Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Yunnan Sourcing’s Early Black Friday Gamble

Although, Scott at times can be a bit predictable, a week ago I got something in my inbox that really shocked me!  It turns out that Yunnan Sourcing is not having a Black Friday/ Cyber Monday Sale this year… or so it seems….

Check out the screen shots of this promotional email…

Scotts’ points or arguments to not offer a sale are basically centered around two arguments:

1-      Black Friday/Cyber Monday puts undue strain on his business model.

2-      The customer experience is less because of this strain.

I understand from a business perspective that it might cost Yunnan Sourcing more money to just hire and train competent temporary staff or to pay out overtime.  It might be worth it from a business perspective to just make less profit and not have to deal with those extra wages.  It also might not be worth the stress either so this move puts him and his employees’ health first and foremost over sales.  I can’t really argue too much with this because I’m not running the business.  Putting your employees ahead of profits is usually a good call.

However, I kind of disagree with the argument that the customer experience is less on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  I think the spectacle of the sale is good old consumeristic behavior at its finest and I think the customer is understanding of the tradeoffs of getting a nice sale with the potential issues stated in the above email.

Last year I had a mistake with one of my Black Friday orders (no it wasn’t Yunnan Sourcing) but it was made right and then some.  I was totally 100% okay and understanding about this, and I think most puerh drinkers are in the same boat as me.  But Scott makes a good point that it doesn’t have to be like this at all….

I got an email yesterday that there is a 15% off everything going on right now- this is the exact Black Friday Sale offered last year but basically just offered early!  Then I realized that Scott is basically just offering the Black Friday Sale Early.  This should remedy some of the issues that he put forth.  From a marketing point of view it is also pretty smart because he is offering the sale before the competition is out with theirs.  This prevents the consumer from comparing and contrasting the competition’s sales and deciding on where to spend (as I have done in the past).  This is definitely a negative for the customer from a competing market standpoint.  For the customer that has already made his mind up that he will purchase at Yunnan Sourcing, this will definitely benefit them.

On the other hand, offering early sales don’t have the psychological triggered buying patterning that Black Friday and Cyber Monday conjure up.  Some might just wait it out hoping that the competition offers something better (or maybe that even Yunnan Sourcing will offer a better sale).  In the end, I think it’s a great gamble that has the potential to benefit the customer and vendor.  This is an experiment to see if it turns out to be a win-win, I guess only Scott and Xiao Yao will know for sure…

Although there are some cakes I’ve had my eye on, maybe because I just did a big order from Yunnan Sourcing or maybe because the gravitas of Black Friday is lacking… but this year, I think, I’ll pass… for now...



Anonymous said...

I liked this sale from the start, but made a much smaller order than I planned to,
a couple of cakes I was eyeing had a 15%-25% price increase right before the sale!

I don't exactly understand that- people who want to buy a 200$-400$ cake don't just buy it "because sale", they do it because they sampled first.. then, if they waited paitiently for the sale, and found out they now have to pay more AFTER THE DISCOUNT.. that's discouraging, and completely offputting!

Why not wait after the sale to raise the prices, instead of antagonizing your customers?

Scott is a smart guy though, I guess he takes that into account, and just doesn't want to sell those cakes at the lower price, and knows they will eventually sell at the higher one..

Honestly, I'd rather pay a little more for a vendor who doesn't antagonize me.. Scott will always be my go to budget-tea guy though!

Matt said...


I’m glad you left this comment because I had been meaning to add that discussion point into the body of my post. I was going to add it to the end of the article for reasons I’m not buying but the cakes I was eyeing were not part of the increase.

A similar thing happened to me in 2017 here:

I should add a screenshot of the email so people know what we are talking about....

I basically thought the same as you that it would have maybe better for business if he even outright stated in the email that this year’s sale includes some factory cakes that are undervalued and that it’s your last chance to get them as prices will increase after the sale. He’s not stating which ones so would have been clever marketing, I think.

The reason Scott does this is because he tries to keep prices as low as possible within his profit margins, I think. This requires him to continually monitor the pricing as opposed to the competition who mark up higher but rarely raise their prices. A great deal can sometimes be found at these shops over time.

That last comment was a dig at the budget joke right?.... hahaha

For sake of debate I’m going to call Scott my go to premium guy...



Anonymous said...

I get what you're saying, but at a certain point maybe you want to treat your "above casual" customers with a bit more regard.
People who are about to buy not-cheap cakes probably spent a couple hundred on samples..
Scott is the ONLY vendor I know that when he has a BF sale, you might find you are paying more.. it seems unlikely there isn't a better way..

I do understand his massive catalogue makes price adjustments much more difficult to handle.. And your points hold as well..

But I automatically push his cakes down the buying-list, buy great cakes from other vendors which are ACTUALLY ON SALE, and hope I'll loose interest in Scott's cakes..

btw, I rarely drink budget tea, but when I find ~0.2$/gram tea I can enjoy- I'm a bit indifferent to feeling antagonized by that vendor..

But when you get to ~1$/gram you want to be treated like paying customer, not an afterthought, and there are plenty other vendors that are happy to accommodate that..

Seems totally unnecessary

ShadAdams said...

