It’s the first time I’ve experienced the holiday season from a startup’s perspective. Our customers and partners are e-commerce websites/platforms so we’ve been able to experience this time for the good and bad. Here are some of the things I’ve noticed and continue to notice as these words come to life:

Yeah, everyone is shopping like crazy

There were gazillions of users shopping this month, a trillion of mobile purchases and all these crazy statistics that just amaze me. I was speaking the other day with my friend Mark from Shopify about the crazy holiday season and was very intrigued by their stats. Mark was kind enough to agree to share with me a couple of them:

  • Black Friday saw a 75% bump over the weekdays in November
  • Cyber Monday saw a big bump between 9am-11am (Most days, 13% of orders happen between those hours. On Cyber Monday it was 23%)

You can only guess what will happen during Christmas for the Shopify platform. So how does it affect my startup? Basically everyone is really happy because they are seeing a lot of money pouring in and this means that if you can get a phone call or meeting with someone they’ll probably be more open to paying you for your top  product during this festive season! There is a problem, however…

Nobody has time for me

If I take a step back and look at the big picture it is very clear that no one is ready to talk any time before mid-January. These two months are the biggest sale period of the year, but for a startup two months is way too long a time to wait. People are not answering my mails/phone calls and the ones that do schedule a meeting for the mid/end of January. At the beginning I thought something in my pitch was wrong or that our value proposition was not clear enough.

After I talked with one of my SaaS mentors, Ariel the CEO of Kampyle, I understood that no one has time to hear new ideas right now. Everyone is focusing on sales, merchandise and keeping the revenues pouring in. So instead of approaching new customers/partners, I’ve been seeing how I can help our existing customers with their crazy holiday season.

Our product is really tested

The good thing about the holiday season is that if you have customers already, your product will really be tested. I’m talking about a full-on examination of your architecture (think scale), market strategy and value. I have learned were we have bugs in our system. I’m also finding out which sites our product adds great value and on which websites the product is not working as well.

For example, one of my favorite customers, thelooploft, sent us their statistics on how our product is increasing their social engagement and sales. It was the best feeling ever, hearing how our product helped him and provided value. I don’t think he would have seen such an increase (50%-60%!) in his Facebook analytics or the enormous increment in his review count if it weren’t the holiday season.

On the other hand, we’ve been able to better locate areas where our product hasn’t been working so efficiently. For example, we saw that, for our truly long-tail customers, our product didn’t add a great deal of value. When the churn rate went up it was really clear to see that they were all very long-tail customers. With that in mind, w have changed our go-to market slightly, as well as our plans for 2012.

Overall, the holidays have been a time where I learned its very hard to reach new customers but it its really a great period to help your existing customer base. I even had a few nights to go over our 2012 plan and make all the right adjustments since we wrote it a month ago. Although I’m sure you are, I’m reminding you that this is the best time to go shopping and to meet Santa. I asked him for a small present — a cheat sheet titled ‘How To Take Over The World.’