Marketing Campaigns Grow More Sophisticated (and More Cross-Channel) as Black Friday and Cyber Monday Volumes Break Braze Records
Over the years, Black Friday has evolved from a one-day, in-person shopping stampede to a nearly week-long event focused on the digital space. This period has grown into one of the most profitable times of the year for many brands, driving significant revenue and creating critical opportunities to introduce themselves to new customers. Savvy marketers have embraced the opportunities this shift to digital has opened up, leveraging technology to provide rich customer experiences that deliver value beyond just deals.
At Braze, we have a front-row seat to these changes as our customers leverage the Braze platform to reach, engage, and monetize their audience. Let's take a look at some of the trends from this year, and what they mean for customer engagement.
Messages Are Getting More Sophisticated
In the Black Friday/Cyber Monday (BFCM) post I wrote last fall, I made some predictions (or requests, really) about what I'd like to see in customer engagement during the holidays, and this year, brands really delivered.
On Black Friday alone, we processed nearly 25 billion inbound API calls. We also saw a 100% increase (from last BF) in the number of packets per second outbound from our servers; that rise was driven by more send-time API calls and personalized messages being sent by our customers. That increase is an indicator of growing message sophistication among these brands, allowing them to do more with the outreach they send, including tailoring their BFCM messages to each individual recipient.
All of this helps showcase how our customers are evolving their customer engagement practices during BFCM and beyond. Instead of focusing on the batch-and-blast holiday campaigns of yesteryear, they’re engaging customers with messages that are more relevant and unique to each recipient. Because they’re using a platform like Braze, they’re able to reach customers on the right channel with the message that will resonate the most. Even beyond the initial promotions and discounts, our customers are leveraging the BFCM season to attract new customers who will keep coming back long after the sales are over.
Brands Leaned More Into Cross-Channel and Broke Braze Volume Records
As the number of customer messaging channels has grown, the possibilities for marketers have expanded, too—and that's especially true during a major sales period like BFCM. And this year, brands have taken full advantage: Our data showed that this was the most diverse year on record in terms of channel mix, with Braze supporting a wide array of established and emerging messaging channels.
This BFCM, we saw a significant increase in the use of email, SMS/MMS, Content Cards, web push notifications, as well as emerging channels like Roku messages—demonstrating that our customers are increasingly leaning into a diverse, cross-channel strategy to connect with their users.
That's true across both in-product channels (e.g., in-app messages) and out-of-product channels (e.g., push notifications). We saw notable gains from urgent channels like SMS/MMS and web push, allowing brands to grab users' attention for the sorts of time-sensitive sales often synonymous with the four-day period. At the same time, rich, multifaceted channels like email and Content Cards were among the fastest-growing channels in terms of usage, opening up opportunities for marketers to easily showcase specific products or promotions in a single message. (In the case of email, we believe this rise may be partly influenced by the release of our drag-and-drop email editor, which makes it easier and quicker to create complex, interesting inbox experiences.)
I'm particularly thrilled to see brands increasing their usage of new channels like Roku messages, which saw massive growth year over year. This kind of growth indicates that customer engagement teams are expanding their channel mixes beyond just established channels, allowing them to reach new audiences on new devices or platforms.
A more diverse channel mix and increased personalization weren't the only places we saw growing marketing sophistication. Our data found a 67% increase in messages sent using Canvas Flow (our visual development environment, which marketers can use as a no-code, drag-and-drop journey orchestration tool), reflecting how marketers are managing and orchestrating multi-step, cross-channel messaging flows during BFCM. As more brands leverage personalization and multiple channels in their customer messaging, the use of this sort of journey orchestration tool is only going to become more important (and more impactful) as time goes on.
On the whole, our data also shows that brands using Braze sent 37+ billion messages during BFCM, breaking our previous records for sending volumes during this period. We had an average send volume of over 6,400,000 messages per minute during this four-day period. That growth was particularly evident during Black Friday, where we saw message volumes hit a height of more than 21 million messages sent in a single minute on our way to sending 11.3 billion marketing messages on Friday alone. Even with the high volume over BFCM, when averaged across all of Braze customers and service offerings, we had over 99.99% uptime!
How Braze Prepares for Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Preparing for BFCM and the scale of message volume are significant undertakings, ones that Braze takes very seriously. It’s never an easy time, but the hard work we put in before always pays off, and there’s nothing more rewarding than helping our customers achieve a successful BFCM.
As in years past, the Braze Capacity Planning Change Advisory Board began our BFCM capacity planning on September 1, when we partnered with our Customer Success team to forecast volumes. Braze Customer Success managers proactively partnered with select customers to understand their specific marketing plans and anticipated needs, then shared that information with the Change Advisory Board. From there, we met weekly to discuss our analyses of each database, sending service, data processing systems, network bandwidth capacity, and more. We also partnered with our vendors to capacity plan—or contingency plan—as necessary.
During the holiday season, Braze implements a strategic staffing plan and expands escalation paths for potential issues so that if any issues do arise, we're well-equipped to respond to them. This approach adds additional on-call staffing and team-specific, around-the-clock support. Each of those teams has an on-call representative, a backup on-call representative, and an escalation point on-call, with any escalation chain leading to the incident commander on-call (usually myself or our head of DevOps), ensuring customers have all the support they need to respond to any technical issues or challenges.
When our customers run campaigns that push us and our platform, we work to understand what they’re doing and where they’re going regarding customer engagement. In the process, the Braze platform and organization evolve along with our customers and their strategies, making Braze better for our entire customer and partner universe. In the coming days, our Change Advisory Board will do a final look back to collect all the learnings; after all, scale challenges like Black Friday, while undoubtedly high pressure, are also high density in their learnings, making the event even more special.
Want to learn how to better capitalize on the holidays for long-term success? Check out our 10-minute on-demand webinar “Retain Your Holiday Customers Into the New Year and Beyond.”
Want to be a part of Black Friday and Cyber Monday next year? We’re hiring!
Jamie Doheny is the VP, Technology Services & Chief of Staff, Engineering, Braze.