It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Though, for some, it can be the most stressful time of the year if you’re responsible for hitting your brand’s holiday sales targets—especially if you’re new to ecommerce.
This year, shoppers are expected to spend nearly $730 billion during the holiday season—up nearly four percent over 2018, according to the National Retail Federation. And while that projected increase in spending is good news for brands, there’s almost an entire week less between Cyber Weekend and Christmas this year. With more than half of shoppers saying they’ve already started making their holiday purchases, the competition for that much-anticipated consumer spending is heating up.
Ecommerce entrepreneurs and marketers are eagerly awaiting what many view as the main event of the season—Cyber Weekend.
It’s one of the main events of the year here at Klaviyo, too. This will be my first Cyber Weekend with the team, and knowing it’s right around the corner, I was curious to learn more about the organization-wide effort to prepare for the weekend and what happens here on the weekend itself at Klaviyo.
I recently caught up with Natalie Higgins on our support team, Chris Conlon on our engineering team, and Alexandra Edelstein on our product team to learn more about their roles and what goes into making sure, across the board, we help our customers have a successful weekend so you can grow your businesses.
Katie Tierney [KT]: Tell me about your role at Klaviyo and some of the things you do on a daily basis.
Natalie Higgins [NH]: I’m a product expert on the support team, so on any given day I’m either working in email support or live chat pretty much all day long. I talk with customers, answer questions, provide advice if they ask things like, “Hey, I want to do this, is it possible? Or, this is something I’d like to see in the future, can you pass it along to your product team for the roadmap?” I also work with them to ensure things are set up correctly for them. If they think there may be an issue, I look into it and make sure it gets resolved. Or if there isn’t an issue, I’ll explain why it may seem like there’s one and how to move forward.
I also have meetings with the product team so we ensure we’re continuing to improve our platform and develop features our customers want. A lot of the feature requests come from our customers, so I share those requests with the product team to help get those things worked into our product roadmap. I also help with new hire training and product training internally.
Chris Conlon [CC]: I’m a lead software engineer at Klaviyo and I’m on the mobile team. We’ve recently been heads down working on our new SMS feature. The best thing for an engineer is to see someone using the thing they built and enjoying it, so we want to provide tools that people use and like to use. Specifically, with SMS, we took a lot of time making sure that when someone starts using the things that the engineers actually built, they’re clear and intuitive.
Alexandra Edelstein [AE]: I’m a senior product manager here on the product team, so no two days are the same. On any given day I’m either talking with customers, talking with folks across support, sales, and marketing, working with engineering on something technical, or whiteboarding a new design. I look at the end-to-end process of how we figure out what problems to solve, what pain points our customers have, all the way through to what we’re going to build to solve their problem, and then actually getting that built and deployed and into the product. That end-to-end process requires a hybrid of business skills—figuring out what we need, what makes sense, who our customers are—and technical and design skills to figure out what the product is actually going to look and feel like.
[KT]: What do you like about working at Klaviyo?
[NH]: I love the team environment, I really do. The people that I work with are what keeps me coming back day to day—whether that’s the people I work with here or the customers I work with every day. I love the support role and the fact that I get to build relationships with customers. Within chat, we have people who write in regularly, or maybe not so regularly, but you get to know them, you get to know their brand, and you get to build that rapport across email and chat so it’s really fun for me. And then getting to go to events like Klaviyo:BOS and put faces to the names and the businesses, and actually get to interact with those customers, has been super fun. I had one customer who I chatted with pretty regularly this past spring, and then I got to go to London and actually have a live conversation with her.
[CC]: The crew is awesome. Everybody here likes to learn. A lot of engineering organizations have these partitions between the logical parts of the organization, like standing up infrastructure and deploying code and testing the code. At some places, engineers aren’t even responsible for testing their code. They give it to another team and they have that team test it, which has its pros and cons. Here, you own that whole process from writing the code to testing it and deploying it to spinning up infrastructure. I think a lot of engineers that come here and a lot of the people we interview are excited to hear about that because engineers usually like to understand how everything works. As an extension of that, they also want to understand how the thing they’re building works across that whole process. Here, that’s encouraged by design and I think it’s discouraged by design at other places.
[AE]: I love the people that I work with. I think everyone is really passionate about our customers and about the product, which creates a really electric atmosphere where everyone is focused on the same problems and they’re hungry to solve the hardest problems. I typically tell people that, at Klaviyo, we have a real lack of complacency. There’s always this drive to be better, to do better, and that’s one of the things I love about working here.
