As Cyber Monday (December 2) quickly approaches, it's important to ensure your website is ready for the expected uptick in online sales. Since its inception in 2005, this online retail event has become one of the biggest shopping days of the year.
According to a 2018 Adobe Analytics report, Cyber Monday 2018 broke online sales records by hitting $7.9 billion, making it the largest online shopping day of all time in the U.S. Online retailer Amazon announced that Cyber Monday 2018 was the single biggest shopping day in the company's history. More products were ordered throughout the world than any other day.
"Cyber Monday can represent an enormous retail opportunity for businesses," says Jacques Spitzer, CEO of Raindrop Branding & Advertising and author of People Love Turkey Sandwiches. "When people are in the mindset to buy, they will buy for loved ones and for themselves."
If your company has attained significant search-engine visibility with healthy SEO practices, "you can expect a large influx of visitors on Cyber Monday," says Chris Rodgers, CEO and founder of Colorado SEO Pros, a boutique SEO agency.
When it comes to optimizing your website for Cyber Monday online sales, there are several goals to keep in mind. These include ensuring convenience, speed and accuracy. The following tips will help you prepare your website for Cyber Monday.
1. Build a solid website infrastructure.
"Consumers are driven by saving money on Cyber Monday, so they become impatient and are likely to jump to a different site if yours feels slow or doesn't work well," says Yoni Leidersdorf, CEO and founder of Indeni, a security infrastructure automation company. "Shoppers want a quick and smooth experience finding items, adding them to the cart and checking out."
CLEARstem Skincare prepares for the influx of online shoppers on Cyber Monday by checking with their tech team.
"We make sure our hosting server can support the influx of users on our website without losing any speed or crashing," says the company's co-founder and COO, Kayleigh Clark.
"The waves of people visiting your business's website on Cyber Monday can be overwhelming," says Nehal Zaveri, CEO of Diamond Wish, an engagement ring and diamond online retailer. "To ensure your site can handle the volume of visitors, it's a good idea to contact your host. The company should be able to tell you your limits and help you increase those limits, if necessary."
Additionally, ensure that your website has other ways to connect to the internet, advises Stephanie Benoit-Kurtz, lead cybersecurity faculty at the University of Phoenix College of Business and Information Technology, Las Vegas Campus and the director of cybersecurity for Station Casinos in Las Vegas.
"Internet service providers will all say that they NEVER go down," says Benoit-Kurtz. "As a retail site on the biggest shopping day of the year, are you willing to bet your revenue on a promise that ISPs are unable to completely control?"
"[Have] backup servers on standby," says Alan Carver, CEO of Dechoker, a choking first-aid device. "This is one of the best ways to maintain website functionality."
Preparing for the boost in traffic from Black Friday / Cyber Monday also requires that you check with your vendors, adds Apu Gupta, CEO of Curalate, a social commerce company that turns any image or video into a storefront.
"Make sure your technology partners are prepared for the traffic spikes," Gupta advises.
"For search to be effective on your website," she says, "landing pages need to be as specific as you can get them to match the potential keywords someone may be typing."
2. Ensure cybersecurity.
The holidays are a busy time for consumers, so having your website run efficiently on mobile is vital.
—Ronen Luzon, CEO, MySize
"Cyber Monday presents vast opportunities for cybercriminals to steal information through spoofed websites, malicious coupon code links and phishy marketing campaigns," says Becenti. "If online retailers don't take the proper precautions to secure their websites, they run the risk of downtime and consumer data breaches."
"It's also a good idea to implement a web application firewall (WAF) that includes a content delivery network (CDN) to avoid any downtime associated with a higher threshold of traffic," says Benoit-Kurtz. "As website traffic spikes, a firewall with a CDN distributes traffic to other data centers, preventing server overload, website disruption and decreases page load time."
Another precaution to take: Ensure that your website has an SSL certificate installed.
"SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a technology that encrypts communications between the site visitor and the server to protect him or her from hackers that may be eavesdropping," says Pete Paslis, a search engine marketing strategist and founder of UP Here Digital Marketing.
