In this article, we outline the basics of how to get ready for Cyber Monday.
For many small businesses, especially online retailers, the biggest revenue season of the year is the Christmas holidays. And few days are as important for small business revenue than Cyber Monday.
This article is intended for beginner and intermediate business owners, startup entrepreneurs, and those just starting to dip their toes into online retailing.
Timing for Getting Ready for Cyber Monday
Cyber Monday is the name that has become associated with the Monday after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. It comes after the brick-and-mortar shopping holiday known as Black Friday.
The original theory was that shoppers are now back at work and back in front of a computer. They head online in large numbers to purchase all the gifts they could not find in the stores.
However, it seems as if each holiday season breaks new records. And consumer buying patterns have shifted. Much more shopping is done online these days versus in brick and mortar store. And each year, online shopping starts earlier and ends later.
As a result, Cyber Monday has become more than just Monday. It now starts at least the weekend before. The peak buying pattern seems to extend a full week.
As the business owner or marketer in a small business, you must get ready for Cyber Monday well in advance.
- Start planning for Cyber Monday in September. Some activities may require a month or two to ramp up and conclude. By working ahead you will avoid stress.
- What if it’s already November as you read this? Will you still have time to do some things? Yes, but you have to work extra fast. And you may have to put off big changes until next season.
How to Get Ready for Cyber Monday
Cyber Monday (or Cyber Week) represents a great opportunity. But with opportunity comes challenges. Is your website ready to handle the volumes? Have you taken the right marketing steps to maximize your traffic?
If your answer to either of these questions is not a confident and resounding ‘YES!’, perhaps these five tips can help. They will get you get ready for Cyber Monday.
1. Make sure customer data on your site is secure
Ensure your customers view you as an online vendor they can trust by making sure your site has an 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 company 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. A related option is trust seal protection. You can obtain a trust seal by subscribing to a security service such as Truste, SiteLock, or Norton Secured.
Visitors can also tell if a site has the SSL certificate by looking for a closed padlock icon in their browser’s status bar.
SSL is becoming near universal. These days Google designates sites without the SSL certificate as “not secure.” That “not secure” designation is not exactly confidence inspiring. Bottom line: make sure you have an SSL certificate.
2. Ensure potential visitors can find your site
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 in your site’s text. Keywords are relevant phrases that shoppers might search on to find what you sell. This can help your site appear higher among the search results.
However, search engine optimization takes time. It is not as easy as it may seem. So you may want to employ a service to help you get the best results.
Another option is purchasing advertisements that appear in the search engine results. Ads are marked with a little “Ad” icons. Google Ads and Bing Ads are two options.
If online ads seem like something you don’t have time to figure out or do, you can always hire a service to help you. Look for services that say they are Google Ads certified or Bing Ads certified partners. Often the service will have a partner badge on their website.
Aside from ads, be sure you are promoting your website whenever possible. Promote it in every flyer, sales receipt, email and even on your business card.
If you have a blog associated with your online store, there are a few things you can do to get ready for Cyber Monday:
- Add new blog content. Don’t be too salesy, but do include links occasionally to relevant product pages. For instance, if you sell crock pots, create some informative content around using crock pots. You might do a post about crock pot recipes. Or write about strategies for busy moms to save time using a crock pot. Then link to your product page(s) where visitors can buy a crock pot you mention specifically.
- Update older blog content. For instance, if you sell handmade yarn supplies, you may have a how-to post that does really well at attracting visitors who knit. Update it with current information. Make sure any links in it back to product pages are still good. If necessary, swap out links and point visitors to newer or in-stock products.
- Share these posts on social media. Share repeatedly. Don’t spam — but sharing once a week or every few days is fine, mixed in with other content. Sharing on social not only gets human visitors to your content, it encourages search engine spiders to take a(nother) look, too. Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook can be especially helpful for attracting humans or search spiders.
3. Be ready for a surge in traffic
Some would say a surge in traffic would be a good problem to have. A surge in traffic might mean going from 100 visitors a day to 1,000 visitors per day. After all, that could mean more shoppers and more buyers.
But what if such a surge occurred on your site on Cyber Monday? Could your hosting platform handle the increased traffic?
