Cyber Monday 2013 Recap

A look behind the scenes as a bunch of stuff went on sale, leading to SparkFun's biggest week ever.

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In 2005, supposedly coined the term Cyber Monday for, in their view, the biggest online shopping day of the year. At present occurring mainly in the U.S. and Canada, this is a weird time of year where both stores and people binge on capitalism. Traditionally, big markdowns and stampeding are the scene at brick and mortar stores on Black Friday immediately following Thanksgiving. Big markdowns and increased mouseclickery now follow the next Monday.

Like all internet things, it's quaint to see skeptics exhort us not to believe the myth of Cyber Monday through the sharp lens of hindsight. But in 2013 it's become a given that online retailers do something for Cyber Monday. Or at least that's how it feels now that we've done two, and everybody seems to win.

Last year we first attempted Free Shipping all day, and even that looks a bit outdated, now that we have Free Shipping all the time. At the time it was a new direction, though, and resulted in our biggest sales week of the year! We learned that Cyber Monday can be a big deal for the SparkFun community too, and we got to test-drive a free shipping program.

As an aside, because of all our awesome SparkFun customers, free shipping $60 and up has been working out swell. Many of you have told us how it has changed your shopping habits for the better and, so far, it's been affordable on our end. It'll eventually change (as all things do) but for now it's here to stay.

Back to Cyber Monday: this year we did a variety of discounts on all of the SparkFun Originals, and holy cow did you all respond! Thanks to you, last week was SparkFun's biggest sales week ever.

-> All outgoing packages, not including USPS, around 5PM on December 2, 2013
All outgoing packages, not including USPS, around 5PM on December 2, 2013 <-

We had just shy of 4,000 orders on December 2nd. This is akin to a week's worth of orders on one day! A huge thank you goes out to all of you in the SparkFun community that showed up and made that happen. Also, hats off to our shipping crew that needed the rest of the week to get everything packed and shipped. Customer Service had over double the number of calls, emails, and chats for a typical Monday. Site traffic only saw about a 25% increase, which is rather paltry considering some past events that saw increases by an order of magnitude. Regardless, daily site traffic these days is just higher than it used to be, and altogether last week ended up as our biggest site traffic week ever, just edging out the week of Free Day 2012.

-> Last week was a new weekly traffic record and geeks apparently go outside in the summer time
Last week was a new weekly traffic record, and geeks apparently go outside in the summer time <-

Looking at products, we saw some interesting stories play out. The Makey Makey Standard Kit, retailing for $49.95, spent the entire day at just over $30, even dipping just below from 10AM-11AM. A quarter of the 72 orders for it got two or more, many to hit that $60 free shipping mark. The biggest seller by volume was easily Arduino Pro Mini 328 - 5V/16MHz with 1008 sold (straight break away headers, likely for all those Pro Minis, came in second with 679 sold and they weren't on sale).

Then there's the Mr. Roboto Kit. Enjoying a 40% flash sale from 2PM - 3PM, and 20% all day sold 24 units of this little guy. Out of context, big whoop, but considering Mr. Roboto usually sells only 1.7 units a week, that's over 14 weeks of sales in one day! It actually saved this little kit that could from early retirement.

No Cyber Monday retrospective would be complete without mentioning our Distributors. Before all the goodies were rolled out to customers on December 2nd, we ran a 72-hour sale on SparkFun Originals for all the distros. It's an apples-to-oranges comparison with the Cyber Monday everyone saw, since distributors do business with SparkFun under a different set of rules, but it helped all of them stock up and run their own sales in concert with us on Cyber Monday. A big thank you goes to our distributors who got in on the action and stocked up! And for you international customers, please take a look at the Distributors Page sometime to see if any are in your area!

So what's next? First there's next week's Christmas Candy Pro Mini Giveaway. Aside from that, there are many ideas floating about. To make Cyber Monday possible we built a new tool for dynamic scheduled pricing and it's already getting version 2 built out before year's end. It consolidates pricing logic across (which, given years of organic growth, has led to a contained but messy ball of mud), allowing us to get creative and do more sales in the future.

As you all have graciously responded so well to events like this, we want to keep doing them, but we also want to keep them fresh and interesting. One hotly debated topic is whether you enjoyed the relative complexity of Cyber Monday or would prefer more simplicity. There was the ability, for those that did their homework, to stack discounts and free shipping together to get the feeling they were robbing SparkFun (we survived overall so I think this was a win-win situation). Which do you prefer?

