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Cyber Monday Survival Guide

Posted on 11.28.2013

The busiest shopping weekend of the year has finally arrived, which means that Internet retailers don’t have much time until their websites are flooded with Cyber Monday traffic.

Although preparations for this digital holiday should be well underway by now, there is still time for merchants to optimize both their sites and marketing strategies for better performance. So between restocking the virtual shelves and scheduling social posts this weekend, merchants should sit down with some leftover turkey to ensure that their digital enterprises are prepared for Cyber Monday and the rest of the holiday season. To save even more time, let these nine last-minute tips serve as your Cyber Monday survival guide.

1. Combat Downtime.

Although it might be a little late in the game to run robust load tests, merchants still have time to contact their hosting providers to take measures against downtime. Be sure your Web host knows you are expecting extra traffic, so you can stress less knowing you have adequate bandwidth to support it. While on the phone, also ask how to ensure your site’s performance all season long. 

2. Optimize Ad Campaigns.

Many consumers will turn to search engines this holiday season to find which retailers have the best deals and prices, and the e-commerce stores that turn up first in the search results are sure to outperform the competition. In order to take advantage of all of the search activity taking place on Cyber Monday, merchants must optimize the keywords for their ad campaigns. CEO of BrightEdge Jim Yu recommends that brands start by looking at last year’s data. By doing this, Yu says brands can identify popular queries from 2012's Cyber Monday and see what might also apply for this year’s holiday. In the end, merchants should use a combination of keywords from last year and new ones for this year’s campaigns, as well as track the performance of each to get a jump on 2014's holiday planning.

3. Show Off Sales.

Don’t make consumers search for your holiday deals. Instead, make sure that your best promotions (in a variety of price points) are highlighted on your homepage or on relevant landing pages. For example, if a shopper clicks through from a display ad promoting $299 iPads, they should be directed to a landing page with $299 iPads, or at the very least, the electronics section of your website. But, if they are sent to your site's homepage, highlighting holiday deals will ensure they find what they are looking for rather than ultimately becoming frustrated and leaving the site. Additionally, by offering complementary products on product pages, they may find a whole lot more than what they came to your site for originally. 

4. Collect Leads.

A recent Constant Contact study reveals that 52 percent of small businesses say that the new customers they obtain during the holidays actually end up becoming repeat, loyal customers in the long run. This, however, is not the case for retailers who don’t collect email addresses from their holiday customers. Even if you are offering Guest Checkout (which you should), you can still collect email addresses for future remarketing efforts. Silverpop offered a few ways to grow your database this holiday season with tips like implementing a "pop-over" asking for email addresses, sending a push message out to your app to have mobile users sign up for email, or cross-promote email sign-ups in your transactional messages. Whichever method you choose, remember that it is easier (and cheaper) to retain customers than to acquire new ones. 

5. Loosen Return Policy.

Not only are consumers more likely to make an online purchase when hassle-free returns are offered, but they are also likely to spend more money according to a recent Walker Sands study. In order to increase conversions on Cyber Monday and the rest of the holiday season, Internet retailers should consider offering hassle-free returns and promoting this fact on product pages and in the checkout.

6. Put an Emphasis on Security.

Hopefully you have already taken steps to ensure the security of your customers’ personal information this holiday season, but you also need to let them know this. By including security or trust symbols on your site, especially in the checkout, consumers will be more confident in their purchasing decisions. TRUSTe and Trustwave are two popular options. 

7. Analyze Site Navigation.

It is always a good idea to add holiday-specific content categories to your site around this time of year (e.g. “Gifts for Her”, “Stocking Stuffers” or “Gifts Under $25”), however, this can also throw a wrench in your site’s navigation. Make sure that customers can find what they are looking for by testing your site’s navigation and looking at internal search data. For example, if numerous customers are leaving the site after searching for the word "hat", there is likely an issue with your internal search results that needs to be addressed.

8. Test.

Although there is little time to conduct robust testing before Cyber Monday, brands can still implement simple and quick usability tests with sites like Fivesecondtest.com or UserTesting.com.

9. Leverage Social and Email.

There will be no better vehicle to drive traffic to your site on Monday than social media and email, so spend time getting the text and visual elements of your campaigns just right. That said, retailers might want to pay particularly close attention to Pinterest, as a recent Piqora study reveals that Pins generate 78 cents in sales on average. Moreover, most conversions driven by Pinterest occur on Mondays. This means that even if your brand has neglected having a Pinterest presence until now, there is no better time to start than this weekend. However, BrightEdge’s Yu recommends that merchants also stay mindful of how behaviors and preferences differ across social channels.

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