[KT]: Tell me a little bit about your past Cyber Weekend experiences at Klaviyo.
[NH]: I loved my first Cyber Weekend experience here at Klaviyo, but I was new so I didn’t have a ton of responsibility. I started two weeks before it, so there were some things that I could do but I wasn’t fully ramped up yet. I got to shadow the current support team and watch them interact with customers, advise on questions, those kinds of things. Klaviyo also does some great things for employees on Black Friday, so it was fun to watch National Treasure and hang out in the kitchen eating barbecue at lunch. I’m excited for future Black Fridays and really being in the mix now that I’m fully ramped up.
[CC]: I started on Halloween, about a month before Cyber Weekend. It was a new job and I had no idea what was going on, so I just tried to be as helpful as I could be.
Over the years, though, I’ve learned the ideal Cyber Weekend is one where all the work we’ve done for the months leading up to it means we’re basically watching graphs, making sure things are cool, and watching our customers’ success play out. It’s exciting to see your work pay off.
We have a lot of fun things planned for the team like watching movies, playing video games, and celebrating our customers’ success. But we’re also really diligent and we watch all of our systems closely to make sure things are good. We have great alerting. We’ve spent a ton of time building out code to tell us ahead of time if something isn’t right so we can make the necessary fixes to ensure the platform is performing for our customers.
"Over the years, I’ve learned the ideal Cyber Weekend is one where all the work we've done for the months leading up to it means we’re basically watching graphs, making sure things are cool, and watching our customers’ success play out. It’s exciting to see your work pay off."
Chris Conlon, lead software engineer, Klaviyo
[AE]: This will be my fourth Cyber Weekend at Klaviyo and we’ve learned a lot from past Cyber Weekends. We’ve grown as our customers have grown in terms of figuring out what Cyber Weekend really looks like for our customers and how we can help them be the most successful. Every year we learn more about how we can do better by our customers and prepare internally. It also tends to be a really energetic, electric weekend where everyone’s watching the numbers. We have dashboards that help us track how much money our customers are making so we can celebrate their wins with them and really feel the pride in our product. There’s a lot to watch and learn, but all the past Cyber Weekends have been pretty exciting.
"It also tends to be a really energetic, electric weekend where everyone's watching the numbers. We have dashboards that help us track how much money our customers are making so we can celebrate their wins with them and really feel the pride in our product."
Alexandra Edelstein, senior product manager, Klaviyo
[KT]: What are some of the things you’ll either be doing over the weekend or things you’ve already done that will help customers have a successful Cyber Weekend this year?
[NH]: Getting prepared for Cyber Weekend, we have a lot of customers that like to schedule their emails out far in advance, so we look into their campaigns and ensure they’re set up correctly. We look into their flows, tell them when to set them live, and let them know if they need to back populate. We also help them get their signup forms set up so they can set them live for the weekend and let them run.
We’ve had a ton of new customers come on in the last few weeks, so I’ve been chatting with them and helping them get accustomed to Klaviyo as a platform, and talking about things like, “Here’s what a flow does. Here’s what a campaign does. These are your customers and here’s how you can market to them.”
When it comes to Cyber Weekend, it actually gets a little bit quiet for support because everything is running. But we also help customers troubleshoot, ensure that everything is functioning for them properly, and answer questions they may have so they can understand what’s happening as they’re looking at their analytics. Those kinds of things.
[CC]: Every year, we reevaluate all of our systems and scale them to support the increased load we expect to see over Cyber Weekend. Something that I did last year, which was an extension of other people’s work from a year before, was to build up a miniature version of Klaviyo that we could test with scale in isolation. I helped to build out the framework to build that mini Klaviyo and do some of the testing. But really it’s an entire organization-wide effort where, each year, we decide what needs to be done, who’s going to work on it, keep track of everything so it’s running on schedule, and allocate resources to make sure the critical things get done.
[AE]: We’ve been doing a lot here at Klaviyo to prepare. On the product engineering side, our biggest endeavor over the last couple of months has been to stress test all of our systems. We know that Cyber Weekend is one of the busiest times for all of our customers. They see way more people visiting their websites, starting checkouts, and making purchases, than they do all year, so we need to be prepared to handle that volume. We do load tests, which stress tests everything at over 2X what we think will happen on Cyber Weekend. That helps us, in advance, find any gaps or things we need to harden so that things go really smoothly. And of course, if anything does go wrong, we want to make sure we have the right channels in place internally and externally to handle that smoothly. So we’ve been investing in that, too.
