4 Surprises From Analyzing Holiday E-commerce Campaigns

Holiday e-commerce campaigns can be … weird. The language and narratives that tend to thrive in retail campaigns can let you down at key calendar moments like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Black Friday. Tried-and-true approaches don’t always produce the highest performance.

We saw that loud and clear when we examined e-commerce campaigns looking for insights to share with you in our new 2023 Customer Motivation Report—just launched today.

When we dug into Black Friday campaigns specifically, the highest-performing emotions held some surprises compared with previous years—again. (Emotions are one of the language elements that motivate customers and that the Persado Motivation AI Platform can optimize with its enterprise-scale Generative AI.)

Below, we review what we found and how it can help you better plan your calendar e-commerce campaigns in 2023.

The AI-generated language of Black Fridays past

When we look at the entire Persado knowledge base of campaign performance trends over more than three years, the same emotions often hold the top spots in terms of campaign success. More often than not, e-commerce customers seem to like campaigns that focus on ACHIEVEMENT, GRATITUDE, or ATTENTION—when viewed as a yearly average, these are the top emotions.

Marketing for special events is a bit different. Whether it offers a special opportunity to celebrate an annual event—like Christmas or Hannukah—or to acknowledge someone special—as on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day—consumer responses to holiday e-commerce campaigns can buck the trends.

As it relates to Black Friday specifically, Persado has examined the past four years of data for the end-of-year retail shopping kick off. Instead of the typical top performers driving outsized impact, our data show variations in what resonates.

For example, in 2019, LUCK, SAFETY, and EXCLUSIVITY took the top three spots, in that order. 

But in 2020, SAFETY jumped to first place, LUCK to third, and EXCLUSIVITY dropped out, replaced by GRATIFICATION in the top three. 

In the context of holiday campaigns, the kinds of messages that align with those emotions look like this:

  • EXCLUSIVITY: You get early access to our latest markdowns
  • GRATIFICATION: Black Friday deals are yours
  • LUCK: We’re giving you a lucky deal on sweaters
  • SAFETY: Confirmed: Your package is officially on its way

2021 showed a more dramatic shift in the pattern for Black Friday. Regret language like Don’t miss this! or Time’s running out usually performs poorly in retail campaigns. Customers don’t like being told what to do, especially during an already high-intensity holiday season. But in Black Friday 2021 campaigns—the first year of stock outs and supply chain disruptions—the extra reminder to buy early seemed to resonate. REGRET messages took the top performance spot, joining repeat-performer LUCK and ousting SAFETY from the top three. EXCLUSIVITY also returned to the top-three, bumping GRATIFICATION.

So what did 2022 look like?

Black Friday 2022 embraced fascination—sort of

Four surprises rose to the surface on the onset of the 2022 holiday shopping season.

  1. REGRET tanked. The 2021 top-performer sunk to the absolute bottom of the Black Friday e-commerce campaign performance rankings in 2022. Not only that, it didn’t even appear in many campaigns. Keep in mind, retailers don’t write holiday campaigns leveraging every emotional context every year. It varies. As a result, the number of campaigns that use these emotions go up and down based on consumer engagement. So if REGRET fell to the bottom in terms of performance and frequency, what took its place?
  2. FASCINATION was the most frequent emotion in Persado-generated 2022 Black Friday campaigns. And it even performed okay—it outperformed alternatives in 51% of the campaigns in which it appeared. Still, it did not place in the top three.
  3. GRATIFICATION, SAFETY, and another new holiday top three, URGENCY—in that order–took the top three spots in 2022. In other words, two old standbys reliably produced results during Black Friday promotions and an emotion that usually does only okay rose to the top.
  4. EXCLUSIVITY dropped to the middle of the pack. It outperformed alternatives in exactly half of the campaigns in which it appeared—not bad. But when pitted against emotions like GRATIFICATION, which outperformed alternatives in 60% of the campaigns in which it appeared, EXCLUSIVITY wasn’t the best option as often.

Beyond Black Friday: The Persado team identified the highest-performing and lowest-performing words of all of 2022 (along with their associated emotions) based on the click through rates (CTRs) of email campaigns across various industries. The results may surprise you.

Holiday e-commerce campaigns are made for Persado

The up and down results we see from different approaches to holiday e-commerce campaigns send a clear message. For the best results from your campaigns, marketers need to have a foundation of precise data about the exact AI-generated language that motivates customers to take action. 

That’s not just a holiday campaign thing. That’s always a thing. For the best results, create the best campaign you can and then give it to Persado to analyze and generate alternatives using our enterprise-scale and motivation-aware Generative AI. Then assess them in the market with real customers through real channels. Let the best language win.

For more insights from the Persado Content Intelligence team, download the Persado 2023 Customer Motivation Report. To learn more about Persado Motivation AI, reach out—we’d love to talk to you

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