Braze Hits All Time High Message Sends While Maintaining 100% Uptime on Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are some of the most lucrative times of the year for brands. While in the past Black Friday was synonymous with wild crowds and chaotic in-store shopping, in the last few years a significant focus has shifted to digital–with some stores canceling in-person sales altogether. Our own data from the weekend displays this trend, as we supported more than 31 billion messages between Black Friday and Cyber Monday—a 43% increase from the same period in 2021, with Black Friday being our biggest day ever, send volume-wise.
With an ever-changing landscape, Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer more than a chance to send promotions. It’s an opportunity to strengthen your connection to current customers, start relationships with new ones, and set up your brand for success for the next year.
How Braze Prepared for the 2022 Holiday Shopping Weekend
Our customers rely on us every day, but especially in high-volume, high-stakes settings like Black Friday weekend. We also know performance and reliability at this scale cannot happen by accident, so we got an early start. Our Engineering team began our Black Friday capacity planning as early as September 1, working with our Customer Success teams to forecast volumes from our largest senders. From there, we gathered our “capacity planning change advisory board,” which met weekly to discuss database performance, sending service throughput and capacity, APIs and data processing systems, network bandwidth capacity, and more.
Leading up to Black Friday, our DevOps and SRE teams scaled up hundreds of databases, added network capacity, and ran weeks of tests to deploy new infrastructure. Product engineering teams increased server capacity proportionally to their analysis to make sure that we kept our quality of service high. Additionally, our Canvas and Core Messaging teams worked on internal and data storage improvements ahead of the holiday, rolling out multiple key efficiency improvements that helped over this year’s Black Friday period (and are intended to improve our services in perpetuity moving forward.)
This year was a huge win for our customers. Not only did we hit a new high in total supported volume, we also operated at remarkable speed with peaks up to 18.5M sends per minute. Almost even more exciting, we saw a record low in customer reported issues or questions, and there was nothing reported that required manual intervention. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are always one of those days where I’m constantly checking my phone, with equal parts paranoia and excitement. Checking our send speed and throughput numbers, checking our incident reporting and Slack, etc. Our observability systems (Datadog primarily, with Sentry and Pagerduty) identified no high priority SLO violations, which resulted in zero pages to the Engineering teams—our call teams simply watched the day happen, I worried my Slack was broken… and then it was just over, with 100% uptime.
It took time, and it took a village, but it is well worth it to know that we were able to support our customers while bettering our product suite for the long haul.
What Surprised Us From 2022 Black Friday and Cyber Monday Data—and What Didn’t
It’s clear that our forecasting served us well in preparing to support our customers over Black Friday and Cyber Monday. As we’ve grown and onboarded new customers, and our customers have transformed their business when it comes to digital, our message volumes over this weekend have increased approximately 7X since 2018.
We predicted and prepared for massive volume, but it’s the way the volume distribution has happened that has surprised us. When we adjust the data for relative volume, we can more easily compare the amount of messages sent in days around Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
With more and more traffic anticipated to go through digital rather than brick-and-mortar, we expected to see a shift toward earlier engagement in the days and weeks leading up to Black Friday. In fact, we scaled our infrastructure and entered a code freeze weeks before, expecting total November month numbers to be a bit higher. We did see a fairly significant YOY shift from 2021 to 2022 about one week before Black Friday as well as an uptick in messaging after Cyber Monday, but not the volume we expected. Next year, we hope to see more messages, earlier, focused on nurturing customers new and old.
What We’d Love to See Next Year
The volumes that we supported this year, in conjunction with the range of channels leveraged like email, push notifications, in-app messages, and more, show us that brands are really understanding the value of creating rich, personalized, customer-centric experiences — especially on the busiest weekend of the year. And this is what Braze was built for. We believe in treating customers on a 1:1 level at the scale of 1: Many (or in this case very, very, very, many).
Next year, we’d love to see more outreach in the weeks leading up to Black Friday. This is an opportunity to make loyal customers feel special—think “Cyber Weekend Previews” to get them excited, messages about their favorite repeat purchases going on sale, and more. As for after Cyber Monday, we hope order status updates are only the beginning of communication with newly-acquired customers. We’d love to see our customers follow up with suggestions based on their purchases, ask for reviews and feedback, or give them the opportunity to sign up for email and text campaigns.
This year was a win for our team at Braze, and for our customers. We helped customers reach more consumers than ever before, driving valuable engagement for our customers and validating our team’s hard work. Now, it’s time for the fun part—where we get to help brands leverage technology to get to know new customers and turn them into loyal, perennial customers. Then, we’ll do it all again next year.
Jamie Doheny is the Senior Director, Engineering Operations & Chief of Staff, Engineering, Braze.