"Although it does not fully protect websites from hackers, it can be the first layer of defense in many phishing or malware attempts. Also, protect your website's contact forms by installing a Captcha," says Paslis.
3. Check for convenience and ease of use.
Making product in-store pickup and returns easy is also a part of getting your site ready for Cyber Monday.
"Our data found that six in 10 Generation Z shoppers factor in buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) when shopping online," says Georgianna W. Oliver, founder of Package Concierge, an automated package management company. "Also ensure that exchanges are easy. Make it easy for shoppers who purchase online to exchange in-store."
It's also important that there is inventory and stock accuracy, notes Rob Shaw, SVP sales and managing director at Fluent Commerce, a cloud-based technology company for omnichannel retailers.
"It's a good idea to ensure that online sales can also be fulfilled from stores if the warehouse runs out of stock—or even if the store is closer to the customer than the warehouse. Doing this will help ensure that no online sales are missed on days like Cyber Monday," says Shaw.
To have successful Cyber Monday sales, it's important that your website is optimized for mobile.
"The holidays are a busy time for consumers, so having your website run efficiently on mobile is vital," says Ronen Luzon, CEO of MySize, which assists clothing buyers with determining their correct sizes.
"Focus on ease of use when preparing your website for Cyber Monday," says Jim Vernon, CEO of RockHer, an online jewelry company. "Ease of use starts with navigation simplification. You want easy-to-understand menu options so that users don't get lost or frustrated. You'd be surprised how many visitors will leave your site simply because they couldn't easily find something."
4. Perform website testing.
Rather than assume the preparation you've done on your website is working, perform various tests prior to Cyber Monday, such as the following.
Check load times and capacities.
"The factor we concern ourselves most with is load capacity," says Blake Fontana, marketing director for Frank Jewelers. "The amount of visitors on the site could be incredible, so the site needs to be ready, which is the reason it's vital to test the server's load capacity."
Audit your website load speed and hosting bandwidth.
"Your Cyber Monday website visitors will likely be in a hurry," says Paslis. “Don't allow your website to be sluggish, time-out or crash during this peak traffic season, as this will almost certainly impact your conversion rate."
Test browsers in real time.
"Using homegrown browser emulators is not the same as using real browsers at scale for load tests," says Mary Nguyen, load testing specialist at SmartBear, which offers software testing products and solutions.
"When you test with real browsers, you're creating the most realistic and accurate representation of load on the infrastructure supporting the web application under test," says Nguyen. "As a result, you're actually testing how your users are really experiencing your web app. This makes it easier to anticipate issues and resolve them."
Test crawl your website.
"Use a site crawl testing tool to identify broken internal pages, missing, duplicate or poorly optimized meta data and HTTP status codes of every page on your site," says Paslis. "These site crawl tools simulate search engine spiders that crawl and save webpages in the search engine's index, such as Googlebot and Bingbot. They provide detailed technical insights into a website's SEO strategy, URL structure and internal linking hierarchy."
Check calls to action (CTAs).
"The bottom line for nearly every website is to convert a visitor into a customer. Testing your website's calls to action regularly is a task that is catalytic in preventing loss of leads," says Paslis.
"This is especially true during peak traffic seasons like Cyber Monday," he continues. "Test your call tracking numbers and ensure they're assigned to the correct campaign and termination number. In addition, test your website's contact forms and make sure they forward to the appropriate email recipient."
Try the payment processing system.
"Ensure that your payment processing system works," says Rodion Yeroshek, CEO of Poster, a cloud-based POS solution. “People will become offended if their card doesn't work, and the last thing you want to do is offend customers."
Have a minimum advertised price (MAP) policy in place.
"Keeping tabs on how much your products are being sold for is an essential part of any e-commerce plan," says Sean Reiter, vice-president of marketing for PriceSpider, an online sales conversion platform. "Be ready to monitor and enforce the policy, so you can catch price violations and mitigate price gouging."
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