12 CyberMonday Ecommerce and Marketing Failures at Teavana

by Josef Katz on December 3, 2013

in Brand Monitoring,Marketing,Social Media

teavana promoLet’s get right to the point. Teavana messed up big time on a big promotion and ecommerce day.

This post is all based on my personal experience placing an order during a CyberMonday sale.

I would love to hear from any marketer who can change my mind on this topic.  Clearly some issues are not purely marketing related but it is how they didn’t handle the situation that relates to marketing and branding.

Teavana sent out an email promoting their CyberMonday offer.  I was running low on tea and the offer seemed generous so sure let’s take them up on it.  That was where the positive news ends.

As I started adding tea to my cart I began hitting errors on their site (404s, time outs and other nasty code screens – you probably all know the type).  To make sure it wasn’t just my computer I tried 2 different machines and 3 browsers.  The following list of failures is based on their site’s “issues”, their customer service, social media and subsequent follow ups.  As marketers we can all learn from their errors.

    1. Clearly their technology was not tested or able to support the sale.  Where was their tech team when the site was crashing and failing hundreds or possibly thousands of customers? (Check their Facebook page to see other consumer’s complaints.)
    2. disocuntsTeavana runs a regular offer that gives you 10% off when you order a pound of tea.  I order a pound plus (I finally got everything into my cart) but the pricing didn’t recalculate. No problem, I’ll just call and figure it out later (this was a mistake – see why below).  Before someone says “well maybe it didn’t apply during this promotion” they were running banners across the site the whole time promoting the 10% offer as items were added to the cart.
    3. Building on the technical team’s absence or lack of preparedness where was the social media or customer service teams? Crickets. Not a sound or a person to contact.
    4. Hello! It was CyberMonday and you were running a promotion “regular business hours” should be tossed out the window.  There was no response to postings on any social media site and their toll free number was an after-hours message.
    5. If you’re going to use Twitter – use it! Anyone can log on even if they are not in the office to at least acknowledge people are having a problem.  Twitter is a two way communications tool.  Don’t just promote your promotion and disappear.
    6. Same issue on Facebook.  Your customers were letting you know there were problems and not a single response or posting of acknowledgement it was a bunch of us talking to a wall (literally).   We were all just trying to help.  Of course that has somewhat backfired since now there are a bunch of unhappy customers who were ignored.
    7. If you are going to have “business hours” be open during those hours.  I called at 8:30AM EST (business hours start at 8AM EST or so the phone tree said) but the same recording from the night before played over (see item 3 )
    8. If you were lucky and tried the 800# later that morning during “business hours” you were only half lucky since once you selected a choice from the phone tree you ended up on an endless ring tone.  That’s right no answer what so ever.
    9. Figuring I was smarter than a phone tree I tried again and selected a different option but hit a message “sorry the extension you are trying to reach is not in service”. Guys, I hit your selections – fix the phone tree.  Phone trees are annoying when they work, forget about it when they don’t.
    10. Did I mention I finally placed the order? Sad part was there was no confirmation email but my credit card was charged.  Call me crazy but it would be nice to get a confirmation for your order and that it was processed before being charged.  For now let’s assume the email issue is related to the site issues but still not a good excuse.
    11. If your executive team is going to be on social media make sure they respond to customer service issue if/when they are pointed out.  Yes folks, I reached out on Twitter and LinkedIn to a number of senior level people at Starbucks (Teavana’s corp parent and referenced from the Teavana site) and received no response.
      Update: One Starbuck’s executive had someone on their team reach out to me Tuesday afternoon and I spoke with them.  She was apologetic and understanding but of course had to pass my info along to the Teavana service team to address my issues so we will see what happens next.
    12. I emailed their customer service email address that is posted on the site.  I received a generic response (expected and good practice) however, to set my expectation this is what they said “Because of heavy email volume, it may take 2-3 business days before you receive a response” say what? Are you kidding 2-3 days? And do you think customers care about your email volume? Figure out your volume issues and don’t make it my problem.
    13. BONUS Failure – Now Teavana is targeting customers with their display remarketing efforts.  My guess is that since their site had so many time out issue their conversion pixels probably didn’t fire correctly (assuming they had one in place). This failure will probably end up costing them media dollars. Oh well.  Teavana, you might want to pause your remarketing efforts or clear you cookie data from the last 24 hours to minimize targeting customers who purchased. Consider that some free marketing advice.  You can also see my evaluation of the Blue Man’s Group remarketing efforts for ideas on effective remarketing.

So what could Teavana have done differently once the problem was identified?

Let’s assume the technical issues are beyond marketing’s control.