Clearly we'll doing another Cyber Monday something next year. It is still a culturally limited affair, however. Not everyone does the Thanksgiving+Christmas 1-2 punch. Are there big shopping days in your corner of the globe when you would like to see us running special events?

And, assuming we do more sales year-round, what would you like to see us do?

Comments 40 comments

  • Member #233754 / about 10 years ago / 6

    I think you guys did a great job with the sales. There was a little bit of something for everyone. Nice and simple overall discounts if you didn't have the energy to split orders and time your purchases and a little bit extra for those that could put in the work.

    I definitely took a closer look at the SparkFun Originals because of the 20% off and even picked up something on the flash sale that I probably wouldn't have gotten otherwise.

  • Hackberry Jake / about 10 years ago / 4

    How about offering a "gift sale" or something along those lines. You could offer sales on certain beginners kits (like the SIK) and the buyers would go by the honor system that they will give them as gifts. I Participated in the cyber Monday sales and got the SIK for around $56 if I remember right. This is the perfect gift amount for people in my family and it starts more people on the SparkFun/Arduino addiction. I got three SIKs to give as gifts. Mainly because I live in an electronics black hole (Arkansas) and theres nobody to talk to about Arduino projects... Heck, I don't think anybody around here even knows what an Arduino is... except my wife... She's tired of hearing about it.

  • Member #317608 / about 10 years ago / 3

    On a completely unrelated note, I noticed just today that your website is entirely retina display compatible on my MacBook Pro. Previously, only the logo was blurry. From someone rather obsessed with things like this, thanks! Hopefully I don't creep out your web dev people by stalking them too closely.

  • l0gikG8 / about 10 years ago / 3

    How about something on Point-Contact Transistor Day, December 16th? Arguably the most important electronics event of the 20th century. There's enough time to recover from Cyber Monday and still make the shipping deadlines.

  • BeerCannon / about 10 years ago / 2

    I liked the structure of the sale. It was almost sporting. I thought I missed a flash sale, but then was saved by the time zone difference! All in all it was a very cool sale.. it felt more like an event than a promotion. I hope you do some similar things throughout the upcoming year... find any occasion! Thanks for the fun!

  • BSOD / about 10 years ago / 2

    I am extremely happy with the way you guys formatted the Cyber Monday sale. It felt like a game that I couldn't lose!

  • Member #106904 / about 10 years ago / 2

    How about some sort of discount (~10-20% off up to a certain limit) on your birthday? Offer good only one time per year! ;-)

    • Thanks a cool idea! I'll float it with some people. The one thing I worry about is never being creepy and when I get emails from companies near my birthday it can get creepy. Is there another way to let the customer know that their discount is coming?

      • Anniversary of account signup, maybe? Granted, it could still be gamed by registering a whole pile of accounts, but people would have to play the long game...

        (Edit: "Special offer" e-mail is already an opt-in checkbox on the account page, and we don't do the standard "check this box by default when you're not paying attention" thing with it, so I don't feel too creepy about sending that kind of mail if people ask for it.)

        • diz / about 10 years ago / 1

          That's a decent idea. You could also offer a discount on reaching your nth comment star, promoting constructive dialogue.

    • andy4us / about 10 years ago / 3

      Quite a few of the brick and mortar and online stores who I have club memberships with, like World Market, send a birthday discount voucher or code, valid for about 30 days, for say 10% for your birthday.

      I also like the way adafruit does it with their discount code during their webcast, only valid till 12pm EST. You could do a discount code during new product Friday, either just valid for the new products announced, or for all products on that day.

      • Great idea! I really would love that, being a religious watcher of FNPP.

        (Im not sure if FNPP is an existing abbreviation for Friday New Product Post, but it is now) :)

  • Member #493748 / about 10 years ago / 2

    Perhaps you should work at improving shipping for these busy days. My order took over a week to be shipped.

    • Sneak85 / about 10 years ago / 6

      I'm sure they worked to send out your order as soon as possible. Sparkfun started more as a hobby in a basement in 2003 and slowly grew to having (I'm guessing) 150+ employees since then. They are not a huge company like Amazon with over $60 billion in annual sales, over 100,000 employees, shipping warehouses in every other state and robots to grab products off of shelves to drop them onto convey belts to ship the same day. They are, in all orders, a small business. They don't have to run sales, free shipping, or give out coupons, (let alone the much missed Free Days). If you felt they were to slow at processing your order, they would likely be very glad for you to give them a hand next year on the days following Cyber Monday (if they wish to participate) or any other "promotional day. They might even give you some free swag for helping out, no shipping required.

