We wanted to share some details about the site going down on Wednesday night on pre orders, our mentality and fixing it going forward. First, we want to thank everyone who attempted to order, we really appreciate all of you and we want you to know that what happened is not what we want for any of you. We appreciate you very much and apologize we could not get everyone a kettlebell. We are responding to emails as fast as possible.
Many of you experienced website failures on Wednesday night, we apologize. More than 30,000 have signed up for email notifications about inventory on our site recently and many tried to order kettlebells at the same time, which caused an overload on the site servers and led to the interruptions experienced. We know many of you were kicked off at the payment section. This is not an experience we want and apologize for the inconvenience. The first fix is as we make inventory available going forward we will make sure our provider allocates the resources to prevent that from happening. Additionally, we have quite a bit more coming over the next 8 weeks for those who want to order. Inevitably, the sheer demand versus what we made available was going to leave many people disappointed whether the site crashed or not, the site crashing made it much worse though because it made customers feel helpless. We apologize. We will have more available for order in two weeks.
Our Mentality about the Approach & Answers to Common Questions and Criticisms We Have Received
- We should have prepared better. Ideally, yes. Why didn't we? There is not a real way to gauge what the true demand was going to be, now there is. We have sign up and notification lists every single time we make inventory available, this did not just start. In addition, we post about summer sales, Black Friday sales and more on social channels and our site. In our experience, the conversion rates on those are still less than one percent on restock lists and even on the highest sales that rate would not create this issue. It is incredibly common for someone to sign up for notifications as they move around the web and then either not need the product anymore or decide against. Signing up is not a great indication of buying intention. The numbers on those lists combined with that information, did not indicate it would be as high demand as it was. In an ideal world we would have seen that. Based on this information, the amount of sign ups we received did not provide an indication that the demand would be this high.The LAST thing we want is for the site to crash. We have run the website for over 2,000 days now and had super high volume day sales like Black Friday and this has never happened. Even had the site stayed up, a lot of people would have missed out based on sheer volume. We apologize again to those who had trouble purchasing.
- Why did we post about the restock in multiple channels? We made Instagram announcements AND sent emails to a lot of those who signed up, precisely for serious buyers. In the past, people who sign up for email notifications have criticized that they were not able to be around their computer during the launch time the emails went out, the emails went to spam or other reasons. We made announcements precisely to reach people, so they know the exact time items were coming available. A lot of people seem to think there is a difference between an Instagram audience and those that sign up for notifications and have implied one of those audiences should have been prioritized. They were equally prioritized.The overlap in these crowds is huge, the same people who follow us on IG sign up for restock notifications and we wanted to make sure they knew when they could order. We chose to make an announcement about the time to order so more people who really wanted the product could try to access and be able to plan around it rather than anxiously wait for an email that they might miss. Why did we wait until 8 PM central time? Because we have fans who have mentioned they work during normal business hours and have missed previous restocks for this reason, so we wanted them to be able to purchase. This was not some intentionally created hype, but a genuine effort to reach our community.
- I didn't receive an email. When we put inventory into the system, it triggers alerts for those who signed up. In this case, the inventory went so quickly that the system that triggers email could not even read the inventory available because it went so fast and did not send as many emails as it should. So, if we made 50 of something available, it went in less than a minute, not giving the server time to catch up. We apologize.
- Why not limit people to one bell per order? We believe this would have increased the problem with server load because of multiple person households and friends who were ordering together. Even more people would have had to try to order at the same time instead of one person representing multiple people and made it even worse. Also, some people needed to purchase for their partners, we don't think it is right to limit those people. Additionally, we give discounts on multiple item purchases, we would have been forcing you to pay more for the same items over time by getting more at a later date and believe they would have made them unhappy and unfairly forced them to pay more money.
- Why not give Kettlebell Origins sign ups precedent? A number of people who have purchased the 30 day program have asked this. We did not advertise this plan as a way to jump the line and we believe others would be unhappy that we did this or were trying to force people to buy plans in order to get a bell.
