The annual holiday shopping extravaganzas known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday are well established as two crucial points each year in which retailers and advertisers can finally get ahead of the competition. In 2013, holiday shoppers in the U.S. spent a record $2.29 billion during Cyber Monday, a 16% increase over 2012, a year that also saw Cyber Monday spending records broken.

What was once traditionally an American novelty of the annual holiday shopping calendar has become a truly global experience, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales taking place across Europe, Asia and Latin America, and everywhere in between.

Traditionally, shopping on these two days revolved around taking advantage of in-store deals (Black Friday) that a consumer finds in the Thanksgiving Day circulars from their hometown newspaper, or, in the case of Cyber Monday, from the ubiquitous display ads that start popping up immediately after Black Friday is over.

That’s all starting to change, as email, the little engine that could of digital marketing, is quickly emerging as one of advertisers’ preferred customer acquisition media channels in the smartphone era.

In order to take advantage of the huge opportunities available to savvy marketers during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s important that you take the time now to ensure your email marketing activities are up to speed. Here are five things every marketer should be doing now to tap into Black Friday and Cyber Monday email marketing opportunities.

Timing is everything 

It’s important that marketers, especially those who will be appealing to American consumers, understand the unique timing that takes place in the week before and on the day of Black Friday. For many Americans, this has become a holiday unto itself and they spend a great deal of time preparing for it. Traditionally, most Americans would find out about Black Friday deals the day before from their Thanksgiving Day hometown newspaper. That’s starting to change, though. With many consumers now accessing email on their mobile devices, and a push towards ever-earlier holiday shopping (what some refer to as “Cyber Thursday” for the post-Thanksgiving dinner online shopping that occurs), people no longer have to wait until Monday to actually respond to your holiday offer emails. Therefore, it’s important that you time your emails to correspond, or be slightly ahead of, this media drop. Be ready to send your Black Friday email offers at least a week in advance of the big day, and have reminder emails going out Thanksgiving morning and Thanksgiving evening when consumers are looking for the best deals.   

Implement real-time replies.

Following the tip above, make sure your holiday email offer campaigns have real-time reply capabilities built into them. One of the great things about email marketing is that the data it yields can often be collected in real time to create segments. This typically follows one of three basic patterns:

Real time / real time: 

In this scenario, a subscriber’s real-time action elicits a real-time response. As soon as a subscriber takes some action with your email, say, by clicking on a “Learn More” button, a relevant follow-up email is auto-generated containing more information about your brand or offer.

Real time / trigger: 

In this situation, a user segment is developed based on real-time data; however, a response email is not sent until a pre-determined time. This method will allow you to refine your messaging and offer based on certain criteria of the subscriber and his or her action.

Real time / ad hoc: 

This is a highly manual, but very effective, form of real-time email marketing. In this scenario, a marketer watches his dashboard and uses the real-time data coming in from email actions to develop personalized messaging and offers for specific consumers.

Use mobile wisely

Mobile commerce will be the breakout star of the upcoming holiday shopping season. In the US alone, it is estimated that nearly $100 billion worth of goods will be purchased online in the final holiday quarter of 2014, a 16% increase over the same quarter last year, according research from Business Insider Intelligence.

One of the best ways to improve your lead generation and customer acquisition efforts during the busy holiday season is to mesh mobile and email. With so many consumers out shopping, they will be relying heavily on their mobile devices to prime them with the best and most timely email offers. Globally, nearly half of all emails are first read on a mobile device according to Litmus. Holiday marketers should take advantage of this device segmenting by sending mobile-friendly email offers that include  keywords, such as “Black Friday Sale!”, “Cyber Monday – 20% Off!” or “Early-Bird Special …”

Make your creatives festive

Let’s face it, your Black Friday / Cyber Monday offer email is going to be one of probably hundreds, if not thousands, that your customers will receive this holiday season. In order to be sure that your email offers don’t get deleted like your competitors, use smart, compelling seasonal creative and content. Involve your creative department in the campaign process. If you do not have creative in-house, it could be worthwhile to outsource creative from an agency specialising in multi-channel marketing approaches. Their familiarity with both advertising and creative best practices will help you sidestep technical issues that could negatively impact campaign performance. This is especially critical with time-sensitive holiday campaigns.

Add click-to-call to every email

Click-to-call should be in every holiday marketers’ email toolkit. It’s especially useful for direct marketers looking to sell a unique product or service during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This form of search marketing enables consumers to easily contact your business via a one-step dialing process. By implementing a click-to-call feature in every email, you ensure that consumers who want to take an action now with your business can do so and don’t have to find your phone number within the email and dial it themselves. Click-to-call does the hard work for them and will help you generate many more leads than emails that don’t contain this handy function.

By implementing the above strategies, holiday email marketers can ensure that their campaigns reach the right consumer at the right time with the right offer on what are two of the busiest and most lucrative shopping days of the year. Happy emailing (and Happy Holidays)!