    • Yep. That's one of the biggest lessons from this year. We needed more than 5 times the people we normally need in shipping. That # alone would be more than the physical isles could handle. Not sure what the solution is but as we knock one bottleneck down we'll find another...

    • PepperNickel / about 10 years ago / 2

      I thought a week was more than fast enough for what they had to do.

    • robotteck / about 10 years ago / 1

      There is a video Sparkfun posted about how an order is processed. I like the part where the warehouse guys were on long boards.

    • RyeMAC3 / about 10 years ago / 1

      Perhaps next year SparKFun will know to expect a tsunami in orders and beef up staffing accordingly; offer overtime to their employees, 3rd shift, etc.

  • RFsynthesizer / about 10 years ago / 1

    How about a sale on March 14, Pi day (3.1415926535897932384626433832795...) and everything costs $3.14

  • andy4us / about 10 years ago / 1

    I picked up the last two Mr Roboto's, and two of the Pro Mini's. I received them yesterday in Norcal with the free shipping. I just ordered another one, as these are going in my kids stockings, and I have three kids. Paying $40 for it stung a bit for a stocking stuffer, after looking at the kit, $30 might be a better price, maybe lose the batteries to help reduce BOM cost. My 10 and 8yr old's have made the weevil eye, so I hope the Mr Roboto will be a next step for them.

  • A. Wiggin / about 10 years ago / 1

    It's interesting to me that there was a significant dip (about 50) in the weekly website visits before each of the Free Days. Thoughts on why?

    • Almost certainly Christmas/New Years. Free Days were traditionally held in the first or second week of January, and the weeks of Christmas and New Years are always pretty slow because so many people are travelling and spending quality time away from the computer.

  • diz / about 10 years ago / 1

    I was pretty happy with the sale, but I missed out on a 40% discount during one of the flash sales because I had to be out of the office. I ended up ordering those items anyhow since the 20% was still on the table. I would have preferred the price be based on when the item was added to the cart and not when the order was placed. Call me OCD, but I would have preferred everything to be consolidated in a single order. I also likely would have ordered more because I wouldn't have felt rushed.

    • andy4us / about 10 years ago / 1

      Then I could start in the morning, add an item at 40% off, wait a couple hours, add a different item @ 40% . You could 40% everything, even though the item's 40% off period were during different blocks. I looked in the morning at what I wanted, figured out what was the best time to buy, and planned accordingly, so that I hit the most expensive items at 40% off and the other items at 20%.

      Honestly, I see it no different than happy hour. Sometimes you make it, sometimes you don't.

  • n1ist / about 10 years ago / 1

    It would be nice to have some way of combining the shipping for the hourly discounts. Now, you had to pay shipping once per purchase (ie, once per hour) even if you only wanted one board from that batch of discounts. It wiped out the savings on some of the smaller items.

  • Madboy #82637 / about 10 years ago / 1

    I'd have called it Blue Monday. You know, for all the bruises from Black Friday and just shy of 4,000 new orders /me ducks

  • RFsynthesizer / about 10 years ago * / 1

    Too bad you guys don't sell micro quadcopters, I've been looking for a Hubsan x4 H107L US retailer that can deliver before xmas. My favorite china retailer, takes about a month to get one.

    • Not ours, but I have nothing but good things to say about the Estes Proto X. I bought one from the hardware store and it's been quite a source of entertainment around the SFE HQ! Super stable, and inexpensive to boot!

      • RFsynthesizer / about 10 years ago / 1

        That's a tiny sucker. I read somewhere that the Estes Proto X works with the Hubsan x4 flight controller. Wonder if they sell a BNF version because the one that comes with the Proto X looks too small for anyone over 12 years old.

  • Did Sparkfun just noun'ify and coin the word "mouseclickery" ? Hmmmmm...... :)

    PS. Two of the 1008 Arduino Pro Mini's are MINE! Muhahahahahahha....

    • Did Sparkfun just noun'ify and coin the word “mouseclickery”

      Judging by Google, it's pre-existing but not super common.

  • LightManCA / about 10 years ago / 1

    The time zones were a little confusing for me. However I know it would be very problematic to base the transaction on the customer's time. Probably would lead to gaming the system by a few individuals. Perhaps you could just demonstrate your "big time" watch (or any js watch) on the corner of the screen showing your local time.

    post the sale the schedule a few days before. I was traveling Monday morning, and could not check out the website early.


  • RyeMAC3 / about 10 years ago / 1

    Free T-Shirt with every order!

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