Businesses have entrusted their Black Friday to Vaimo South Africa for nearly a decade. The stakes are high — one misstep could lead to a loss of six-months worth of sales. This period comes with intense planning, communication, and numerous challenges that push Vaimoers to prepare months in advance for midnight on Black Friday. In 2019, every team member — finance, office management, everyone — stayed at the office until at least 3:30 AM on Friday. In this article, we'll give the details about how Vaimo South Africa conquers Black Friday.
55 Vaimoers, including our Latvian office, make sure that South African clients leave Black Friday with their products on the way to millions of shoppers.
To understand more about Black Friday in South Africa, we talked to two Black Friday veterans: Steven Macintyre and Karl Van Der Merwe.
Karl is a Project Manager, and his main responsibility is to drive Black Friday with quotes, roadmaps, action plans, and more. While Edcon Limited wasn’t his primary responsibility during Black Friday in 2019, Karl’s favourite Black Friday memory was their successful Black Friday.
Steven is a Project Manager and has been involved in Black Friday for five years and is the go-to person due to his expertise in guiding clients through Black Friday. His favourite Black Friday memory consists of helping JD Group get over the finish line on the big day.
Black Friday Preparation
Steven and Vaimo South Africa start grinding the axe as early as July for Black Friday. Steven said “Black Friday is the one day to shine for a merchant. It's a make or break moment. Companies will not recoup the losses if they don't succeed.” He continued, “Black Friday is a working document; our previous experience puts knowledge in the data.” The years of experience during Black Friday aid the team, helping them learn from past mistakes.
Karl expressed a similar sentiment, “Last year, we were quite late. We started our quoting process in late October. But, this year we already did that at the beginning of October. We are already in the implementation phase and grooming the sites for our clients.” Each year Vaimo carries something forward to improve the Black Friday process.
Vaimo’s Black Friday expertise is especially helpful in 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many clients are already operating 50-100% above last year’s Black Friday sales. Regarding Black Friday 2020, Steven said, “A lot of people are turning to online, and it's a major shift in the ecom world.” As a result, preparation ties even more into client relationships this year.
Vaimo South Africa undertakes a few essential activities to prepare their clients. In particular, Vaimo assists clients with audits around SEO, marketing, UX, and webinars. Karl noted, “It jogs their memory about things that they might’ve missed.” This year Vaimo South Africa delivered twenty-three tech audits and two webinars to clients to get them ready.
The relationship with the client becomes more intense before and during Black Friday. Steven said, “There's a honeymoon period before Black Friday...clients trust you and lean on your experience. You get close, and every day you're talking about something or other multiple times a day.”
But, of course, Black Friday comes with some close calls. Regarding one rather large client, Karl recalled, “They had at least 3,000-6,000 products for Black Friday. We did machine tests to gauge how many concurrent users they could handle. Then, we did a human test with 30 people—and we almost killed the site.”
With pressure mounting, Karl and the team found the problem, “The queue (to access the site) reached 3,000 people...we had to strike a balance. How can I still push people through without overwhelming the site? During that time, we found some product rules were killing the site that weren't even enabled. After fixing this, we were able to let people in. We had to remove the queue, and they did 5x their target.” The stressful period requires that Vaimo South Africa takes nothing for granted and questions everything.
What happens on Black Friday?
The Final Three Day Push: Carrying Out the Plans
The team divides into teams and shifts the office into separate boardrooms. The teams receive the clients they'll guide through Black Friday.
Thursday, November 26th
Teamwork is essential — the team works together to solve problems as they emerge through various support channels. Vaimo South Africa sets up a command centre to weigh the pros and cons surrounding key decisions.
10:00 PM - The aim is to be ready by this time.
11:15 PM - The teams put the sites live and begin watching as the traffic starts to build.
12:00 AM (Crunch Time) - Midnight is the moment of truth and a crescendo after months of preparation.
Friday, November 27th
If the site go-live is delayed, the tension rises as people enter the site at the same time as Vaimo tries to fix issues.
12:00 - 2:00 AM - If the sites get through this crucial period, then the odds of it lasting through the next day skyrocket.
2:00 - 4:00 AM - The team continues watching the site and makes specific changes such as adding new sales and new stock onto the site.
4:00 AM - The team goes home and gets some sleep.
7:00 - 8:00 AM - The teams return, set up a buffet, and check if anyone needs help.
12:00 PM - Vaimo South Africa eats lunch and discusses certain items to be wary of that other teams have had challenges with previously. The group asks clarifying questions to ensure that everything is still going as planned.
On to the next one
As the day progresses, some teams see less strain and consider getting the clients back to business as usual. However, Cyber Monday is around the corner, and specific clients have plans to increase their sales during this day as well. For this reason, some teams will continue watching the sites for days to come. Lastly, the Vaimo South Africa team runs a retrospective and records any technical issues identified during Black Friday. This endeavour gives them the learnings to continue building on their Black Friday success for years to come.
After a few days of unrelenting challenges, Vaimo South Africa moves forward with many clients seeing another year of peak sales. Black Friday is a day where Vaimo's values show. Most important is excellence, as Steven noted, "We take pride in what we give to the client. The client gets a sense of comfort, knowing that they're working with industry leaders and reaping the rewards of working with industry leaders." With only a few days remaining before Black Friday 2020, Vaimo is prepared for whatever lies ahead.
With 20 offices across 15 countries, Vaimo is a global expert in digital commerce. To learn more about how you can start driving success in digital commerce, contact us here.