Black November: The Phenomenon that’s Shaking Ecommerce

Ecommerce merchants beware – Black November is upon us. Continue reading to see how Black Friday has evolved into a month-long shopping extravaganza.

Black November Sale

Toss out the pumpkins and make way for the turkey – Black November is on its way.

In sum, Black November refers to the recent trend of online retailers launching Black Friday deals much earlier in the month, even as soon as November 1.

For consumers, this idea is pretty enticing, especially if you’re like me and are terrified of being trampled for the last Tickle Me Elmo at Toys R Us.

But as an online business owner, what does Black November mean for you?

The (Brief) History of Black November

Black November began in 2010 when Amazon announced their first Black Friday sale on October 29. Other retailers quickly hopped onboard, with technology seller NewEgg coining the term “Black November” on November 1 by launching daily deals on their site, all in an effort to entice cash-strapped consumers:

Black Novermber Starts Now

The proverbial shoe dropped, however, on November 11 when Wal-Mart announced their “free shipping with no minimum purchase” promotion, which applied to 60,000 gift items through Christmas. This development sent shockwaves through the ecommerce industry – how could smaller online retailers possibly keep up?

The Impact of Black November on Marketing

Although many retailers are now offering generous discounts in early November, the true impact of Black November is a timing shift for holiday marketing campaigns, particularly email and pay per click. Gone are the days of waiting until Thanksgiving to begin holiday messaging – thanks to Black November, we’re now in a world where holiday marketing begins in October.

According to Responsys, retailers, on average, began their 2010 holiday email campaigns on October 17. This date is two days earlier than the 2009 season and 11 days sooner than in 2007. Check out this graph from their report, Retail Email Guide to the Holiday Season 2011:

The Impact of Black November on Marketing

Even more, the number of email references to Black Friday between November 1 and the actual event increased 68% from 2009, indicating that Black November has made a big impact on holiday email marketing.

On top of the email scheduling shift of last year, holiday pay per click (PPC) campaigns began much earlier than usual, with retailers dramatically ramping up their PPC budgets three weeks before Thanksgiving. Take a look at this chart from the Kenshoo 2010 Online Retail Holiday Shopping Report – clearly, advertisers are kicking off the holidays sooner than ever before.

Sales Advertising Budgets During Key Periods of the Holiday Season

Black November and Your Online Business

So what does this phenomenon mean for you and your online business?

Fortunately it’s not too drastic – I don’t think we’ll see all retailers moving Black Friday discounts to November 1 in one big sweep. Thus, don’t have a kneejerk reaction – your job is simple: prepare your holiday marketing materials early this year.

For example, get started with holiday email design, figure out your discount strategy and ramp up those PPC campaigns. Also, decide if you want to offer “pre-Black Friday” sales or if you want to hold off. Making these decisions now allows you to better compete during the mega Thanksgiving sales event.

Like it or not, Black November is here to stay.

Happy holiday selling!
-Matt Winn, Social Media Manager, Volusion

What do you think about Black November? Share your opinions by leaving a comment below!


Matt Winn is Volusion’s Senior Brand Manager, where he helps oversee the organization’s branding and communications efforts. Matt has created hundreds of articles, videos and seminars on all things ecommerce, ranging from online marketing to web design and customer experience. Beyond being a certified nerd, Matt is an avid college football fan, enthusiastic home cook and a self-admitted reality TV junkie.

One Response to “Black November: The Phenomenon that’s Shaking Ecommerce”

  1. Tamara

    I’ve already had customers asking how they can create a wish list to give to their family & friends for holiday shopping. It’s was Oct 17th that they asked me!


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