I took that screenshot of our home page at 10 AM Eastern Time this morning. If you do the math, our sale actually ends at 3 AM Eastern Time tomorrow (midnight Pacific), instead of midnight Eastern tonight.
We started noticing that we were getting complaints from customers in other time zones who were shopping when a sale ended and weren’t able to complete their purchase. It makes sense. If you’re out west and you start shopping at 8:45 PM, you don’t necessarily think “this sale might end in 15 minutes, I better shop fast.” We typically would honor the sale, but it’s a less than ideal experience for the customer, more work for us, and there was no telling how many sales we lost from customers who wouldn’t bother to contact us.
Our whole site runs on Eastern Time and a lot of things happen each day just after midnight – our new Daily Special item is picked, sale items go on sale or come off sale, product feeds for things like Google Merchant Center are updated, reports are run, etc etc. While switching our entire site to Pacific Time would mean a ton of work to adjust these things, and there’s questionable benefit in doing so (what if the next day’s sale is better than the previous one?), there was one simple thing we could experiment with: coupon codes.
Coupon codes can start or end at any time, so we started extending our coupons to 3 AM without telling our customers. When we went back and studied the results of this, we were pleasantly surprised at how many people used the codes between midnight and 3 AM, while almost completely reducing the complaints.
We then decided to take it a step further. Any time we run a big sale with a coupon code, we not only extend the coupon code to 3 AM, we also extend the promotional banners on our homepage and throughout our site until 3 AM. If we have back-to-back coupon code sales, we pick the better sale to extend, while shortening the worse sale by 3 hours. It’s been a super simple change for us, but one that benefits everyone regardless of time zone by giving them an extra 3 hours to shop our best sales.
As a business owner and developer, it’s easy to get caught up in complex split-tests and in-depth development projects, but sometimes it’s the simple improvements that make the biggest difference. The hard part, when you’ve been running the same business for years, is identifying these types of things. It helps having good employees who point this stuff out to us, it helps having multiple owners who all view things slightly differently, but mostly it helps to take good constructive customer feedback seriously.