Another Record-Breaking Cyber Monday for Detailed Image

Today we completed another killer end to November. Much like in previous years (2009, 2008), we really nailed the prime Holiday shopping period that now stretches from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. We surpassed last year’s revenue for that stretch and we had our largest single day in company history yesterday on Cyber Monday. This month also broke our company record for revenue in a month, and early this month we set our company record for revenue in a year.

All of that is even more impressive when you consider that in January we closed Tastefully Driven, stopped selling on Amazon, and stopped shipping internationally. Amazon in particular was a large portion of last year’s Holiday sales. This time around it was all domestic Detailed Image orders.

We were prepared for the spike in volume. We all went into the warehouse on Friday, Sunday, Monday, and today (Tuesday) to help pack orders. Unlike UPS, FedEx ships on Friday so we were able to get the first wave of orders out the door on Friday. A little after noon on Cyber Monday I was able to snap a few pictures of the orders for the weekend and Monday up until that point:

DI Cyber Monday 2010

DI Cyber Monday 2010

DI Cyber Monday 2010

Most definitely our largest pile ever, although today was pretty close. Take a quick peek back at the photos in those posts from 2008 and 2009. It’s amazing to see how many more boxes we shipped out this year.

A lot of preparation goes into this six day stretch. It all starts in August when Mike begins to gather data about what we did last year, what trends are going on in retail, and puts together a tentative plan for us to use as a starting point. We meet in late August or early September and begin to do everything that’s necessary. We need to plan inventory and finances accordingly, which can be tricky because this time of the year is sandwiched by our four slowest months (September, October, January, and February).

On my end, the majority of my contribution comes in September and October when I’m programming in any new features that we’ll need. A few examples from this year were the mobile site, the free shipping upsell system, and a feature in our back-end that allows us to quickly edit an order to save precious customer service time (think of an AJAX invoice that lets you add products, remove products, change quantities, change prices, change shipping methods, change addresses, and more).

The actual days themselves were pretty anti-climactic for me this year. Mike has a ton of work executing the sales (newsletters, site banners, etc), Greg has a ton of work with customer service and inventory management, and George has extra customer service and accounting to do. For me though, this is the time where I see the fruits of my work, rather than scramble around like in years past. The site is really stable – I think I only received one technical question from a customer. Our processes are really refined and efficient. So, given my relative lack of pressing work, I did my best to help Charlie out in the warehouse in any way that I could. To be honest though, things went pretty smooth considering that we probably ripped through almost 40% of our inventory.

Contrast that with my posts from previous years where I was mentally and physically drained from the utter chaos. It’s a pretty awesome feeling to see everyone and everything come together like this. It gives me confidence that we can scale by several magnitudes without having to overhaul anything major. Which, on the DI side of things, frees us up to really focus on growth, and that really excites me.

15 comments on Another Record-Breaking Cyber Monday for Detailed Image

  1. Rob says:

    Awesome work, well done!

    So much to be said for the ‘do less: do better’ take on things – dropping TD, Amazon and International does seem to have been a smart move, allowing you to focus where you’re strongest.

    I bet cashflow is a nightmare in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving…

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Thanks Rob. Yes, dropping those things has helped simplify everything across the board, from programming to operations. You’re never 100% sure when you cut that big, but in this case it worked out for us.

      Cashflow is quite the challenge. From my perspective George and Greg did a great job this year of managing it. We don’t have all that many orders that couldn’t ship out given how much inventory we ripped through, but we also don’t have a ton of extra stuff that will be lying around for the slow winter months. For the most part we stocked up on just the right things. It’s the type of thing I think you only get better with experience. Every year we’ll have more data about sales trends and about our vendors turn around time, not to mention more cash to play with.

      • Rob says:

        Yeah, definitely a gamble, but I think any doubt that it wasn’t the right move for you should now be cast aside.

        You’ve mentioned before that there are other detailing suppliers that are bigger than you. Why do you think that is? Do you think there’s anything in particular they’re doing better than you, or is it just that they have a bigger marketing spend/been established longer?

        • Adam McFarland says:

          Good question.