I'll add to this conversation,

I think having the sale early is an excellent idea. It means that my order won't take as long to be shipped and will arrive much sooner. It also allows me more time on BF/CM because I'll have one fewer website to consider and budget for. I don't know about you but placing an order, for me, takes at least a couple of hours of comparing and considering. Speaking of budget, Yunnan Sourcing has some absolute STEALS if you are shopping in the $.20-$.30/gram price range. That's generally the price point I stick to when buying from YS. I usually don't buy anything other than YS brand puerh, and younger cakes at that. I go elsewhere for aged or factory stuff. All things considered, my experience with this sale has been terrific. I was able to really save some money.

I do think that the best way to shop sales on YS are actually just to hit those random 10% off ones that he does throughout the year. That allows you to get things before annual price increases and it ends up being the cheapest price for the year (the exception being each year's YS brand spring cakes). I don't think holding out for BF/CM sales is worth it for customers shopping YS. If you have the money, just buy the tea.

Anonymous said...


The way you utilize YS sounds sound.
I was using those 10% sales for samples, and waited for that 15% for cakes.. which now I know was a wrong move.

I can definitely see how the only disappointed customers would be the ones who buy their aged stuff.. and they do have a lot of fresh tea, of all types..

Yunnan Sourcing said...

It takes months to really train someone to effectively be able to work doing fulfillment in our warehouse. Spending months to train extra people just for a few days work is extremely impractical. We do pay our employees in China overtime rate of 1.5x their normal hourly wages, so that does further reduce our profits (during crazy sale periods). Our US warehouse only has one employee and they are part-time and even with the holiday sales they don't go above 40 hours a week.

When we are overworked, and our staff is overworked it definitely does impact the customer experience. I think most people that are wanting to make a discounted purchase for Black Friday will have the same opportunities, albeit at different times. I don't really understand the allure of Black Friday from a consumer perspective if one can get the same discount at a different time.

In terms of raising prices, I did take the opportunity to review stocks and raise prices on same aged teas that had not seen price increases for 1 to 3 years. The price increase was also mentioned in the sales newsletter we sent out announcing the Early B irdsale. Once these are gone, they are gone forever. I raised prices on about 45 pu-erhs total. I think we sell around a 1000 different pu-erhs, so those that saw a price increase before the sale were a tiny percentage of our offering and the price increase is permanent (meaning we won't lower the price after the sale). Keep in mind I raise prices on YS Brand Pu-erhs on 3/15 and 9/15 (spring pressing on 3/15 and autumn pressings on 9/15). Other non-YS teas can go up in price at any time.

Don't imagine that I have massive stocks of aged teas, and that I'll have them for many years. In most cases they come from a trusted supplier that may or may not have more, and if they do, may or may not increase the price. For example, Hai Lang Hao teas I don't carry ANY stock at all. Since we are close friends he offers his discounted price to us and we will purchase on an almost daily basis when we get orders. When he raises his prices, then I raise my prices (on his teas) as well.

For those who are planning to purchase a lot of teas, or expensive teas I am always open to direct communication and a bit of bargaining. You needn't wait all year for a 15% off sale code, just contact me.

Anonymous said...

YS your final paragraph was encouraging.

The rest of what you wrote also sounds kinda reasonable, though I felt the need to check with what I bought-

4 out of 6 HLH samples I've bought were marked up, 2 of those significantly (one more than 70%!).. probably going out of stock.. I understand this isn't your call, but I bought those samples from you- I wouldn't have done so if I'd known these kind of mark ups were on the table...

5 out of 8 non-HLH were also marked up, though more reasonably (25% max).

So you've raised the price of 45, and I assume your suppliers raised the price of more teas (or I'm the unluckiest man on earth bagging 9/45/1000), and all of these mark-ups happened just before BF sale.


I'll stick to your non-aged teas, if I can find any I like from my last (final?) order..

Not saying that you are wrong in anything you're doing, but currently my buyer experience is :/

Yunnan Sourcing said...

I totally get how you must have felt seeing that many of the teas you wanted had a price increase. It's never pleasant for me either to see prices go higher. We end up charging more to make the same amount and inevitably sales will slow as well.

Hai Lang raised a bunch of prices about a month ago. I adjusted several about a month ago and then got to the rest before the sale. On the pricier HLH stuff our mark-up is much lower, so I have to be careful during the big sales that the retail price allows for that kind of discount. 15% off + 5% loyalty points + 2.4 up to 4.4% processing fees can really bite.

I appreciate your feedback. I've always tried to make the teas accessible and procyeed reasonably, and be customer friendly.

Anonymous said...

YS I appreciate your response to the feedback..

I guess the market for aged teas is what it is

Anonymous said...

Once, I bought all my puer tea and lots of other teas form YS. The main reason I don't do this anymore is the sale marketing strategy in general. It makes me really tired. I prefer to get always the lowest price lowest price as possible (of course a sale for last years green tea make sense). More exaggerated said: An aggressiv sale strategy feels like a rip off on all non-sale days. Not to speak about the rush for buying which this marketing is all about. I like more calm experiences. When YS says, that you can get sale codes if you contact directly it feels even more like that. Same with the loyalty points. One more thing I don't like is that descriptions once were pretty accurate now have the tendency for too much praise.

All in all I really appreciate the great job YS has done for the puer scene. Maybe it's a cultural reason, but I connect a marketing like this with gambling games, suspicious business, useless distraction etc. I would choose a marketing what represents tea a lot more.