10 Ecommerce Insights From the Co-Founder Who 10Xed His Black Friday

10 Ecommerce Insights From the Co-Founder Who 10Xed His Black Friday
  • Chase Fisher, the co-founder of Blenders Eyewear, pulled in nearly 40,000 orders during Black Friday Cyber Monday, 2017 
  • That was 10 times the sales his company did during the holidays a year earlier. What was his secret?
  • Fisher sat with Shopify Plus for an exclusive AMA, sharing how to max Black Friday, his go-to apps, and why a brand must be “ballsy” to grow

There it was, on “60 Minutes,” right on the screen before him.

The CBS broadcast had just wrapped its segment on Luxottica, the ultra-successful, ultra-secretive Italian company that controls a near monopoly over the world’s most coveted eyewear brands.

Chase Fisher, whose Blenders Eyewear makes premium sunglasses free of premium pricing, knew then that his company plan was solid: “That really validated our niche. Sunglasses don’t need to cost $200 anymore.”

But … what came next? How did this brand grow? And how did it leverage Black Friday Cyber Monday into a 10X-kind of shopping event?

Recently, Fisher sat with Shopify Plus to share it all. You can catch the full AMA here, or keep reading for ten of the co-founder’s most notable ecommerce insights ...

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1. Facebook Is Still King

Social media is stop one for any ecommerce brand to make its name on the web. “It’s the new radio. It’s the new TV,” Fisher says. “If you’re not playing in that space, you’re gonna get left behind.”

But not all options are made the same. Facebook, no matter its competitors for eyeballs, is still the top place for most brands to attract customers.

Blenders, which Fisher notes does some 97% of its business onsite, relies on the social network above all to drive traffic and sales.

“Facebook has built the most robust advertising platform in the world, and there’s nothing that competes with it,” he says. “We’ve tried a lot of different marketing channels. We just haven’t seen the results that Facebook produces.”

For more on Facebook and ecommerce:

2. Businesses Must Segment

Customer lists are in some ways a company’s greatest asset, the email address still the most crucial contact point between a business and its shoppers.

For a company to want not, it must waste not, and that means proper segmentation to identify who your consumers are and how best to interact with them.

As you grow, and your audience grows, they shouldn’t be getting the same messages as everybody else,” says Fisher, who oversees Blenders’ sending of different correspondence to different segments of its shoppers.

“You should segment certain messages to your VIP customers that are spending more each year,” he says. “You should be segmenting messages differently to men and women.”

Blenders’ customer base used to be nearly 80% male before it began targeting women shoppers more aggressively.

Now, because of a more personal and nuanced approach to its marketing materials, Blenders’ female shoppers make up some 40% of the company’s consumers.

For more on customer segmentation:

3. Black Friday Is About Starting Early

In 2017, Blenders grew its Black Friday Cyber Monday sales by 10X from a year earlier.

What changed? Fisher began weeks before Thanksgiving, starting the buzz about its holiday sales in early November as shoppers were beginning to consider where their dollars might go.

“Get the word out and get it in people’s minds,” he says. “Because, by the middle of November, people have their mind made up on where they’re gonna shop.”

Blenders starts its advertisements about 18 days before Black Friday through social media, mostly via Facebook and Instagram. A countdown post here. A gift card contest there …

Instagram was stop one for Blenders to advertise its Black Friday Cyber Monday sales.

In 2017, it all crested with 17,000 email sign-ups over those 18 days before the big weekend came.

For more Black Friday success stories:

4. Be “Ballsy” On Black Friday, But Practice Safe Ecommerce

Fisher knows how crowded the Black Friday landscape is, which is why he swears that only “ballsy” promotions can help a business cut through the noise.

Blenders' Black Friday Cyber Monday promotion had to be, its founder says, "ballsy" enough to stand out

But prepare for an offer to be as successful as you hope it will be.

“We had orders coming through so fast, literally at the exact same second, that our inventory went negative on, like, 15 SKUs,” Fisher says.

What followed were oversells, inventory levels into the negative, and, Fisher says, “massive customer service issues.”

From now on, Blenders will always keep safe stock to guard against a sudden flood of sales – about 40 reserves of each product to ensure no shopper buys an item Blenders finds later that it is actually sold out of.

