber Monday campaigns tied their sitewide discount to a tier.
To do that, take inspiration from sites like ModCloth, Bonobos, MeUndies, and RHONE (there’s even more in the swipe file of screenshots):
Notice the difference between Barn & Willow’s percent-off structure versus Burrow’s dollar-off tier — especially as it relates to their respective price points:
The shining star, however, is Brooklinen.
Last year, it created a savvy %-off based on spend tier that it used both onsite as well as in its ads. It also layered on a free gift at $150 — triggered automatically and shown via a pop-up.
As if that wasn’t enough, it then integrated the entire process into the checkout … prompting shoppers with exact $-amounts and suggested products to hit the next discount threshold.
6. Hyped: Unlock a Bit of Mystery or Escalate in a Flash
True holiday hype is an elusive thing.
Up against an increasingly crowded market, what really matters isn’t so much going big but rather making the deal, marketing, and onsite merchandising joyful in themselves.
Along these lines, three examples …
First, 100% Pure.
For three years now, this all-natural beauty brand has kicked off its Black Friday event with $10 “Beauty Deals” combined with a $45 cart-threshold to “Unlock” a constantly updated collection of products:
Second, Pura Vida Bracelets.
Pura Vida has led its most recent holiday seasons with a sitewide 50%-off deal. No codes. And no exclusions. Its secret, however, lies in two “Mystery” upsells delivered at the cart level:
And third, if you do go big, Fashion Nova.
Already famous for its flash sales, year after year Fashion Nova has escalated discounts via social media and email with each reveal:
7. Exclusive: Reserve Your Best Offers for Email, SMS & DM
At first glance, you’d be tempted to think DTC royalty Dollar Shave Club should be placed in the “None” category.
Afterall, its homepage over Black Friday (left) and Cyber Monday (right) didn’t contain a single nod to a sale nor discount.
You’d be wrong.
Rather than unleash its offer upfront, Dollar Shave Club sent a torrent of SKU-based deals by email only:
What’s more, the brand also drove traffic — organic as well as paid — to build up its email list rather than release the deals at large.
Inkbox followed a similar path by announcing an early Black Friday deal exclusive to its loyalty program members.
First sent via text, email, and Facebook Messenger, the special was also made public on social and heavily promoted to add new members in the week prior to Black Friday.
That same discount was unveiled universally on Black Friday. And, then, increased slightly on Cyber Monday:
Of course, if you’re going to make it exclusive … that doesn’t mean you actually have to exclude anyone.
8. Lasting: Integrate VIP & Loyalty Programs for LTV
With 48% of BFCM sales coming from customers who engage prior to the holiday — and, ~75% of CTC client’s revenue generated from remarketing — the value of existing audiences and loyal customers cannot be overstated.
To achieve balance, don’t pit multiple offers to multiple audiences against each other.
Steve Madden, for instance, placed a bonus discount front-and-center onsite: 40%-off for its loyalty members versus 30%-off for non-members.
This kind of offer — much like Dollar Shave Club, though more accessible — incentivizes new holiday shoppers to connect more deeply and simultaneously rewards existing customers with ease of access.
Still, pride of place goes to theRealReal.
As a luxury goods retailer, it essentially stacked three offers:
- Sitewide 20% off code
- Up to 80% off select SKU collection
- And a tiered $-off discount delivered post-Black Friday credits through its loyalty program
9. Elevated: Message the Moment with Power
The most successful holiday marketing campaigns beyond DTC root themselves in emotional soil.
Past standouts include REI’s #OptOutside, Starbucks Red Cups, Google’s Santa Tracker, and Apple’s “Misunderstood” (to name just a few).
But how do you infuse gravity — elevated storytelling — into your ecommerce offer?
As a model, take NOBULL’s five-phase roll out pre- and post-pandemic …
Phase one, jump start the holiday season with an October preview of “Who I’ve Always Been” — a short-film starring NOBULL athletes unveiled at the brand’s late-November Fitness Film Festival.
Phase two, follow up with an equally epic hype reel and scarcity-heavy promotions for its holiday collection.
Phase three, bring them together onsite:
Phase four, get nostalgic during the festival’s 2020 hiatus. But keep FOMO high with three separate Black Friday, Cyber Monday collection drops.
Phase five, bring it all back around in 2021 with the triumphant return of the Fitness Film Festival … complete with an early Q4 event and plenty for #JustTheHorns fans to rally around.
10. Merry: On Brand and (if Possible) Gamified
Lastly, the most-neglected deal type was gamification.
Out of the 437 brands, only four in the last two years — Shinesty, Chubbies, Anker, and Fenty x Savage — took advantage of this approach.
The first two rapidly released new free-gifts to keep the excitement high:
Anker, in contrast, built a digital “Prize Carnival” that dealt out discounts and prizes in exchange for email subscriptions:
And Savage x Fenty left no holiday stop unpulled …
- Gamified deals via email (left)
- 65%-off sitewide (center)
- And multiple bundles (right)
Behold, (Your) Almighty Holiday Offer
All that’s left now is to …
- Grab the infographic and calculators
- Crunch and experiment with your own numbers
- Take inspiration from the exhaustive swipe file of +1.8k Black Friday, Cyber Monday screenshots
Aaron is the VP of Marketing at CTC. Previously the Editor in Chief of Shopify Plus, his content has appeared on Forbes, Mashable, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, The New York Times, and more. Connect with Aaron on Twitter or LinkedIn (especially if you want to talk about bunnies or #LetsGetRejected).