Jon Woodall, managing director at e-commerce agency, Space 48, offers his advice on how online retailers need to prepare to ensure their store can maximise the benefits that are headed their way on Cyber Monday
For those of you that are not aware, the busiest online shopping day of the year, ‘Cyber Monday’ is almost upon us (1 December 2014).
Although it originated in the US, and was initially dismissed in the UK as a marketing tactic for online retailers to cash in following Black Friday (a US phenomenon the Friday following Thanksgiving during which retailers offer huge discounts), Cyber Monday has firmly established itself as a landmark shopping day for e-sellers.
In fact, according to Experian, Cyber Monday in 2013 was the ‘single biggest retail day online that the UK has ever witnessed’, with online retail records being shattered as UK internet users made 115 million visits to retail sites, up two million from 2012.
Amazon UK also reported that Cyber Monday 2013 was its busiest ever shopping day in history, making an astounding 4.1m sales in total for the day. The internet retailer said orders came in at a rate of 47 items a second, peaking at 9.22 pm.
These kind of figures simply can’t be ignored. Cyber Monday looks like it is here to stay in the UK for the foreseeable future and online retailers simply cannot afford to dismiss it. You may not be raking in the figures that Amazon do but there is still a huge pool of keen online shoppers for you to dip into and attract to your store. So if your price is right, your store is ready and your processes are up to scratch, the opportunity to significantly increase your sales is vast.
As always with online shopping, the finer details make the biggest difference to your sales so here are just some of the considerations you need to start thinking about to ensure your store is ready for the demand and that Monday, 1 December 2014 will be your most profitable day of the year.
Plan your special offers
Hopefully this has already been done but if not, this should be an urgent priority and now is the time to start putting together your Cyber Monday deals. Take some time and talk to others in your team to make sure you come up with deals that will appeal to your customers. There’s not much point in offering a discount on last season’s stock if your competitors will be offering huge savings on the latest products. Once the deals have been decided, it’s time to create compelling campaigns to promote these deals. Think about whether you want to pre-advertise your offers. This is something that some larger US retailers do with great effect.
Check stock levels
Make sure all of your promotional items are in fully in stock. Seems pretty obvious doesn’t it? But it’s surprising how many retailers forget this simple task and get carried away with getting the bargains online as quickly as possible. There’s no point in having great offers if you can’t fulfil them and this will simply damage your brand reputation. Perhaps think about what messaging you are going to put in for out of stock items – can you facilitate pre-order?
Enhance customer shopping experience through design
Keep your web design simple and focus on showcasing your products and offers. Don’t clutter your website with unnecessary information. A good e-commerce site should be clean and coherent and should remain so on Cyber Monday, so don’t fall into the trap of cluttering your website with too much information. Also, make sure your best offers are highlighted on your home page and above the fold but perhaps try to make Cyber Monday feel special so maybe consider re-skinning it for the day.
Remember, your homepage is the front cover of your business, you don’t need to cram everything on there or try and say too much.
Can your servers handle the increased traffic?
Are your servers physically ready for the increase in demand? It’s likely that your website will see a huge rise in traffic, so start running tests now to check that your systems can cope. Online shoppers will quickly click away if they experience any issues at all with accessing your offers and there will be thousands of alternative sites ready and waiting with their offers ready to snap your frustrated customers up.
Update your PPC campaigns
It’s time to change your ad copy and put together new ads for the festive season anyway but think about doing Cyber Monday specific ad copy to attract those ‘Deal Junkies’ on the day.
When updating your ads, remember to change your landing pages to draw attention to any special offers you might be running and make your offers easy to find. This might mean you need to change or pause some ads but with the majority of traffic looking for deals and offers, now is the time to direct shoppers to your best deals.
The campaigns should be carefully monitored throughout the day to ensure that any budget caps are not preventing potential sales. You may find that a traditionally poor ad group suddenly starts to perform so be ready for this and be prepared to action changes as the day progresses.
Ensure your delivery service is up to standard
The majority of retailers will be offering next day or two day delivery times on Cyber Monday, so take a look at your own delivery lead times. Will your competitors out do you? If this is the case you could lose customers. Can you offer next day delivery? Depending on your shipping provider, you will likely need to contact them directly to find out if this is possible. If it’s not an option then could you offer free postage and packaging?
Be sure to present your customers with the best value as possible because that’s exactly what they’ll be looking for. Delivery times can make or break a sale so make sure you don’t miss out. Any offer, including click and collect, free or next day delivery is guaranteed to get shopper’s attention and it’s the small details like this that can make all the difference.
Be prepared for increased customer service support
With increased traffic and escalated sales there will inevitably be an increase in customer service requests not to mention increased pressure on pick, pack and despatch. Start planning an action plan for Cyber Monday and the following days. Ensure your most senior staff are all able to work and knowledge is up to speed. Your online reputation is built on customer service, and Cyber Monday is the worst day of the year to let standards slip. Be sure you and your team are ready.
Think about the marketing opportunity of the increased traffic
Think outside the box. This is a fantastic opportunity to make the most of increased traffic and build your database.
Be sure to include newsletter sign up call to action buttons around your site and promote future deals and sales you may be running clearly around the site. Provide these new customers with a quick and hassle free check out process. Be memorable to your customers by creating an innovative, but easy service that they will want to come back to.
And don’t forget about security – a customer makes a decision about your site within the first 30 seconds of viewing it. Displaying card icons and security certificates clearly in the footer will gain their trust.
Don’t forget about social media
A fantastic way of launching marketing campaigns is to utilise your social channels. Websites like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram are smart and savvy ways of reaching existing and new customers. Think about using these channels to build anticipation but remember that other retailers are doing this too so do not show your cards too soon. Your competitors will be doing the same and may tweak their offers having seen yours so there is a fine line to walk between going too early and too late. Be sure to make it easy for people to share your offers too by including social share buttons on your posts.