Cyber Monday Prep: 10 Tips for Greater Sales

Put down the turkey sandwich and place the pumpkin pie back in the refrigerator. It's time to make sure your website is ready for the biggest online retail day of the year - Cyber Monday.

According to comScore, the 2010 holiday shopping season is going to be a good one. They found that for the first 21 days of the November - December 2010 shopping season, more than $9 billion has been spent online, a 13 percent increase over last year. That's great news. But it will mean nothing if you're not prepared for the windfall.

Testing will go a long way toward finding areas of your website that might need fixing, or snags in the transaction process. Below are 10 areas to test or double-check, to make sure you get your piece of the virtual holiday shopping pie.

  1. Ad campaigns. Take a spin through all of your ad campaigns on every channel. Make sure they are all up-to-date with your latest promotions, that they reflect the latest in your holiday keyword research and that they are targeted to the right people.

  2. Landing pages. In the frenzy of Cyber Monday, consumers will not have time to click everywhere on your site. You need to be ready to show them what they want. Make sure all landing pages are linked to the proper channel - an advertisement, search result, Facebook post, email, etc. If one of your ads promises free shipping, repeat that offer on the landing page immediately. If an email is promoting a watch, make sure the link is not pointed to a product page for a bracelet. Of course, make sure the "add to cart" and "checkout" buttons are prominent.

  3. Shipping information. Consumers love free shipping, as well as free return shipping. However, it is not a necessity. Just make sure that your shipping information is readily available and easy to understand. Shipping charges should be included in the price before final checkout. If you do offer free or discounted shipping, make sure the offer is highly visible.

  4. Return policies. Return policies are important, especially now while there is still time to receive an item then return it. Returns are of particular interest to a consumer when they pay for shipping - free return shipping is a major benefit so be sure to promote it. Make sure your return policy is available (linked with your shipping policies is ideal) and detailed.

  5. Contact information. Are you available by phone? That's a big advantage for an online retailer, so let people know. Live chat has gained in popularity so if you have this feature, make sure it is promoted on every page of your site. If you can keep a consumer on-site when they have a question, you're way ahead of the game. Otherwise, offer at least an email address and be sure to inform the consumer when they can expect a response - of course, the sooner the better.

  6. Discount codes. People shop online because they expect discounts. If you have them they must be highly visible. Also, make sure all discount codes are active and properly attributed to each product, your analytics and any affiliate promotions. Be very sure you can deliver on the promise of the discount - rates and inventory included - before releasing them to any social environment where they might go viral.

  7. Affiliates are up-to-date. Make sure that all of your affiliates are aware of current promotions and that they have all the latest and necessary creatives, codes, links, etc. This is an excellent time to offer your best affiliates a little extra incentive in the form of temporary increased payouts.

  8. Social media campaigns are ready. This could shape up to be the biggest social shopping season to date. Make sure social campaigns are active and that your social accounts are being monitored. Consumers will be using social channels to communicate with retailers this year, as well as with each other. Monitor your brand, industry and competitors.

  9. Your shopping cart. What good is all this prep work if the consumer can't make a purchase? Don't make the cardinal sin of using a busted shopping cart. Make a few purchases using varied methods of payment.

  10. Email. Make sure your email systems are running properly and that the messaging is optimized. For example, a consumer should receive an email immediately after purchase; thanking them for their business, offering contact information for any questions, presenting a cross-sell or up-sell opportunity, or the option of signing up for an email newsletter, preferred customer club, etc.

BONUS: This is an excellent time to make sure your host is ready for any spikes in traffic. Reach out and get a little peace of mind with assurances that load testing has been completed recently.

Once you have made a few sweeps of your website ask friends, family, employees and coworkers to search for your products or website and go through the steps to make a purchase. Send a promotional email to a few of these people and watch as they act on your call-to-action. If you can find people who are not familiar with your website, that's ideal. The closer you can get to a new customer, the better.