- Why am I receiving abandoned cart emails? We apologize for this. The load on the server made it think a lot of people who lost out during checkout abandoned their carts. We have turned these off for the time being.
- Why didn't you make sets available? For the last couple years our site has already been set up so that whether you purchase a set or multiple bells from the product page you receive the same discount. We turned off sets to decrease the chances of over selling the inventory. These have to pull from the same inventory and can happen even on low volume days. By reducing it to one page, the site could more accurately make inventory available and ideally keeping more people happy by not risking overselling.
- Why didn't we make more inventory available? Had we made inventory available, we could have sold a lot more on Wednesday. We did not do this because we did not want customers to become confused about receiving their product. We posted clear expected shipping dates about what was received. We have lots of staggered restocks coming over the next month and wanted to prevent mass confusion about receiving times. Had we made more inventory available, customers would be dealing with delivery dates ranging from early May until mid June. We DON'T want people ordering and then becoming unhappy about having to wait or not realizing they had to wait so long. We do not want some people thinking it comes in May, some people thinking they are getting it right away and some people waiting until June. All of these lead to poor experiences, bad reviews and unhappy paying customers in our experience.
- I had items in my cart and could not purchase. We apologize for this, again the load on the servers made it so that this happened to a number of people. Some people could not order by the time they got to checkout. When someone adds to cart, it does not reserve inventory. Adding to cart online is a common practice and 95% of those people do not buy so this does not reserve items. The sheer volume would have still crashed the site, but we do apologize for those who had items and could not complete a checkout.
- Why don't we allow pre orders for more inventory and just take orders via email or some other form like deposits? Yes, this would help reduce the visibility of this issue. We have tried it for many years before and what we have found is that inevitably it leads to disappointment about when items are received, wait times and expectations no matter how hard we try to make those clear. At this time, MANY people would be willing to put money down for pre order only to still become unhappy or change their minds with wait times. We still run that risk to some extent by even allowing the pre order as we did, but believe it is reduced because of the proximity to restock. More importantly, restock times are affected by many factors out of our control like trade conflicts, corona virus and other random variables we do not want to allow orders that far out and potentially have to tell thousands of customers we gave them the incorrect wait times. Again, that is something we have tried in the past and it leads to a lot of disappointment. Our normal policy is to allow orders when we are within two weeks of receiving at port.
- Why not run a staggered notification model for those that sign up first? Email sign ups are not the best indicator of intention to buy, especially the older they get. Those who signed up first are more likely to have found another product by now or lost interest. As mentioned, the notification list has not proved to be a real indicator of high percentage buyers over time. Taking the time to run those buy 30,000 people is not feasible with the amount of daily traffic we are getting becomes inventory would move so fast and people still become unhappy if they did not act in time and lost their spot in line after some set time. We believe making inventory available at a set time and sending out notifications as we did gives the most serious the best chance under normal circumstances when the website does not crash.
- How does Ordering Work? We are taking stock notifications on the product page. The best thing to do is sign up for notifications about when stock is available. Email notifications go out in order of sign up to alert you when stock is available.
- Why not run this just for people who are on email list? This question seems to underestimate the amount of people on the mailing list who also follow on social media. Social media is a great way to communicate with the community and a lot of these people are the same are are more likely to see a social post before seeing an email. As mentioned above, we wanted these people to be able to know the exact details.
- Why not run a lottery? We have lots of people who have waited a long time for product. Yes, some of them are still waiting, but we felt running an official lottery would upset them greatly and this gave serious buyer a better chance to purchase then random selection. Additionally, running the lottery and waiting for people to act would take quite a bit of time to then not have a purchase and bump a new person in.
All of our decisions are based on previous experience in managing customer expectations. The site crashing is definitely a giant letdown and not something we have experienced before. We wish we could have prevented that from happening. We believe sheer demand versus availability would have led to a lot of potentially unfortunate outcomes and though you may not agree with the above, we hope it helps you understand the thought process.