Segmentation vs Personalization: They’re not the same.

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In a typical day I’ll probably say the words ‘email personalization’ a hundred times. What I’ve noticed is that my definition of email personalization is not always the same as other people’s. It seems that there can be some confusion between segmentation and personalization. Are the two interchangeable or are they very different?

IMO they’re very different. Let’s start with segmentation.

Segmentation allows you to put people into pots and target them with content deemed ‘relevant’ to that pot. 

grouped M&MsCustomers are split into groups and receive the content that best serves their needs as a whole group. Persona based segmentation uses aggregated data to split the market into sections according to shared attributes which may be gender – male or female, or preference – menswear, womenswear, home or kids etc. A slightly more advanced level of segmentation could be the splitting out of customer type based on their buying behavior.

As marketers we’re very good at at creating the process to put people in the pots, but we don’t have a way to change preference easily and fluidly once a customer lands in a particular segment. As time moves on and customer needs evolve, segmentation typically doesn’t; once a customer lands in a pot, they’re there for a while, so the content being sent can become irrelevant very quickly. If a contact indicates an interest in home, they may not want to receive home content forever – it’s possible they were doing a renovation and were only interested in ‘home’ at that point in time or for a couple of months.

Further to this, the segmentation categories tend to be purposefully broad to fit as many recipients into the pre-determined pots as possible. The fact that I’m a woman doesn’t necessarily make a female communication more appealing to me – particularly if I’ve recently browsed men’s clothing for my partner.

The biggest challenge with segmentation is that people change over time. What you told me when you signed up, or what you bought two years ago is a much less useful indicator of what you’re interested in than what you browsed last month. Is it better to continue battling with segmentation or look for more advanced ways to achieve real personalization that doesn’t go out of date?

We ask everybody we speak to if they’re personalizing and it’s fair to say that majoritively they respond with what we’d consider segmentation. Whilst segmentation does provide some level of personalization, at some point the content for that segment was deemed relevant to that individual, it’s not personalization in its truest sense.

At a real base level, personalization is saying ‘Hi Firstname’. This is so basic though that I’m not even going to consider it.

Real email personalization is the consistent delivery of content truly personalized, at an individual level.

For many email marketers this is the goal but it often feels unrealistic and not easily achievable. That’s because it’s just not possible using segmentation – you’ll never get to 1-2-1 personalization using dynamic content or segmented sends.

The best place to start when considering achievable personalization is data. One of problems people face with personalization is the speed of processing data points – picking up an abandon browse and actioning it the next day is tough, but with the advent of single customer view databases, businesses are getting better and better at this – the main problem is content creation.

Red-dressThere’s so much data available in your CRM, perhaps relating to previous purchases, average order value, browse behavior, customer type, propensity to purchase and so on. CRM data can be used in Kickdynamic Tags to automatically personalize email content based on each individual’s behavior & data. For example, if you have data in your CRM that says I’ve browsed ‘dresses’, I have a propensity to purchase ‘red’ and ‘size 12’ you can automatically show me red dresses in my size. This model can be applied to every individual in your CRM to deliver content that is always relevant to them. Kickdynamic bridges the gap between your CRM data and your email personalization – with no need for time-consuming dynamic content conundrums. The content source in this case could be a product catalogue or Google shopping feed – we’ll use the CRM data and business rules you’ve defined to find the right products from the feed to display to that individual.

PersonalizationInstead of clustering customers into set pots as you do with segmentation, you can now use an individual’s CRM data combined with Content Automation to deliver content to them at a 1-2-1 level. Connecting CRM data to live images powered by feeds, makes email content personalization achievable at an individual level. You can even merge product SKUs into our tags to display specific products. At the time of send, a product SKU can be merged from your ESP into our Tag, we’ll match that in the feed and show that image content automatically at open time. You only need to set this up once to generate an endless variation of personalized email content. An additional benefit of using open time technology to personalize is that every time the email is opened the product information is live – we’ll serve the latest product content from the feed every time the email is opened. Prices, offers and availability will always be up to date, eradicating email shelf-life.