For more on maximizing Black Friday, 2018:

Sample pages on using automation as a holiday ecommerce strategy

Sample pages from the new guide Black Friday on Autopilot

5. During Black Friday, Set Expectations For Those Around You

The holidays may be about family, but ecommerce decision makers know another reality during the Black Friday weekend.

Fisher has found, no matter that the turkey is being sliced, an entrepreneur’s best practice around Thanksgiving is to set expectations beforehand so those around them are not hurt.

“You gotta be by your phone, your computer,” he says (and he would know: some 40,000 orders poured into Blenders over the holiday weekend in 2017.) “I told this to my family, (but) if you don’t communicate this, it becomes a massive problem.

“So be up front with them. Let them know, ‘Hey, it’s Black Friday.’”

In other words, the weekend is about family, but for many it is also about business. “You’re gonna have to balance both,” Fisher says.

For more on Black Friday strategy:

6. New Products Breathe New Life

There is no precise schedule that prescribes how often a consumer company should roll out new products. But Fisher has found value in regular debuts.

About once a month, Blenders will release a new pair of glasses, and in that cadence there is much more than just an expanded catalog.

Aside from the splash of a new product, which reverberates throughout social media and helps keep a brand top of its shoppers’ minds, updated product listings have the power to broadcast the evolution of a business.

“It shows your customers that you’re moving forward, that you’re bringing new stuff out,” Fisher says. “Your customers want to see that. They want to see you grow. They want to see your products get better. That’s all part of building a brand, is evolving.”

For more on products and listings:

7. You Don’t Have To Be On The Ground Overseas, But It Helps

“This is insanely challenging, and it has been since day one.”

That’s Fisher discussing overseas manufacturing, and how best to manage it.

Certainly, while a company may never fully master it, overseas manufacturing can be tamed with regular monitoring.

We’re adamantly talking to (our suppliers) every single day,” Fisher says. “We’re challenging them every single day. And we’re pushing them to a level of very high standard.”

The Blenders co-founder advises, if you cannot have an in-house team on the ground in the country that produces your goods, “going over there, meeting them face-to-face” as the best way to ensure quality does not suffer as a business scales.

For more on overseas manufacturing:

10 Ecommerce Insights From The Co-Founder Who 10Xed His Black Friday

8. When Courting Influencers, Consider Follower Counts Carefully

Whether influencer marketing will hold its value is anyone’s guess. “This bubble is just so outrageous, and it’s about to pop, in my opinion,” Fisher says.

Indeed, the market is saturated on social media, which is why Fisher urges caution for brands looking to partner with an influencer.

“It’s not like the old days, where this person has 300,000 followers, let’s get them to post about us,” he says. “For us, it’s about, who do we want to partner with? Who’s gonna be loyal with us, and who can we grow with at the same time?”

Being a slave to follower counts can be a costly mistake. Instead, choose an influencer who reflects the tenets of your business, who reflects the story you wish your products to tell.

“We look at this as a sponsorship,” Fisher says. “This isn’t just a one-and-done, one post and that’s it. We wanna build a relationship. We want our fans and our customers to be able to buy into them just as much as they buy into us.”

For more on social marketing strategy:

9. The Apps He Uses

Blenders is like many brands operating through Shopify Plus, in that its success has been bolstered by the ecommerce apps it uses.

Here are some of the apps Fisher swears by:

  • Zendesk, for customer service
  • JustUno, for conversion marketing
  • ShopMessage, for Facebook Messenger targeting
  • Yotpo, for customer reviews

For more on optimizing your ecommerce backend:

10 Ecommerce Insights From The Co-Founder Who 10Xed His Black Friday

10. What Kind Of Brand Will You Be?

What Fisher saw on “60 Minutes,” all those years ago, told him that so much of the eyewear business was the same.

If Blenders was ever going to stand out, it would have a better brand. It would tell a better story. It would become an ideal its customers could believe in.

There is all manner of strategies to succeed in ecommerce. Email marketing. Conversion rate optimization. Every customer retention trick in the book.

In the end, for some, it is all secondary to what your company is about.

“If you wanna build a brand that has legs for the future, you’re gonna have to have customers that are loyal,” Fisher says. “You have to have that, ‘I’m shopping with Blenders because I love their shades. I love the experience these guys have.’

“It comes down to who is telling the story better.”

For more on making your brand shine:

About the author

Jason Buckland

Jason Buckland is a content marketing manager at Shopify Plus. His feature writing has appeared in the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Playboy, Time, the Toronto Star, and elsewhere.