How Indochino prepares for Black Friday

The men's retailer's cross-functional planning committee helped turn the sales event into one of the biggest days in the company's history.

This year’s Black Friday event was “by far” the biggest day in Indochino’s 11-year history as a company, according to chief revenue officer Peter Housley, whose duties include brand and marketing strategy for the men’s retailer.

The company started out as an online-only play when it was founded in 2007 by two University of Victoria students, but over the years it has grown into a multichannel offering, with more than 30 showrooms across North America. To date, company sales are up more than 60% year-over-year, and Black Friday sales eclipsed those of past years. Housley attributes that success to a couple of factors: its retail footprint has increased 71% over the last year; the marketing department has grown more sophisticated with its data and analytics capabilities; and the company aggressively offers deals that align with the “psyche and the ethos” of the annual sales event.

While Indochino’s Black Friday-specific marketing, which begins five or six weeks in advance, accounts for part of the company’s sales growth this year, there’s also something to be said about the work of its cross-functional leadership team, which gets involved well before the marketing even begins.

Indochino runs all its major projects through a centralized project management office (PMO). When leaders operate in silos and have an appetite for projects, they can “start to run them off the side of their desk, and before you know it you’re actually borrowing into cross-functional and other department resources,” says Housley. With that in mind, the role of the PMO is to ensure each project aligns with company needs and resources.

On top of that, within the last few years, Indochino has introduced a dedicated cross-functional Black Friday planning committee that begins hosting bi-weekly meetings as early as July. The group includes two or three people from marketing, as well as representatives from the retail, ecommerce, technology, finance, customer experience, product, PR and human resources teams.

The team bestows one senior manager with the responsibility of being the Black Friday “quarterback” for the year, says Housley. For the last two years, that position has been filled by Madison Norton, head of CRM and campaign strategy at Indochino. Before that, it was the company’s director of marketing and acquisition. Whoever that person is, he or she is in charge of overall management of the Black Friday program.

In the planning stages, the company charts everything that needs to happen between their first meeting and Black Friday; it then runs weekly progress reports. Housley says the team evaluates and manages everything from stability testing (to ensure it can handle the additional volume on its website) to hiring additional staff and ensuring employees have the devices they need in store.

It’s a strategy that Housley says relies on a “rigorous and disciplined approach to project management.” But it’s one that appears to be paying off and helping the brand leverage the advancements it has made in other areas, such as tech.

Due to Indochino’s appointment-based retail model, individual stores can accommodate a maximum of 90 appointments per day. To maximize efficiencies, the team uses advanced data and analytics to identify which stores are at capacity weeks in advance, and then adds labour as needed in those showrooms to manage capacity.

Come mid-October, the team had already identified any potential risk items, conducted a company-wide update, and feels confident about its readiness for the day-of execution of its busiest sales day of the year.