If your CRM doesn’t contain this level of customer detail – that doesn’t matter.  If you have category based information such as whether a customer has a propensity to buy shoes, bags, shirts, dresses or sportswear for example, this information can be used to completely remove the requirement to build complex, dynamic content. It only needs to be setup once and will automatically display the the latest products from the propensity category by utilizing open time technology.

Approaching personalization in this way removes the stagnation around content irrelevance. Content Automation gives you, the marketer, the power to let recipients decide what they want to receive. Use your CRM to keep track of real-time activity and use that information to keep content relevant all the time. Personalizing at this level boosts engagement; you’re showing the right content to the right person – it’s a proven recipe for success. Every customer using Kickdynamic in this way is seeing significant increases in both engagement and AOV.

In short, personalization and segmentation are not interchangeable. Many marketers do segmentation but it is inefficient and resource heavy. But whilst 1-2-1 email content personalization is becoming more prevalent, many email marketers feel they need segmentation as a route to get to doing more personalization. This isn’t the case. Marketers should be utilizing real-time CRM data and automation to revolutionize their email activity. It’s a shift in mindset certainly, but the results will be unprecedented. It’s also repeatable at scale – something that isn’t true for segmentation.

Trust us, be brave and make the leap to content automation. It’s the trend that nobody is talking about.

P.S. I hope you like the M&Ms. From no personalization, to colour segementation, to M&Ms with my face on!

Are your emails keeping up with new data sharing attitudes?

It sounds simple, send the right content to the right people –  yet still so many email marketers continue to miss the mark. And this is becoming ever more a cardinal sin as attitudes of the everyday consumer shift.

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(A daily thought in the Kickdynamic office)

I’m going to speak now as a consumer, not an email marketer. I know day-to-day that retailers gather a lot of information on me; be this from store cards, loyalty programmes, or generally acknowledging that more of my online movements are being tracked by retailers. Even people who don’t work in online marketing notice and appreciate that when they’ve browsed a certain website or product – it’s likely to follow them around the internet in the form of retargeted ads.

Personally (and I’m sure the majority will agree), if I’m going to be retargeted with adverts, I prefer seeing products I’m actually interested in and the same goes for the content in my emails. It’s annoying to glance at an email for a second, decide instantly that none of the products really float my boat and hit delete. If this happens a few times in a row from a specific sender I’ll unsubscribe. On the flip side, when personalization is done well in email, I enjoy looking at the products and this is probably very evident in my dwell time. 

I stumbled across a recent report by Salesforce ‘The State of the Connected Customer’ and it came as no surprise that there has been huge movement and talk around new data-sharing attitudes amongst customers. According to the survey, the majority of UK customers are more willing to share personal data in exchange for offers and discounts which are personalized to them (I mean why would you not want to be notified when your favourite product is on special offer?!).

“63% of UK customers say being sent personalised or exclusive offers and discounts has a direct influence on their loyalty.”

With these changing attitudes, there is an increasing level of expectation when it comes to marketing. In the study carried out by Salesforce, it was found that one in two UK customers say they’re likely to switch from a company that doesn’t make an effort to personalize interactions. Now that’s a scary number when you think that 50% of your subscribers could unsubscribe as a result of you not using the data you have at your fingertips to personalize your emails in the best way you can. Nobody wants to be marketed a product they’ve just purchased or repeatedly shown items they’re not interested in.

In our world, with marketers having access to an abundance of data about their consumers AND the highlighted changing attitudes of their market – is there really an excuse NOT to be sending highly personalized emails?

In a word. NO.

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At Kickdynamic, we believe everyone should be connecting their CRM data (including browse behaviour) with a product feed enabling you to send highly personalised emails. This automated way of producing content is truly a no-brainer, ensuring your email content is always highly individualized and live at the time the email is opened all whilst saving resource and build time.

And just incase you needed some more persuading why high level personalization is so important, here are some more key stats from Salesforce’s Report that suggest by 2020:

  • 48% of UK consumers will expect companies to anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they contact them
  • 45% of UK consumers will expect companies to use AI to automatically purchase or recommend products based on their preferences

I am at war against manual processes.

This Fantastic quote from Dan Grech of Trendeo in the latest Smart Insights 2017 email trends guide goes to the heart of why our Content Automation solution makes such a difference to email marketers’ lives. Do you spend Friday afternoon building the emails for the weekend? Do you spend days editing dynamic content scripts in your ESP interface? Does this sound like your working environment:

‘….juniors, freelancers, interns are extracting CSVs of personally identiable information about customers from one system, running some queries and cleaning, then uploading it to another system’.

