Last year’s Cyber Monday was thrilling because we vastly exceeded expectations based upon comparatively low 2015 sales. We were left scrambling around to pack and ship orders while our warehouse was mid-construction. It was hectic and stressful, but also fun and rewarding. I think that’s the only time in our history where we’ve been extraordinarily off (in a good way) with our sales projections. I wrote that getting all of our orders shipped out on Cyber Monday “felt like we just won the Super Bowl.”
This year was different, in a good way. We were hoping for some significant growth on last year’s numbers, and we got it. The tone felt different though. We were prepared this time. I personally ordered from a lot of different retailers in the past week. I’m surprised how many of the orders I placed last week haven’t shipped yet. That wasn’t the case for our customers, it was business as usual. Any orders placed on Friday or Monday by 1 PM ET were shipped that day. The website didn’t have any hiccups. Our customer support still got back to people in a timely manner. We’ve worked really hard to be able to flex up to higher volumes without our customers seeing a drop off in our service. Being able to execute relatively flawlessly was the most gratifying aspect of the past week for me.
A few other thoughts:
- Some stats – Black Friday was our #1 sales day ever, Cyber Monday was #3 (#2 is last Black Friday). On Monday we shipped the most packages we’ve ever shipped in a single day. That’s two years in a row where we’ve peaked on Friday instead of Monday, which seems to be the opposite of the online shopping trend in general. I’m not sure why that is, but I also don’t much care as long as we’re getting the sales.
- We’ve had almost a year to perfect our pick-and-pack operation in our remodeled warehouse. It is drastically more efficient than anything we’ve ever had in the past. Being able to have separate teams packing FedEx and USPS at the same time was especially beneficial on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
- We alleviated a lot of the Cyber Monday stress by having a half-day shift on Sunday for our warehouse team. They were able to pack a lot of the orders from late Friday and over the weekend.
- If there’s one thing we don’t have down to a science, it’s staffing. It seems that every year we have less people than we expect, which puts extra pressure on those who are working. This year we were down a few people, some for legitimate reasons, some not. We’ll keep working at it. Each year it’s largely dependent on the staff you have coming out of the summer, which varies considerably. This year we probably should have had the foresight to hire one more person in September or October.
- We ran a ton of promotions on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In addition to 25% off and free shipping over $99 without a coupon code, we had a mix of buy-one-get-one-free offers, free item offers (buy x, get y free), buffer and tool deals, web busters, and more. The amount of work that goes into executing all of this is extraordinary. Each year Mike writes up this gigantic plan in a Google Doc that we review in the fall to get prepared. We use that plan to make notes of what worked, what didn’t, things to research, things other retailers did, stuff to try next year, etc, and then that becomes the starting point for next year’s plan. It’s a very iterative process, we keep getting slightly better each year.
- I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I particularly love the challenge of Black Friday and Cyber Monday because it’s the one time of year that we’re not just competing against other retailers in our niche, we’re competing against everyone. If we don’t stand out against other retailers, people will likely overlook us. I think we all have a finite amount of time and money we’re willing to spend shopping online during this stretch, so we really have to bring our A game to succeed.