Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the US, is consistently that country’s busiest in-store shopping day. The following Monday, aka Cyber Monday, which began life as an online equivalent of Black Friday, has in recent years extended beyond the US to become a global phenomenon. Since 2010, e-commerce sales on Cyber Monday have risen between 16 and 22 percent each year in the US and it has become one of the busiest online shopping days in much of Europe and the world, second only to Singles’ Day, celebrated primarily in China on November 11th.
Singles’ Day began as an alternative to Valentine’s Day in China and e-commerce giant Alibaba began leveraging it in marketing materials in 2009. In 2013, the holiday surpassed Cyber Monday as the world’s busiest online shopping day and this year, Alibaba alone recorded over $9 billion in sales on Singles’ Day.
You’re not likely to compete with those sales, but there’s a lot you can get out of Cyber Monday, both in the form of sales and in attracting new customers. However, an “if you build it they will come” attitude is not going to be enough to secure a lucrative flow of customers to your web store. In 2014, Cyber Monday falls on December 1st, and if you want your business to make the most of that day, there are a few things you should do to prepare.
Prepare your Marketing
On Cyber Monday 2013, more than 4.1 million items were purchased through Amazon in the UK alone. But Amazon is a household name, almost as well-known as the concept of online shopping. On top of that, Cyber Monday is known as a day of deals, when web stores offer their biggest sales of the year. This is all to say the competition is stiff, and if you want people to visit you online, you need to give them a good reason.
- Awareness: The public needs to know what you’re offering. Spread the word using social media, email marketing campaigns, banner ads on your website, advertising on sites such as Groupon, search engine marketing (SEM), etc.
- Appearance: Customised landing pages and backgrounds leading up to Cyber Monday can get your visitors excited about the prospect of taking advantage of sales. Associate your website with Cyber Monday so that when your customers think of savings, they’ll think of you.
- Timing: Building up the anticipation among your customer base is a great way to ensure their patronage when the deals drop, but if you do this too early you could disrupt your current sales by encouraging visitors to hold off on purchases until Cyber Monday. Tease your deals early, rather than announcing them outright, with hints like “Sign up for our email list to be the first to hear about our Cyber Monday plans.”
- Repeating: Chances are you’ll be receiving a lot of new traffic, so encourage visitors to sign up on your homepage as well as during the checkout process. Make a note of all customers, both new and existing, who made purchases on Cyber Monday so that next year you can target those customers directly.
- Maintenance: This one is often overlooked even though it’s one of the most important things to be aware of on Cyber Monday: can your website handle the traffic? If your website crashes because too many people are trying to shop, you can be sure that many of those people won’t come back. Check on your bandwidth capacity and the traffic you’ve had in the past and make sure your web host has more than enough headroom to handle the mad rush. You can make more new customers on Cyber Monday than any other day of the year, but if you’re not ready for it you could find yourself losing customers.
Prepare your Security
As ever, there is a dark side to one of the busiest online shopping days of the year. With the amount of money that will be flowing through the e-commerce industry on Cyber Monday, there will be no small amount of hackers trying to take some of it for themselves. The promise of deals and the charm of holiday greetings are often used to disguise malware and many of your visitors could already be infected, so you need to make sure your website is fully prepared to sustain any potential attacks.
- Firewalls: Security experts are always trying to find new vulnerabilities before the hackers do, and each time they get more sophisticated so do the hackers. Regardless of the size of your business, firewalls are only as strong as they are up-to-date, so make sure to have the latest rules and restrictions installed.
- Patches: To circumvent firewalls, many attacks can happen through legitimate applications installed by your business. Firewalls view these programs as trustworthy, but if the program itself is vulnerable, hackers and malware can get into your network using that hole in your security chain. Before the highly vulnerable shopping season begins, make sure all of your applications are updated with the latest patches from the manufacturers.
- Traffic: It may seem like a big job, but monitoring the traffic on your website is more important on Cyber Monday than any other day. Cybercriminals attempting to make fraudulent transactions are counting on going unnoticed due to the heavy traffic. Make sure to have enough staff on hand to address any red flags in your system in a timely manner.
- Communication: Social media is not just for marketing. Make sure you have enough staff on hand on Cyber Monday to monitor and engage in social media channels and respond through your customer service channels so that you can be the first to know if any shoppers are experiencing any bugs in your system or if any fraudsters or phishing sites are trying to take advantage of your customers.
- Maintenance: We’re going to repeat ourselves and say once again that it’s absolutely vital to have the necessary bandwidth capacity to handle the spike in traffic on Cyber Monday. If you’re unprepared, the heavy load can cause some features to malfunction and open up vulnerabilities that hackers can use to launch an attack. Contact your web host to make sure you have the headroom to run smoothly even if your wildest sales predictions come true.
For more information about preparing for Cyber Monday, check out this handy infographic and visit the DalPay Blog regularly for more tips about online security and how to get the most out of your web store.