Dan Grech p. 18 of Smart Insights 2017 email trends guide

Do you sometimes have to stay back at the office to re run an personalisation upload or manage the editing of an image because a price or offer has changed? Every single one of these examples of stressful, error-prone manual processes can be removed, yes removed, by using Kickdynamic Content Automation.

I find it frustrating that many thought leaders in email still ignore the manual work required for building content to match what we can now do with data. As this Smart Insights 2017 email trends guide shows in many places e.g. this from p.3

‘Alongside this evolution, automation and machine learning are further freeing the marketer from hours of data manipulation and analysis.’

Yes, in some cases, this is true. Some retailers have invested heavily in CRM infrastructure and are well down the track of the recommendations by Michael Leander, CEO of consultants GIDMA on p. 5 of the Smart Insights 2017 email trends guide

‘First, create a solid and committed strategy backed by top management. Next, aim to establish one data repository, a strong content and offer strategy aligned with the interests of the target audience across the customer lifecycle. The ability to track and use behavioural and transactional data, and automate certain processes along with a realistic view on which resources are required to get results.’

If you now have a CRM infrastructure that is capable of making meaningful product and messaging recommendations for your customers, you are in a very exciting position, you can move beyond segmentation. But, how will you create content that matches all those thousands of individual recommendations? You are used to creating one email or maybe 4 variants for 4 different segments. Now, you need to be able to slot in content for thousands of variables. You need more than a ‘strong content strategy’ you need a content automation solution that allows you to match up relevant live content with those customer recommendations. Even if you just want to move beyond 4 segments to 8 segments, you will need to change your approach to content building. It needs to stop being a manual process.

When we think of building automated content – we think of production recommendations, right? There are lots of solutions that will produce a strip of products, based on best sellers, for example. This is not what we mean. Sure, automating the right product images is important, but you also need to automate soft content like blogs, recommendations, social content and so on. For example, look at how P&O Ferries has used Kickdynamic to automate soft content in their emails.

Kickdynamic image tags build images for email live at the time of open. Kickdynamic can build images based on results from an API query, or product feed, live at the time of open. By simply merging a customerID into the Kickdynamic image tag, Kickdyanmic can submit that ID to an API, live at the time of open and receive recommended Products as a result. Kickdynamic can then build personalised images for each recipient at the time they open their email. We recommend replacing a static mail merge for all recipients at time of send (current process) with Kickdynamic tags building images via an API query or from a product feed. This also opens up possibilities for using Browse data to match recipients with products they will be interested in and to prioritise products displayed, based on conversion rate.

Elevate email engagement with User Generated Content

banner-for-blog-1We come into contact with User Generated Content (UCG) on a daily basis, so much so that it’s easy to forget that it’s a form of advertising.  By definition, UGC is any form of media content, from blogs to images, that has been created by users of a product or service which is made available freely usually via social media platforms. This translates into a huge amount of content which sees people like you and me promoting brands rather than brands promoting themselves.

As much as we don’t always like to admit it, social media continues to be part of our everyday lives (if you disagree with me, I don’t believe you!).

With the huge rise in social media, aided by the mass use of smartphones, there has been a noticeable shift in companies, particularly retailers, strategically utilizing the content produced by their customers (and why wouldn’t you – it’s free advertising).

Through the use of social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, customers can jump on a hashtag and within hours produce numerous innovative, unique images which have the potential to reach a wide-spread audience. It’s no wonder retailers are then building these images into their advertising as a means to promote their products.

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Why you should be using UGC. . .

As we move into a society where social proof and approval are high on agendas, as a marketing tool, UGC created by real life customers is extremely powerful. It instantly allows both existing and potential customers to see how specific products look in everyday life, by everyday people. Consumers are gaining more influencing power over how a brand and its products are portrayed on social media. This content is highly successful because it shows a range of personalities and often provides inspiration for others.

In 2015, 78% of B2C companies were already incorporating UGC in their marketing strategies and this figure has only grown since. However, what inspired me to write this piece is the distinct lack of UGC (nevermind live UGC) in email.