  • Customer service should have been available all day and not just during “business hours”
  • Maybe just maybe they could have posted a notice to all their social media accounts.  I know that means admitting a problem but, just do it.
  • Oh wait they initially emailed everyone on their list.  Ah lets inform them too about the issue and alleviate the concern about missing out and extend the offer.  How difficult would that be? Apparently too much effort since it hasn’t happened.
  • Now this is a radical idea – respond to your customers when they try to talk to you.  Don’t your sales people in the stores do that?  Your social media accounts are no different online.
  • Test the offer to make sure it calculates carts correctly based on standing promotions or make it clear what promos are not included.

What did Teavana do about this CyberMonday failure:

  • Around 12:30 EST on Tuesday was the first hint of a problem with this tweet:
  • At around 1PM they posted this Tweet

Your happiness comes first. We are extending our Cyber Monday offer another 24 hours so you may place your orders. Use offer code 25OFF60

— TEAVANA (@TEAVANA) December 3, 2013

  • I call BS on the last Tweet.  If our happiness was so important…they would respond to postings and pick up the customer service phone line!
  • There has still been no email about the extended offer and no confirmation for the order I placed.

Update: at 8:15PM Tuesday night an email arrived extending the offer but there was no acknowledgment of any problems with their site.  The positioning was about having more time for CyberMonday.  Lame. Take ownership of the issue.

Maybe Teavana’s marketing plan was based on hope.  Regardless I hope this “case study” helps others think about their marketing efforts and plan their promotions accordingly.


PS- Just in case Teavana finds time to interact with their customers it is worth pointing out that I have been a customer for over 7 years (might be closer to 9 I lost track) and this experience has definitely given me reason to reconsider my choice of teas.

{ 2 trackbacks }

How the Lowes Twitter Team Saved a Sale | Marketing Maestro
December 9, 2013 at 8:39 am
How to Build a Marketing Lever | Marketing Maestro
March 10, 2015 at 8:31 am

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Barry Lenson December 5, 2013 at 8:16 am

Problems like these are at epidemic proportions. You can almost understand why they crop up when you’re dealing with a small and growing company that might be overtaxed at holiday time. But they occur also at big companies like Verizon, Comcast, and big banks, which certainly ought to have learned how to help customers. How about a post about some of the “best practices” from companies like Zappos and Amazon, which seem to do things pretty well?

December 5, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Thanks Barry. It is unfortunate that too many companies have similar problems. My goal here was to shed light on this one company so other companies can learn how to avoid or at least look out for these issues.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post about a large company that totally wowed me with their online customer service and use of social media.

Rick Wingender December 9, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Wow, Josef, great article. You would think in this day and age, these kinds of experiences would be all but a memory. I mean, nothing here is rocket science. This isn’t limited to ecommerce – if you had a retail background in customer service from the 80’s, then you already know everything you need to know to prevent results like this. In other words, it’s Customer Experience 101.

Unfortunately, the senior execs at Teavana have done a really horrible job of hiring people. They think they’re pretty smart with their applicant tracking systems and their penny-pinching, but this isn’t their first “fail”. Their senior execs are like Vietnam politicians: they expect you to win the war, but don’t understand the situation, and don’t give the Teavana marketing & ecommerce team the tools, resources, and people they need to succeed. So, they got Vietnam-like results. Ouch.

Rick Wingender
Director of Marketing & Ecommerce
Small Biz Consulting:

December 9, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Thanks Rick for the note. Yes nothing earth shattering here but like you said just good old fashion customer service. I can’t speak to their hiring practices or technology but they definitely should be looking inward at how they interact with their customers online.

Ellen December 5, 2014 at 8:37 am

I think you might be interested to know that most if these issues occurred again with the 2014 Cyber Monday deal.

It would be great if you could follow up with another post.

The only person who hasn’t learned from Teavan’s mistakes is Teavana itself.

December 6, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Thanks for the note. I get all their emails and was laughing for two reasons. First, they ran the exact same offer as last year – very creative marketing / merchandising. Second, after I started receiving all the “we extended the offer emails”. I thought wow some companies just don’t learn. I placed an order and they couldn’t even get that right. Took me 15 minutes on hold to get someone to deal with the messed up offer. This really shouldn’t be that complicated so not sure why it keeps going so wrong.

Ellen December 8, 2014 at 10:54 am

I agree with you! In my case, I placed an order with the cyber code, and it went through! Imagine my surprise when I received my confirmation email (6 hours later) with the full amount rather than the discount! I checked my credit card and sure enough I was charged the full amount for the tea. I was pretty livid – so I immediately called Teavana and of course, could not get through. After trying for 1 day, I called Starbucks. I was able to get through to someone but they couldn’t help me. They basically called Teavana while I waited on hold…it took 3 hours. Finally, Teavana said they would refund me the $25 credit I was owed.

I can’t believe a ‘big’ company like Teavana could make such rookie mistakes. We will have to see what happens next year! Although, I’m not so sure I’m going to be a customer…!

December 8, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Yeah it is amazing how they can mess up two years in a row even after knowing all the problems. I received my tea but they left out one part of my order. It took 30 minutes to fix that issue. Crazy. Thanks for the comment.

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