[KT]: What are you most looking forward to about Cyber Weekend at Klaviyo this year?
[NH]: Overall, the holiday marketing season is super fun. It’s fun to see what our customers come up with for their various campaigns and help them get those set up. I’m excited to see how much our customers grow over this time period—especially our newer customers. I think a lot of newer customers come on at this time of year because they realize they’re going to grow with Klaviyo, so it’s exciting to actually see that occur.
The holiday marketing season here at Klaviyo is so fun, too. We get to see all of our hard work from the past year pay off. It’s going to be really fun to see all the enhancements we’ve made in the platform over the past few years, such as Smart Send Time, help our customers improve their open rates, and things like that. And then our company holiday party is at the Museum of Science this year, so I’m very excited about that.
"I'm excited to see how much our customers grow over this time period—especially our newer customers. I think a lot of newer customers come on at this time of year because they realize they're going to grow with Klaviyo, so it’s exciting to actually see that occur."
Natalie Higgins, product expert, Klaviyo
[CC]: For me, personally, I’m kind of excited to watch the other teams this year because I haven’t done much prep for the weekend. I’ve been working on an isolated feature, which isn’t expected to be highly used during Cyber Weekend. But pretty much all of the other teams have been working really hard to be ready, so I’m excited to watch how everything they’ve done pays off.
Internally, I think we have a VHS movie marathon planned. And we actually bought a camcorder that records directly to VHS, so we’re going to try to shoot home movies of what happens here Cyber Weekend. We’re actually going to try to record them over old VHS’s, too, so that we get that weird interplay of the underlying movie and what we recorded over it. That’s another thing I’m excited for this weekend.
[AE]: This year, like every year before, we have more people working here and more customers, so I think we’re going to surpass every record that we’ve had so I’m looking forward to seeing that happen. It will be cool to see kind of the impact Klaviyo’s having on the entrepreneurial ecosystem. And I’m excited to see those numbers. Our marketing team always does a really cool job putting out blog articles after Cyber Weekend to celebrate some of the wins and some of the numbers and things that I wouldn’t normally track, so I love watching those articles come out, too.
[KT]: What advice would you give to someone who’s considering a similar career path?
[NH]: Love helping people. That’s always necessary. You have to keep that in mind when things maybe get a little bit hard. You have to keep in mind that you’re working with a customer and this is their livelihood or their career. Also, being willing to be a part of a team. It’s very much a team environment at Klaviyo, both within the support team and across the board. We’re all working together in every single step to make sure the platform is working well and helping our customers grow their businesses, especially on such a critical weekend.
"We're all working together in every single step to make sure the platform is working well and helping our customers grow their businesses, especially on such a critical weekend."
Natalie Higgins, product expert, Klaviyo
[CC]: If writing code and solving problems with code is fun for you, even if you don’t consider yourself particularly good at it, I think that’s really what you need—it’s something that’s interesting and fun to you. As long as you embrace and foster that, that’ll take you as far as you want to go.
You obviously need mentors, but most people are willing to help someone who’s excited. Foster that feeling if you have it.
Another thing that’s really refreshing and enjoyable is to start a personal project—something you’re interested in that’s either a problem you can solve with code, something that doesn’t exist, or something that could be better. For example, some people do home automation. That stuff will keep you engaged. It’ll help you learn what you’re interested in and, when you’re looking for jobs, it’ll help you to have something to talk about that’s exciting to you. If you’re talking with an interview, saying, “I built this thing that nobody will ever use, but I use it all the time and I’m really excited about it and it works in this way…,” that’ll help engage them. And if it doesn’t, you probably don’t want to work there.
[AE]: If you’re considering a career in product management, I highly recommend getting your foot in the door at a company that allows you to explore what that role means. But really, you just need to get in a customer-facing position. Where I started answering support tickets, being on the phone with customers, writing our docs, helping with bugs, it gave me the skills I needed to prove that product was a good fit for me both to myself and to the company. If you don’t have that background, joining a customer success team, sales engineering team, or any team that allows you to get in front of customers and prove that you can take a problem, drive it to a solution, and think thoughtfully about it, is a good place to start.
Think a career at Klaviyo is right for you? We’d love to meet you! Learn more about what it’s like to work at Klaviyo and apply on our Careers page.
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