When I’m online shopping, I see so much UGC built into websites, with customers showcasing their recent purchases. However, despite the abundance of incredible UGC available online, there is a lack of it making it to email and this hugely disappoints me.

Many companies who already have UGC displayed on their site are missing an easy opportunity by failing to roll this out in their emails.

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How to generate UGC. . . 

If you are new to the UGC concept, there are tonnes of ways to encourage users to generate this content. A great idea is to run a special seasonal competition or giveaway. Who wouldn’t take 5 mins to get creative and take a cool picture/selfie with the potential to win some goodies?!

Example: Birchbox

Birchbox, a monthly beauty subscription service, asked it’s customers to upload a picture with their most recent package for the chance to win £450 worth of beauty products. In doing this, over 25,000 images have been uploaded to Instagram. Whilst there is almost half a million images tagged with #Birchboxuk.Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 15.00.41

How you could be using UGC. . .

Now here’s the best part… incorporating UGC into your email campaigns is not only extremely cost-effective, but it’s also compelling, inspiring, and makes your brand, products and services more relatable in your customers’ eyes (basically it’s a no brainer).

Make it Live!

Using a Kickdynamic Tag in your emails to display UGC will allow you to display automated, engaging content live at the time of open. If you already have UGC on your site, then typically the content has been monitored, filtered and pre-approved. Kickdynamic serves images live at the point of open, as the UGC is approved and updated, it will appear within the email and update live, at the time of open.

It’s as easy as 1,2,3 . . .

  1. Identify your curated feed & connect in the Kickdynamic platform
  2.  Design your template to make on brand
  3. Generate Tag and insert into your HTML

This only requires a one time set up and would ensure that the most recent images are displayed at the time of open.


Miss Selfridge, a British clothing brand, has great UGC on its website, however it doesn’t get used within their emails. I received this email recently and simply mocked up how they could add their UGC, which instantly makes the email more engaging.

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lightbulbTop Tip: Inspire your email recipients to shop the looks/items other customers post. You can pull the content from a curated user generated feed, or pull it straight from your site into your email to show the latest user generated content, each and every time the email is opened.

A goal for 2017: ‘Do less’

Reflecting on the past year naturally brings anticipation of what 2017 will bring to the world of email marketing. 2016 saw our customers increasing use and rely on our product Content Automation product to send more, better email. In an netshell, Content Automation dramatically reduces email build time, whilst also ensuring that the content is highly relevant, personalised and up to date. Implementing this into the email build process sounds like a no brainer right? Who wouldn’t want to free up more time for strategic CRM planning?

DanDan Grech, Head of Marketing at online fashion retailer Trendeo, recently joined the discussion of Digital Marketing Trends of 2017, writing a piece for Smart Insights. His piece titled ‘Doing more with less time: The promise of content automation’ delves into how you can achieve more by actually doing less.

Read the whole article here

 

The Power of Personalization

Personalization is a top priority for email marketers; from contextual levels to more obvious name or product specific personalization, there are many different ways to do this. Send highly targeted, well personalized emails to your subscribers and you will see an increase in your opens, and better conversion rates. Ultimately you’ll build a better relationship between your brand and your subscribers, however, despite all of these benefits and the many methods of personalizing email, a huge 60% of marketers admit that they struggle when it comes to personalizing content in real-time.

A prime example of this is a recent email which I received from British fashion retailer OASIS with the subject line:

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Working in this industry, it instantly caught my attention (not just because I’m on the lookout for a personalized clutch bag) but also because I was intrigued at how they may have personalized this email. With such a specific subject line, I presumed SURELY there would be some sort of individual personalization happening…

I was wrong…

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Now, I doubt I was the only person in OASIS’ subscriber list who was disappointed upon opening this email. What a wasted opportunity!

As well as the lack of personalization within the email, there is also no obvious indication of how limited this ‘limited’ time is for.

This would have been an absolutely perfect time to add a personalized name to the image to actually show potential customers exactly how their bag could look.

With a few simple customizations, this email could have really stood out of the inbox and enticed more readers to purchase the product.

 

Firstly, this would have been a perfect opportunity to personalize the image to show readers what their bag would look like. Using a Kickdynamic Tag, this is easy to set up and implement and has a great impact on readers.

