'This is our Super Bowl': Winnipeg company makes Cyber Monday sales run smoothly for 100,000 clients

The Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday have all hands on deck at a Winnipeg technology company that provides e-commerce software to clients worldwide, including Ellen Degeneres and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Spokesman says Bold Commerce prepares for the 6 months leading up to its busiest weekend of year

Online shopping has soared in recent years and many retailers now earn one-third of their sales revenue on the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend. (Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press)

The Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday have all hands on deck at a Winnipeg technology company that provides e-commerce software to clients worldwide, including Ellen Degeneres and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Since Friday, all 270 employees at Bold Commerce have been working hard, many around the clock, to make sure the servers and the support don't buckle under the pressure.

"Not much sleep and very busy. But good," is how Jason Myers, co-founder and vice-president of growth for the company, summed up the sales weekend so far — Cyber Monday is the last hurdle.

"It's kind of just turned into the weekend to do all of your Christmas shopping."

It's kind of just turned into the weekend to do all of your Christmas shopping- Jason  Myers, Bold Commerce

The company, which makes apps for merchants who use the Shopify e-commerce platform, has more than 100,000 clients.

In addition to Saks and Ellen DeGeneres, the list includes musician DJ Khaled, NPR, the office of Barack and Michelle Obama, actress and businesswoman Suzanne Somers and Zippo.

Closer to home, the company's clients include Dufresne Furniture, Petland and UN Luggage.

As the popularity of online retail soars, traffic and sales for Bold's clients have doubled year after year, Myers said.

"It's about 60 per cent of people are doing their shopping online and about 40 per cent [at] brick and mortar [stores]. And that trend is actually widening," he said.

"It used to be close, it used to be, obviously, the other way, but it's going more and more [online]. It's just growing every year."

While Black Friday sales were up 24 per cent this year over last in North America, sales on Thursday were up 28 per cent and sales on Wednesday jumped 32 per cent, according to Bold Commerce's Jason Myers. (Shutterstock)

Bold Commerce launched in 2012 with four people working out of a basement. In 2013, they experienced their first Black Friday and realized they weren't quite ready.

"We had our servers go down for a bit and it was a bit of a disaster, but it was also a really good experience," Myers said. "We have, since then, taken the approach that this is our Super Bowl. This is now what we prepare for six months leading up."

And to make certain things go without a hitch, the company's office near the corner of Kenaston and Bishop Grandin boulevards has become somewhat of an Airbnb.

"All around our office, any room that doesn't have a window has been turned into a bedroom," Myers said. "If something happens, staff are there on the spot.

"It's the busiest, most stressful time, but it is also the most fun time. We have people going around with carts of candy and there's cocktail hour. We have baristas coming in and making fancy coffees."

While this year has been, by far, the biggest in terms of traffic, "it's also been our smoothest," he said.

"All that preparation is paying off."

All around our office, any room that doesn't have a window has been turned into a bedroom. If something happens, staff are there on the spot.- Jason  Myers

It also allowed the company to react to unexpected swells in traffic. 

This past week, well before Black Friday, a company that sells athletic wear Tweeted a sale of 70 per cent off. That led to a sudden massive amount of online traffic, Myers said.

"But our servers are in a cloud infrastructure that can scale up instantly [to meet that demand]," he said.

"We try to ask our merchants, 'Hey, what are you expecting for volume?' but sometimes you just don't know."

And sometimes you do. Like for Cyber Monday.

As soon as the clock ticks 11 p.m. Winnipeg time on Sunday, which is midnight out east, Bold Commerce can count on those servers to start heating up. 

"There's a spike [in activity]. It just goes 'ding' and it doubles instantly on the minute," Myers said. "And then another one at 12 [CT]."

What he's noticed, however, is that the big weekend sales are starting to creep forward. Some are beginning earlier in the week, like that of the athletic wear company.

While Black Friday sales were up 24 per cent this year over last in North America, sales on Thursday were up 28 per cent and sales on Wednesday jumped 32 per cent, according to statistics quoted by Myers.

"The stores are seeing a dip in sales in November because everyone's waiting until the weekend, so they are trying to beat it," he said.

"That helps us a bit because it spreads out the load on the traffic."