          Primarily I think it’s because they’ve been around longer and everything that comes with that – more cash to spend on inventory and marketing, bigger email lists, better search engine rankings in some cases, closer relationships with key vendors, etc.

          They do things we don’t want to do too – like have phone support, ship internationally, and have open show rooms where customers can physically shop. That does bring in quite a bit of revenue I’m sure (of course, it takes up a ton of resources…which is why we don’t do it).

          They also do a large portion of their revenue in manufacturing their own brands, and distributing both their own brands and the brands of other companies (essentially providing the warehouse space and logistics so that the company can focus on making their product and marketing it). We’re pursuing both of those things, but we’re doing it slowly. We don’t want to bite off more than we can chew. A big mistake with a product line or distributor agreement could hurt us quite a bit financially.

          All of that said, we’re not talking about companies that are 100X bigger than us. If we choose to do so, I think we could surpass them over time.

  2. Dale says:

    Wow, great to hear. Especially that you can get to focusing on growth and not just the execution… that must be the fun part!

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Thanks Dale. Yea, it’s sort of a different feeling to be honest. Probably worthy of a post in and of itself 🙂

  3. Dave says:

    That’s amazing Adam, congrats on the success! We too had our best day of sales as well as our best month of sales, but man it was a ton of work! Keep up the good work!

  4. Jakob says:

    Awesome!!!

    Here it’s the opposite, this is our dead time, we’re down more than 50% from the business in the spring and summer.

    Sounds like all the work you did to streamline and automate really paid off that you were able to handle this volume without going insane.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Jakob –

      It’s interesting that things fluctuate that much for you. I guess it makes sense that real estate is down during the holidays. I suppose that most businesses that aren’t retail are slower during this time. In a way, I’d love for it to be the slow time for us too so I could spend more time relaxing and focusing on friends and family during the holidays…but I’ve just come to accept that this is a busy time for us and do my best to enjoy the chaos 🙂

      By the way, I just checked out your site for the first time in a while. Looking great! You have really grown the business a ton in the past few years. Congrats!

  5. Leigh says:

    I was waiting eagerly for this post. Congratulations! I recently ventured into the world of online marketing (writing very targeted content and getting it ranked well so I get visitors who are already primed to buy or click something). It’s exciting to watch the numbers pick up on Black Friday and continue to trend upward (I made the bulk of my revenue on three articles on Christmas topics). Now I just have to get my butt in gear and write some non-seasonal content so that my earnings don’t drop to nothing come January.

  6. nethy says:

    Congratulations Adam,

    Well done. Whenever I hear about these retail holidays like cyber monday (boxing day in Australia is a big one) I wonder how much of it is believed into being by retailers themselves. That’s got two levels: (a)Individual retailers focusing their marketing attention on these days, holding sales, etc and (b)the retail industries as a whole doing it.

    I wonder how much is a, how much is b and how much has to do with the actual day. If you were to pluck a date out of the calendar and focus this much effort on it (every year so you can learn and improve), could you make your own cyber monday? If you could would it be good to?

    Just a thought.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Really good question Nethy.

      We sort of do that already. We run one monster set of promos similar to Black Friday/Cyber Monday in March, which the past two years has been our second biggest month (people are anxious to start detailing when Spring rolls around). We space them out a bit more so the peak days aren’t as high but the average day is pretty close to November.

      In my opinion, I think the one major difference is that, from a psychological standpoint, people spend differently during the Holiday stretch. Because they need to buy gifts, and because retailers have built up the expectation of great sales, people are (in general) much more likely to pull out their credit card and buy something that’s a good deal just for the sake of getting a good deal…even if they’ve already bought enough gifts and even if they don’t “need” it. The same deal any other time of year probably wouldn’t be as effective. It’s almost like people expect to run up their credit cards this time of year. I think that’s why, as a retailer, you’ve got to do everything you can to capitalize on the temporary insanity 🙂 From a strictly detailing point of view, there’s no reason why November should be in our top 6 months.

  7. […] It wasn’t hectic like it was in previous years (see posts from Cyber Monday 2008, 2009, and 2010) but orders were coming in at just as fast of a pace, if not faster. Compared to say 2009 it felt […]

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