Secondly, to create the sense of urgency of the limited time this product is available, it would have been a great addition to include a countdown timer within the email. The urgency of the offer would be driven by the seconds counting down live. Additionally, when this offer/option has expired, swapping the image to an ‘after’ image, or showing a 1×1 gif in place of the timer, would ensure the content is relevant and always up to date. Ensuring the most up to date offer information is shown to the recipient will improve their customer experience and affiliation with the brand.

From this:                                                          To this:

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-14-37-46

 

What do you think? Would seeing your name or initials over the product image have encouraged you to click through and complete a purchase?

Save time & resource with automated email content

See this:

imagetemplate

This is a what we call a live image template. It is being built in our new Content Automation product. It may not look much, but this image template, and the power behind it, is going to change how email marketers build automated & personalized email content.

For the last 4 years we have been working with email marketers to build a platform that allows us to send email with more engaging and higher converting content. We built the first contextual personalisation rule builder, developed industry first live content email widgets and now we have created a seriously powerful new product called Content Automation.

Using Content Automation email marketers can build a live image template to automate content in business-as-usual email and/or lifecycle programs quickly and easily. Automating this content allows you to reduce your email build time dramatically freeing up time to be more strategic.

So how does it work?

We have built this new product to be fully self service, so there is no customization required and you don’t need to wait until your IT team is free. Directly in the interface you can build your live image in 3 steps:

1. Connect a json, xml, csv or webpage content source.

This is the source of content that you want to take information from to display automatically in your email messages. Content source examples include:

  • New in womenswear page
  • Latest blogs
  • Product catalog
  • Movie listings
  • TV schedule
  • Live hotel prices

As an example, we have created a API call containing 3 products from Argos. It looks like this:

[

{
id:1,
description: “LG 49LF590V 49 Inch Full HD Freeview HD Smart TV.”,
image: “http://argos.scene7.com/is/image/Argos/3912339_R_Z001A?$TMB$&wid=312&hei=312”,
link: “http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Product/partNumber/3912339.htm”,
fasttrack: “y”,
special: “5”,
price: 359.00,
regprice: 399.99,
quantity: 10,
discountamount: 10

},
{
id:2,
description: “Philips 22PFH4000/88 22 Inch Full HD TV.”,
image: “http://argos.scene7.com/is/image/Argos/3917547_R_Z001A?$TMB$&wid=312&hei=312”,
link: “http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Product/partNumber/3917547.htm”,
fasttrack: “y”,
special: “3”,
price: 119.00,
quantity: 2,
regprice: 119.00,
discountamount: 0
},
{
id:3,
description: “Bush 32in HD Ready LED TV/DVD Combi White”,
image: “http://argos.scene7.com/is/image/Argos/4240031_R_Z001C?$TMB$&wid=312&hei=312”,
link: “http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Product/partNumber/4240031.htm”,
fasttrack: “n”,
special: “6”,
price: 169.99,
quantity: 1,
regprice: 949.99,
discountamount: 150
}
]

(Don’t worry about it looking techy – it is just a list of products and their associated info such as price, description etc).

This is a test API, a normal API would contain 1000s of products updating with new items and changing the product information.

Notice that two products are on discount; discountamount: 150 and discountamount: 10
and two products are viable as fast track; fasttrack: “y”
and also notice the stock level of a product; quantity: 10

All products have different information associated with them, and this information will change frequently. Content Automation allows you to reflect the different product information directly in the same image template. When this changes, such as stock level, it is updated at the time of open.

2. Build a live image template based on the content source.

Now you build how you want your live image template to look in the email. This is the size, layout, colours, call to action and more.

I’ve built the below live image template with each area connecting to corresponding data-point for a product item.

Data-feed-live-image

So, at the time of open, the live-image template takes the appropriate info for the product from the feed and updates the content of the image – live and instantly. So if the price above changed from £119.00 to £99.00 – it would be reflected automatically.

Using the Content Automation editor you can customize the exact layout of your live image. You can also add a call to action, and change font sizes, colours and more – you have the control.