Or would potential customers be greeted with a browser error telling them your site is unavailable? Or would your site be so slow that customers just give up?
Some hosting platforms will automatically scale resources to accommodate a surge in traffic. But others will not, if you reach your plan limits.
To get ready for Cyber Monday, know what your hosting platform can handle. Understand contingency plans with your hosting provider just in case your site exceeds its limits this holiday season.
Do not make major site changes during the holiday season (or the period leading up to it). For instance, the holiday season or the month before, is:
- not the time to redesign your site;
- not the time to move to a new content management system;
- not the time to switch ecommerce platforms; and
- not the time to move to a new hosting provider.
No matter how well planned, major site changes often lead to unintended consequences. The consequences may not be apparent at first. Problems unfold days or weeks later.
You don’t want to be frantically cleaning up fallout in the midst of your big revenue season. Who needs that stress as you try to get ready for Cyber Monday?
4. Make it easy for customers to find what they want
One of the main 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. Make it obvious how to search your products.
Additionally, try to minimize the mouse clicks necessary to make a purchase. Make it easy on buyers.
Take the time to actually buy something on your own website. It’s surprising how few business owners do this. It’s essential to experience your site like a shopper.
- Check using a phone and also a computer. The experience may be radically different.
- Make a list of any instructions that are confusing; any unnecessary steps; hard-to-find buttons; payment screen errors.
- Check your return policy. Is it easy for shoppers to find? Is it easy to understand?
- What about your shipping rates? Are they simple for shoppers to understand? Are they competitive?
Seemingly small things can lead to abandoned shopping carts or low sales. Spot the issues — and fix them well before Cyber Monday.
Paying attention to all of these things will make the customer experience better. It also gives shoppers a reason to return to your site after the holidays, and tell their friends about you.
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 accept the kind of credit card or other option they prefer.
Additionally, accepting a wide range of payment options adds legitimacy and professionalism to your site. It inspires trust. It tells potential customers that you are an online vendor with whom they can confidently do business.
So there you have five tips to get ready for Cyber Monday as a small business.
Hit the email icon next to this article, and email a copy of it to yourself. Or print out a copy. Then you will have a Cyber Monday checklist to refer to as you prepare for this season — and next! Good luck.
More in: Holidays
Great advice. I order some books from a Swedish online store this morning. I will write a piece for the Open Forum in the near future and will give a historical background with the Thanksgiving holiday and explain why it is great to run a business in America.
That’s a great idea Martin – if you need any input on why it’s great – specially – to run an online business … just let me know!
Thanks. Please send me an email and we could discuss this topic. I couldn’t find your email on your site. Or is it “expert” @ your domain name?
Great suggestions that are all so very important to consider. I especially encourage accepting credit cards this time of year. I have had a lot of customers tell me that they don’t like using PayPal and prefer to pay me by credit card directly. I can’t say enough good things about ProPay for credit card sales.
These are some great tips for the businesses that hope to generate a large portion of their online sales this holiday season. It is a trend that is continuing to grow and the popularity of online shopping is definitely still on the rise.
I’m guilty! I’m a cyber shopper big time. Although for me, it won’t be Monday. Most likely, it’ll be over the weekend or possibly late Friday after everyone else is collapsing from being up at 2am camping out in front of Target or Walmart.
I love nothing more than sitting in the comfort of my own home, viewing thousands of choices. And with a few clicks of the mouse, my doorbell rings a few days later and voila! My Holiday shopping is over. No crowds, no parking lot wars, no bumper buggies – no stress, anger or anxiety. It’s fantastic and these are great tips for retailers. Follow them – and they will come 🙂
Ah, thanks for these timely reminders. I remember last year, there were a bunch of Cyber Monday posts — on Cyber Monday, which meant they were too late to be of any use. Thanks again 🙂
Nice post Wendy! In fact the folks over at the Network Solutions blog created a Black Friday deals widget.
Maybe online retailers selling on Black Friday and Cyber Monday can create a quick widget containing their best deals that can be placed in the right places on the web to drive more business.
Tip #2: Ensure potential visitors can find you — Important tip and the hardest thing.. 🙁
Arthur, there are a lot of SEO geeks out there where you can seek help. 😉
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