March sales are off the charts for online retailer Black Rifle Coffee, says Chris Omer, vice president of information technology.
“We did better this March than we did in November 2019 and that’s incredible,” says Omer, noting that large sales days, like Black Friday, are in November.
Sales are up roughly 30% year over year, Omer says. The reason is likely a result of the coronavirus pandemic, he says. With more consumers staying at home, they’re drinking more coffee in their home, he says. A typical consumer may have had a cup of coffee at home and then drank a few more at the office or from a cafe. With many more consumers working at home, those office and cafe coffee cups are now consumed at home, meaning shoppers need to buy more coffee to keep their pantry stocked, he says.
Plus, with more shoppers avoiding going out in public, they are turning to ecommerce to purchase products, including coffee, which could be another reason its sales are up, Omer says.
Besides just one-off sales, Black Rifle has also noticed an increase in its subscriptions program, as more consumers want a regular shipment, Omer says. Black Rifle’s Coffee Club now has more than 100,000 members, up from just 85,000 a few weeks ago, says Eric Best, CEO and founder of data management platform SoundCommerce, a vendor Black Rifle Coffee uses. This is a big deal, as a subscriber has a much higher customer lifetime value than a non-subscriber, Best says.
While an increase in sales is great news for the brand, the retailer had to be sure it made the necessary adjustments to its business so it could keep up. For example, an increase in demand meant it had to increase its inventory, both to keep up with current sales and build it up to keep pace with future demand.
Black Rifle Coffee (No. 1471 in the 2019 Digital Commerce 360 Next 1000) uses SoundCommerce to help forecast the right inventory levels it needs for its products. The retailer has several of its software systems flow through SoundCommerce, such as its ecommerce platform, customer relationship management platform, its enterprise resource platform and its order management system, so it can see how the data from all of these systems impact one another, Omer says.
Black Rifle also made adjustments in its manufacturing facility to ensure its employees’ health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic. Typically, it has two shifts—a morning and an afternoon shift—in the warehouse that overlap in the middle. Now, those shifts no longer overlap so the retailer can fully sanitize the facility between shifts and minimize contact with others, Omer says.
The retailer also has had to come up with contingency plans in case its third-party logistic provider (3PL) ceases shipping. While this has not been the case yet, the retailer must prepare for the possibility that someone in that facility develops the COVID-19 disease, causing the shipper to close temporarily. Right now, its 3PL ships most of Black Rifle’s products, but it is looking into other 3PLs that it could work with, Omer says. Another option would be to ramp up shipping out of its manufacturing facility, which currently only ships a small percentage of orders.
Also, in reaction to the coronavirus, Black Rifle launched a marketing campaign around service. At the end of March, Black Rifle Coffee advertised it would donate as much as 12,000 pounds of coffee to medical professionals.
As a veteran-owned and operated business, patriotism is a part of Black Rifle Coffee’s brand. This campaign fits with that brand image, as medical professionals are the ones that are now putting their lives on the line, says Molly Schweickert, vice president of marketing at the retailer.
The campaign has spurred sales from previous customers who are not frequent buyers and helped Black Rifle Coffee acquire new customers, says Schweickert, who declined to reveal specifics.