While online retail will not be immune to economic challenges this holiday season, Forrester Research projects that overall online holiday spend will reach a “healthy” $44 billion in 2008. What’s more, Forrester estimates that one in four consumers expect to spend more online this season. For online retailers, the biggest revenue season of the year is almost upon us — and no day is more important during this season than Cyber Monday.
Cyber Monday is the name that has become associated with the Monday after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday (and after the brick-and-mortar shopping holiday known as Black Friday). The theory is that shoppers, once back at work and back in front of a computer, head online in large numbers to purchase all the gifts they could not find in the stores.
If you are on online retailer, Cyber Monday represents a great opportunity – but with opportunity comes challenges. Is your Website ready to handle the volumes? Have you taken the right steps to maximize your traffic? If your answer to either of these questions is not a confident and resounding ‘YES!’, perhaps the below tips can help you get ready for the new holiday we affectionately call Cyber Monday.
Tip #1: Make sure customer data on your site is secure … and don’t forget to tell visitors
Ensure your customers view you as an online vendor they can trust by making sure your site has (and prominently displays) a SSL certificate. SSL certificates secure data such as credit card numbers or customer account information so the data being transmitted online is safe. It also confirms the Website (and the organization behind the site) is what and who it claims to be. You can prominently display your SSL certificate in the form of a logo on your Website’s home page. Usually this logo is supplied by the company through which you purchase your SSL certificate. Visitors can also tell if a site has a SSL certificate by looking for a closed padlock icon in their browser’s status bar.
Tip #2: Ensure potential visitors can find you
One of the most common ways online shoppers find a vendor is through search engines. As an online vendor, you need to be sure the search engines will find you. One option is to optimize your site by adding keywords and links back to your site, which can both increase the ‘rating’ major search engines assign to your site and also help your site appear higher among the search results. However, search engine optimization takes time and is not as easy as it may seem, so you may want to employ a service to help you get the best results.
Other options are search engine marketing, which is a service that places a text ad for your site into the “Sponsored Links” section returned in an online search.
At the very least, you should be sure you are promoting your Website whenever possible – in every flyer, catalog or even on your business card.
Tip #3: Be ready for a surge in traffic
Some would say a surge in traffic (going from 100 visitors per day to a 1,000 visitors per day) would be an OK problem to have, but what if such a surge occurred on your site? Could your hosting platform handle the increased traffic or would potential customers be greeted with a browser error telling them your site is unavailable? Some hosting platforms (including Register.com’s) will automatically scale resources to accommodate a surge in traffic. Be sure you know what your hosting platform can handle and understand contingency plans with your hosting provider just in case your site exceeds its limits this holiday season.
Tip #4: Make it easy for customers to find what they are looking for on your site
One of the most popular reasons a visitor will leave a site within the first few seconds is the inability to quickly find what they are looking for. Make sure your visitors can clearly see where to find product information and how to search your products lines. Additionally, try to minimize the mouse clicks necessary to make a purchase on your Website. All of these things not only make the shoppers experience better in that instance, they also give shoppers a reason to return to your site and tell their friends about you.
Tip #5: Make it easy for customers to buy
Be sure your site accepts all popular forms of payment. A service such as PayPal is a popular way to be sure your customers have a choice of payment options. Many ecommerce platforms offer PayPal as an option and for good reason — you should never limit your potential customers just because you don’t offer the payment type they prefer. Additionally, accepting a wide range of payment options adds legitimacy and professionalism to your site, helping tell potential customers that you are an online vendor with whom they can confidently do business.
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About the Author: Wendy Kennedy is the creator and editor of the Register.com Learning Center (an online resource site for small businesses). Wendy has also served as a consultant with over ten years of experience developing marketing and awareness programs with small businesses and entrepreneurs.