Cyber Monday: What We Can Learn from the World’s Largest Online Retailer

Cyber Monday was hugely successful this year. According to comScore, this Cyber Monday broke records as the biggest day in US history for online spending. Of the top retail websites, online shoppers visited Amazon the most and it had the biggest year-over-year growth of site visits at 36% (source: Experian Hitwise). By using Inbox Insight data, I saw how Amazon’s email marketing strategy for Cyber Monday this year changed, and likely attributed to their large year-over-year traffic growth.

Amazon's Cyber Monday Campaigns Doubled in 2012

When comparing last year's campaigns with “Cyber Monday” in the subject line, Amazon's Cyber Monday campaigns doubled in 2012 while overall performance of these campaigns remained virtually the same. In 2011, Amazon’s Cyber Monday campaigns had an above average engagement benchmark, and this year's campaigns continued to have above average engagement benchmark, despite sending volume doubling. All metrics, like "This is Spam" complaints and messages deleted and unread, stayed the same with the read rate decreasing slightly in 2012, but not enough to impact the benchmark.

Can marketers, therefore, double volume without making any other changes and expect the same performance? Not that easy. Upon further investigation, Amazon also changed their sending and segmentation strategy.

More Sending Volume, Less Sending Days

The chart below shows how Amazon’s strategy for sending Cyber Monday emails by day of week changed from 2011 to 2012. In 2011, the day before Cyber Monday saw few campaigns sent, but in 2012, it was Amazon's biggest day volume-wise. Amazon also changed the length of their Cyber Monday campaign schedule. In 2011, Cyber Monday campaigns continued for the next five days, In 2012, Amazon ended their Cyber Monday only two days later. This tactic proves to be a smart way to increase volume while maintaining high levels of engagement. Clearly, consumers have an appetite for more marketing emails just before, on, and right after Cyber Monday.

Amazon Used Segmentation Less This Cyber Monday

Most of the Cyber Monday campaigns that Amazon sent in 2011 were small and targeted. Even their “Cyber Monday Deals” email to announce the start of Cyber Monday went to about half of their total list. In 2012, this strategy seems to have changed. While they still deployed small, targeted campaigns, Amazon increased the number of campaigns aimed at most of their subscriber file. Their email to announce Cyber Monday with the subject line “Cyber Monday Deals Week Starts Now” went to their whole list. In addition, they had quite a few other large deployments where they advertised deals in certain verticals, for example, in Electronics and Books, to a significant percentage of their list. This broadening of their segmentation strategy did not negatively affect their overall engagement, again confirming that their subscribers were waiting to see these Cyber Monday offers.

So what can we learn from Amazon and their Cyber Monday campaigns and results in 2011 vs. 2012? It looks like consumers look forward to Cyber Monday and have an increased tolerance for emails just before, on, and right after Cyber Monday. Assuming subscribers value the offer, increasing volume or broadening your segments for Cyber Monday may be a strategy worth considering in 2013.

Margarita Golod
Director, Product Marketing

(originally published on the Return Path Blog)