Hey guys. Patrick here. I wanted to take some time to talk about our newly repurposed online store. But first, let’s go back earlier this year…
When I revamped our website earlier this year, our online store simply hosted a handful of items like glassware, t-shirts, and other general merchandise. It was simple stuff with a handful of people visiting it daily. To put it simply, our website was never originally intended to host our entire store’s physical inventory.
With proper planning, care, and time, our online store could’ve been made to host our entire store’s inventory and handle the traffic load that we’re currently seeing (which we’re incredibly thankful for). And that would mean your online shopping experience with us would’ve been a lot different from the start. But we didn’t have those aforementioned luxuries when Governor Pritzker suddenly announced the closure of all Illinois bars and restaurants on Sunday, March 15th.
Immediately after this announcement, I started plugging away at my computer until the wee hours of the night (morning?) transferring all of our physical inventory into the digital world. Come Monday, the next day, we had a barebones working version of our online store. Hell, I even tagged it as a beta version because I knew there was still so much more work to do. But we needed something – anything – to keep our business going.
So our online store was the little engine that could (and sometimes couldn’t), chugging along and sustaining business while we made sense of this new reality and how to continue our operations.
The Cellar Sale
As far as I can tell, we’ve had two critical points of failure with our online store. The first was our Cellar Sale on March 20th, just 5 days after our “beta” website launched, and that went south really quickly. Right when it launched, we had 250 unique visitors F5ing our website in hopes of gaining access to these limited-release beers. It was unexpectedly terrifying. After witnessing much of your frustrations, we posted an apology for wasting many people’s time (and we still feel bad about it!).
But with moments of pain and humility come moments of learning and improvement. The same day our Cellar Sale crashed and burned I was on the phone with our good friend Evan at Phase Three Brewing asking him to connect us with someone at CraftCellr, a mobile app used by breweries like Phase Three to sell their beers to their members online. The fine folks at CraftCellr had us set up with an account the very next day, and many of you have already taken notice.
So I’m happy to announce that we will be back at it, using CraftCellr to host our next Cellar Sale on Saturday, April 18th at noon. So download the app now and get your account ready!
The Blazin’ Situation
The second (and hopefully last) critical point of failure was this past Thursday’s release of Hop Butcher For The World’s Blazed Orange Milkshake. We’ve seen the demand for this beer in the past and we’ve proven many times how to handle releasing it. But those were the days of in-store releases, when we could physically sell you the goods. Now we’re living in an increasingly digital world, and we’re still adjusting to that.
After witnessing 30 visitors on our online store at 8am, I had a feeling that day was going to be a busy one. Sure enough, even before we could put BOM on our store, our website started crashing. While juggling the phone calls, tweets, comments, DMs, I did my best to communicate with our (now former) webhost about keeping our website alive, but they ultimately weren’t much help. Many of you spent 40 minutes (or more) trying to buy this beer, and that’s truly amazing! Of course, it ultimately sold out, but it was not our finest hour in the customer experience department.
Shiny, new, and improved!
So what’s the point of all this? To beat ourselves up? Nope! It’s to reassure you all that we’re working as hard as a one-man IT department and parents of two toddlers can.
The evening after the Blazin’ Situation (as I’m now calling it), I got to work on migrating our entire website to a new, more modern, faster webhost. I’m happy to report that our new host can handle at least 10x as many simultaneous users as before (from what we’ve seen so far), and we now have the option to vertically scale our server meaning we can increase bandwidth, processing power, etc. on-demand at any moment! So if we know a popular beer is coming out soon *cough* Orange Chantilly *cough*, we can plan ahead and increase server capacity.
That means less downtime for us, and less refreshing and wasted time for you!
Most of you have been patient, considerate, and forgiving of us during these times, and we sincerely thank you for that. Just like our store on 183rd, we’re constantly trying to make improvements to our online store so it’s better every time you use it. Thank you all for your support the over the past month! We’re grateful to be a in position to have these “problems” when a lot businesses have recently shut their doors 🙁
Keep supporting local and keep drinking good beer! Cheers.