3. Magical visibility rules

Now in step one, I asked you to note the following:

Two products are on discount; discountamount: 150 and discountamount: 10
and two products are viable as fast track; fasttrack: “y”
and also notice the stock level of a product; quantity: 10

This information on a product changes from product to product. How do you represent this in the same image template? Easy, you use visibility rules. Visibility rules allow you to show or hide image information based on data in the feed. For example, if I want to show the number of items left in stock when quality is 3 or less I do this with visibility rules.

The results is this:

If product 1  has stock quantity of 10. We have set the visibility rules to not show any stock level information or callouts:

ca1

If product 2 has stock quantity of 1. We have set the visibility rules to show a stock call out with the amount left:

ca3

If product 3  has stock quantity of 2. We have set the visibility rules to show a stock call out with the amount left:

ca4

This is the same image template repeated for 1000s of products automatically!

The final step – creating the Tag.

Now you have your automated live image-template you can create a TAG to add to your HTML. At this stage you can filter or sort what products to show in email based on other information in the feed. For example, only display products over £100.00 price:

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Unleash its power

This level of content automation has allowed brands such as ASDA, P&O Ferries, Holland & Barrett, save serious email time on their email build, and keep email constantly fresh and up to date. Automating email content this way actually allows you to start moving towards being able to send 1-2-1 personalized messages. Now I’m Kickdynamic CEO and Co-Founder so would say that, but don’t just take our word for it:

Asda has reduced email build time by up to 9-days per month by asda-200x200automating their daily alert email campaign resulting a signifcant impact on ROI.

“It is amazing that this project began as a response to a business challenge and now this Kickdynamic technology is LEADING THE WAY to automating our emails and getting us to true 1 to 1 personalization”

– Guy Smith, CRM Manager at Asda

poferriesP&O Ferries personalise and automate all content from from weather and blog sources to ensure the latest content is displayed in every email.

“We were thrilled the moment Kickdynamic explained the concept of Content Automation and took us through it the rst time. It has given us incredible flexibility and is quickly becoming our go-to method of getting live content into our emails.”

– Kim Valinder, P&O Ferries

It’s fully self-service, setup directly in the Kickdynamic platform no IT team or customisation required. No web cropping and therefore design flexible. Read more in the one pager.

Live Product Availability in Email for Black Friday

On shopping days as big as Black Friday it can be a toss up for Marketers. Do you fire out generic promo emails promising big savings on every product whilst stocks last, or do you take a more refined, product based approach?

Understandably you may be wary of taking a more product-centric approach. What happens when the products in your email sell-out for example? Chances are, that on high-volume shopping days, products promoted in-email will have a higher sell-through rate than usual.

To overcome the very real problem of promoting sold-out products you can leverage live data to provide a great customer experience. The case for only including available products in email is obviously strong. Those that click through are doing so because they’re interested in the product and possibly have an intent to purchase. Only including products available to buy at the time of open is going to drive revenue.

You can also drive product sales by providing open time product availability in email. Using an API, or other data source, pull in live product stock levels and the latest pricing, delivery and product information at every email open. Each time the recipient re-opens the email the stock level and product information will automatically update.

Here’s an example of a live product feed generating email images that are live at open time:

example-product-feed-live-images

Use layered visibility rules to create image layers for stock level callouts and discount stickers as required. As the data source updates with real-time availability, discounts, prices and available products, the images in the email will update at every open with the latest, up-to-date content. For example, you could show a live stock availability call out over an image when the stock level dips below a certain number. This stock availability is live at every open, meaning that products featured in your email will always be available to click through and buy. For example, show a stock call out sticker over the image when there’s only 10 left. When the stock level drops to below 5, change the messaging on the stock call out to introduce urgency, such as ‘Hurry! Only 3 left.’. If a product goes out of stock, we’ll automatically swap it, on open, to display the next available product. Likewise, all product information will automatically update too, so if the discount amount changes or the price changes throughout the day, the email will reflect these changes live too.

Here’s an example of live products with stock level callouts:

live-stock-example

Not only does using Open Time Content Automation give you to flexibility to promote products that are in-stock and available to buy at email open, it also enables you to automate much of the email content. You can create on-brand product images from a data source for your email without requiring any support or resource from your design team, perfect for those on-the-fly campaigns that you’re likely to need to send out as Black Friday and Cyber Monday unfold.