So this should be fun. Each week, I’m going to share what’s working, what’s not working, and what I’ve learned that week as we try to grow our bootstrapped DTC business.
I’m not really going to be creating content or teaching much, more just documenting as I go and sharing what’s in my head. Hopefully that helps you get ideas and think differently.
I’ll also share a few resources at the bottom each week. Maybe some good tweets, some articles, some creative I’ve liked, and brands that I’m digging.
It’s the first of many, so I’ve got to bring the heat. We just wrapped up an insanely successful Black Friday/ Cyber Monday Weekend. I can’t share numbers, but let me just say we beat our best day by 11:30am, and ended up nearly doubling it.
The best part? We didn’t run a traditional sale. Here’s how it came about…
About 2-3 months (who knows anymore) before BFCM, I just assumed we were going to do a 20% off $100 or more from Friday through Monday. Easy, peasy. Or so I thought…
Then a board member came in and shook things up. They were concerned about training buyers for a sale. We were doing pretty well before, so why did we need to discount?
I thought they were wrong. My initial reaction was to get defensive. (I gotta work on that). I wanted to show them that running an annual sale doesn’t train buyers to wait for a sale. So I set out to find some data to prove them wrong. (That’s how science works, right?)
I found what I was looking for, on Twitter of course. I can’t seem to find the data, but there is some data that shows that running sales too frequently does in fact train buyers to wait for a sale.
And even if it doesn’t, there is evidence that is attracts discount buyers, who are less likely to buy again at full price.
But I still wanted to take advantage of the moment, and give our customers a great reason to buy. The marketer in me never wants to miss an opportunity to use urgency or scarcity.
So this is what we decided on…
Our best selling product is Miracle Balm. We have it in 7 shades currently, and we’ve gotten probably a thousand requests for a kit of minis of it throughout the year. So I knew demand was there.
In my opinion, a sale either has no effect on brand equity or a slight negative effect. But I think launching limited edition, highly demanded exclusive offers with scare supply not only increases sales during the period but more importantly it strengthens the relationship with the brand. Think Jordans, Louis Vuitton, Supreme, etc;.
Our inventory was limited, so instead of launching a set of all 6 or 7, we decided to launch a custom set/ bundle of 3 shades. This would allow for customers to pick their shades, and it would get it in the hands of more customers. This was important because we were hoping that customers were going to add additional full priced products to their cart. So if we were going to sell all of them, it would be better to get more buyers than less.
In addition to the Mini Miracle Balm Set, we created 2 other limited edition sets with 15% off.
They were the Eye Set and The Hint Of Tint Set.
A few months before BFCM, we finalized our “custom bundle” project, where we can create customized sets of up to 4 products where customers can pick their shades. Overall, these custom bundles have been huge for us. One unintended benefit is they allow us to create offers really quickly, because it’s looks like a true bundle/kit on the front end but actually is processed as individual SKU on the back end. In addition to not having to pay our 3PL a kitting fee, this also allows us to create custom sets instantly, without needing to give our 3PL any notice. (More on this later).
Alright, without further ado, here’s our playbook, what went right, and what we learned to carry forwards:
Our 2021 BFCM Playbook
Mid-November - Plain text email from CX about our shipping delays to set expectations and be proactive about any issues. Also teased our offer. This got pretty good feedback.
11/24 - Plain textish email from me, segmented to our whole list and VIPS seperately. Both got the same message, but the main list got a teaser of what’s to come (still made it pretty obvious), and the VIPs got thanked for being such loyal fans and got told exactly what we were offering, as a thanks. This got good feedback.
11-25 - More teasing the offer of the Mini Miracle Balms on social after dinner time. Announcing it goes like at midnight.
11-26 - Offer is live at 12:00am et. Social, email, and texting in the morning. Email and social as a reminder in the afternoon. This led to our best day ever by 11:30am, and double our previous best day. Customers also added a bunch of other full price products to their cart to get free shipping, so our AOV was slightly above our normal AOV. This also allowed us to sell a bunch of our full size Miracle Balms, which weren’t discounted at all. I thought we might miss a big milestone by a few thousand, so I might have fired an SMS after getting home from dinner to west coast subscribers ;).
