[Case Study] How Everything Went Right on Refurb.io's Unexpected $100,000 Sales Day




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Imagine waking up, making yourself a nice cup of coffee and while having breakfast glance over to your smartphone to check emails to see if anything needs urgent attention. Nothing out of the ordinary so you close your phone and enjoy your breakfast.

You get to the office and check email again and notice that your bank and payment processor have written something about fraud and high velocity, risk teams etc. A couple of minutes later you get a call from your payment processor.

They’re worried.

Your ecommerce store went from 0 to $20k a month to $100k+ in a single day over the span of 4 months. They can’t believe that something like this is really happening and it’s triggered all kinds of alarms at your bank and payment processor.

But it was very real.

This is the story of how Refurb.io went from idea to their best ever (so far) sales day of $100k+ all in the span of just 4 months. Crazy.

And don’t worry, their bank was impressed but satisfied with how they got their money and it all worked out for the best.

Enter Refurb.io

Image via Refurb.io

Refurb.io is a Canadian company that sells refurbished computers, laptops and peripherals online. Although the brand, Refurb.io, is barely 5 months old (started in March 2015), the company behind the brand has been in the refurbishing business since 2003.

They know a thing or two about running a successful hardware business.

On the online and marketing side of things, there are 2 guys that are running the show - director of marketing Tim Mayeur and marketing manager Matthew Porowski. Together they share years of experience with being up-close and personal with taking care of and launching ecommerce efforts of national big-box retailers.

Quickly Setting Up Shop Without Worrying About I.T

One advantage that Refurb.io had at the very beginning was that they had most of the back-office stuff like inventory, shipping and returns already established. All that was really needed was to find a ecommerce solution/platform that would work with their needs.

With both Tim and Matthew having the experience of building up and launching large ecommerce stores, they weren’t looking forward to endless problems, bugs and other IT related problems. They needed something that would work right out of the box.

Building up an IT department and the costs associated with that didn’t seem like a viable option.  Taking that and the company's plans for the next few years into account, it made more sense to go with a platform that took care of most of the IT side for a monthly fee.

They chose Shopify Plus and have never looked back. 

We wanted to worry about marketing as opposed to worry about IT stuff like hosting, web development, bandwidth and the like.

 “We wanted a solution that would let us focus on things that are important - getting products, price and marketing right and focus on taking care of our customers.”

Using The Time to Focus on Building Value & Credibility

A good and valuable insight that came early on was the realization that customers compare them to big box retailers with regards to prices. In reality, of course, refurbished goods and retail are totally different channels with different pricing structures but it didn’t matter - customers were viewing retailers as competition.

That put more pressure for the company to give out the most value (lower prices) and become more credible as an organization. Big box retailers have instant name recognition and no one ever questions their credibility as a seller.

To combat that, the Refurb.io guys gained “Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher” status and promoted it throughout their online store. Additionally, to gain ever more trust they decided to offer full 1 year warranty. It might not seem much, but in the world of refurbs, it’s unheard of.

Refurb.io Image via Refurb.io

Having The Flexibilty to Ramp Up Marketing

In marketing, it usually takes ~6 months for results of your hard work to start coming in. With Matt and Tim they were confident that with their background and previous experience they could see results quicker.

Their aim was to get noticeable results within 3 months. The store was launched in the middle of March this year and by the middle of July they had their best ever sales day, bringing in more than $100k with one campaign. So it took 4 months. Still… not bad.

“One of the biggest mistakes that you can make in marketing is cutting things off way too quickly if you don’t see results right away” said Tim, adding that “it’s specially true for paid search ads. You should start small and only increase spend as the ROI starts to come in. Otherwise you’re simply burning money.”

As far as marketing strategies are concerned, the plan for Refurb.io early on was to focus on paid search ads and affiliate marketing. And before you ask, no, they didn’t forget email marketing - it was simply decided that more focus will be put into email marketing side of things once they had an big enough email list.

It doesn’t make sense to spend your time working on crafting the best possible email campaigns when your list is 20 people.

Big Win - Affiliate Sales

Affiliate sales had been a focus from the beginning for Refurb.io.

They understood that for their particular products, that’s probably the best avenue to get and build brand recognition. They skillfully used their affiliates credibility to sell their wares so that some of that credibility would rub off on them.

And so it happened that one particular deal over at SlickDeals.net really propelled their growth into the stratosphere. Refurb.io guys always knew that by having the right items, the right price, right quantity and operations to back all of that they could accelerate their growth trajectory upwards.

Getting everything ready for that big sales day on the operations side was easy - they had the needed connections and had enough inventory and backorders to fulfill any and all orders. Getting the bigger affiliate companies to give the little guy a shot was another thing altogether.

It took a lot of relationship building, email and phone conversations to make the deal happen. A week before the deal went live, Matt flew into New York to meet company representatives in-person to make sure that the deal actually happened.

Image via SlickDeals.net

For the deal night Tim had originally set up his Gmail account so that it pinged him every time an order came in, he had to turn it off soon enough as the orders just kept on piling on.

In fact, the whole back-office team was up all night making sure that everything went on without a hitch. With unknowns about the amount of traffic to expect, they were unsure how well Shopify Plus would cope with traffic and if their credit card processor would be able to cope with everything.

They needn’t worry though, even at peak traffic their Shopify powered shop didn’t break a sweat and worked along like nothing had happened. And that’s exactly what technology is suppose to do - it’s suppose to make your life easier, delegate away the tasks that need to be done but that are not bringing in any ROI as such. It’s suppose to let you focus on the things that are actually important.

Refurb.io guys knew what to focus on and largely because of that,  they were able to clear  hundreds of laptops and make over $100k in sales in a 24 hour period.. Not bad for a company that started less than 4 months ago. Not bad at all.

About the author

Aaron Orendorff

Previously the Editor in Chief of Shopify Plus, Aaron Orendorff is the VP of Marketing at Common Thread Collective. Named by Forbes as one of the top 10 B2B content marketers, his work has appeared on Mashable, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Fast Company, Inc., Success Magazine, The Next Web, Content Marketing Institute, and more.

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