11/27 and 11/28 - We sold out of the Mini’s for the most part, so we pushed the other sets here with decent, but not great results.
11/29 - On Saturday we decided to lean into it and create a Cyber Monday offer. We used that custom set feature and created a set with 1 of our brushes and a blush that doesn’t launch until April. This did really well. We sold over 500 sets, at 10% off. We did an email and sms in the morning, and one final email at 9pm et. Hopefully our team wasn’t too mad about making them get this together on the weekend.
One thing to note here is I was constantly checking social and Gorgias for comments, checking n with our CX team in Slack, and monitoring the website for any bugs. Another thing to note is that all customers who purchased during this were excluded from all emails and SMS sends. Just create a Klaviyo segment of anyone who purchased between the dates of the promo.
The Results/ What Went Well
Overall, we exceeded expectations, especially considering we didn’t run a traditional sale. The only way to get a discount was with one of the 4 custom sets, and even then our highest discount was 15% off.
Friday was our best day. Saturday was good, Sunday was meh, and Monday was good. If you ever are getting worried during a sale, just remember that there’s always a rush at the end.
We sold out of most of the Mini Miracle Balms on the first day. We were left with inventory in just 2 of the shades.
The Eye Set was our next best seller. I’d say it performed about as expected. The Hint of Tint set didn’t perform very well, which we expected.
The Blush Set on the last day did really well.
The lesson here is that, especially if we don’t want to run a traditional sale, we must lean into exclusives. Something that’s desirable and seriously scarce creates an incredible sense of urgency. On the other hand, the price rising by just 10-15% on something they can buy the next day isn’t the most compelling offer.
What Didn’t Go Well And What We Learned
There were a few issues. For one, we had a bug on our Mini Miracle Balm set. For some reason, many customers only had 2 minis added to their cart if they had 2 of the same shade. This was obviously a bug, and affected a few orders. I had a little panic attack when I realized it.
In addition, we accidentally oversold on 2 of the Mini Miracle Balm shades. There is a slight delay between our 3PL inventory and Shopify, so we usually set a small buffer to stop selling when we still have some. We did that, but in the time we usually sell 10 units, we oversold 2 SKUs by about 250 each.
This obviously wasn’t ideal. I immediately knew that we needed to go above and beyond to make this right, even if it wasn’t the cheapest option. After much deliberation with the team, we sent a plain text email from CX and offered to either replace their OOS mini with a 1 of 2 shades we still had, replace their OOS shade with a full size, or refund them for their OOS mini.
Much to our delight, most customers have been thrilled with our offer and have taken us up on the offer of a full size. Big sigh of relief from everyone once we started seeing their responses coming in. This was a big oops moment on our part. Luckily, we’re migrating to an ERP soon, which should take care of the inventory delay issue.
I also learned we need to invest in improving the UX of our custom set PDPs now that we’re going to be using them so often.
As already mentioned, we learned that exclusives really drive revenue for us. If we don’t want to be offering traditional sales, it requires us to plan way farther ahead so we can make products and order inventory in time. It also requires better demand planning and forecasting abilities if we’re going to be ordering inventory for these moments exclusively. We’re already planning for BFCM 2022, and we’re probably behind on planning for MDW 2022 so we’re meeting about it this week.
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into a smashing BFCM success other than just FB ads. When I shared our results on Twitter, so many people asked what our ROAS and scaling strategies were. The reality is, a tiny percentage of our revenue on the day of came from FB. Sure a lot of those customers came from FB throughout the year, but there’s so much that goes into a successful brand outside of FB ads. I love paid media as much as the next guy, but it doesn’t make a business. I believe that it’s a great acquisition tool, but BFCM is best for retention for most businesses.
CPMs that time of the year are sky high, and the LTV of your BFCM customers is always going to be amongst your lowest. So the plan is to acquire as many customers as we can throughout the year, and create amazing, unbelievably desirable and truly limited offers to drive LTV as various moments in time.
I hope you got value out of this email and enjoyed it 1/10th as much as I enjoyed writing it for you.
If you have any feedback, please DM me on Twitter.
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Hope you have a great week!
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