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For years Black Friday has been the biggest date on the retail calendar. But, in recent years a digital-equivalent has been challenging Black Friday for this top position – Cyber Monday. If you’re an eCommerce store Cyber Monday could be your biggest trading day of the year. You just need to make sure you’re ready for it. Keep reading to discover everything you need to do to get your eCommerce business ready for Cyber Monday. 

What is Cyber Monday? 

Let’s begin with a brief history lesson… The term Cyber Monday was first coined in 2005 to describe the Monday after Black Friday (the date falls between 26th November and 2nd December depending on the year). 

It arose as online retailers wanted a share of the Black Friday pie. Whereas Black Friday has traditionally been dominated by large chains etc, Cyber Monday has given smaller, online-only retailers an opportunity to compete and grab a share of this seasonal shopping spree.

Since 2005, Cyber Monday has grown massively, with 2020’s Cyber Monday being the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history with a total of $10.7 billion in online spending.

Why eCommerce stores should take Cyber Monday seriously

The past eighteen months have been tumultuous to say the least. With brick and mortar stores battered by Covid-19 restrictions, more and more consumers turned their attention online. 

With concerns still rife about Covid-19 variants, it seems likely that this year’s Cyber Monday will be the biggest ever as consumers choose to shop at home rather than on the high street.

Covid-19 aside, there are numerous other reasons why eCommerce stores should be doing all they can to prepare for Cyber Monday:

  • 89% of adults in the UK are aware of Cyber Monday.
  • During the peak hour of Cyber Monday 2020, 8pm to 9pm, the buying rate reached £8.5m per minute (via Statistica).
  • The average order value on Cyber Monday 2020 increased by 17% compared to the year before. 
  • In 2020 small eCommerce retailers saw a 501% increase in sales on Cyber Monday compared to the October daily average.

As these stats make clear, eCommerce stores have a lot to gain if they’re ready for Cyber Monday. 

So, what do they need to do to prepare? Let’s take a look.

How to get your eCommerce store ready for Cyber Monday

From marketing and promotion to planning inventory, arranging your distribution networks and more, we’ve set out the key actions that’ll supercharge your eCommerce store’s Cyber Monday performance below.

Determine what your promotions will be

First and foremost, you actually need to have enticing offers for potential and existing customers. 

You’ll be competing against hundreds, if not thousands, of similar competitors for those precious Cyber Monday pounds, so before you do anything else you should figure out what your Cyber Monday promotions are going to be. 

Are you going to offer a flat 15% off all products in your store? Will you be running buy one, get one free on selected product lines? Will you be offering certain products at cost price? 

Whatever you offer, make sure you’re offering something enticing, otherwise your Cyber Monday could quickly become a Blue Monday…

Begin your advertising early

If you want new and existing customers to know you’re going to have lots of great Cyber Monday deals, you need to tell them!

In advance of Cyber Monday you should start cranking up your marketing activity, using email campaigns, affiliates, paid ads and Google and Bing Shopping to begin driving visitors to your site. 

Set up tracking codes so you can measure the effectiveness of these advertising efforts. You’ll be able to see what actions customers take on your site and attribute revenue to specific advertising channels. 

By beginning your advertising early, you’ll also have an opportunity to conduct valuable Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) work. This will enable you to identify parts of your site that aren’t performing properly, or areas that are working well and can be replicated elsewhere.

Get your website ready

How to improve your website for Cyber Monday

This is a big one. For want of an actual shop window, your website is your public face during Cyber Monday, so you’ll want to make sure it offers a smooth, easy, compelling experience that encourages shoppers to click the buy button.

From the technical to the aesthetic, there are lots of things eCommerce retailers can do to improve their websites ahead of Cyber Monday. We’ve detailed some of the most important actions below. 

Ensure you have sufficient website infrastructure capacity

The last thing you want on Cyber Monday is for your website to crash. But that can happen if you don’t have sufficient website infrastructure capacity. This means you not only need to have enough server space to meet demand, but you need to ensure your website’s page loading times remain quick.

The consequences of insufficient website infrastructure capacity can be dramatic. Take for example U.S. retailer Nordstrom that saw an 11% drop in sales when their website’s page load time slowed by just half a second.

To make sure your website is fit for purpose, make sure you run load tests well in advance of Cyber Monday. Look at previous years’ traffic figures and make an educated guess as to this year’s figures. If you think you’ll be anywhere near your infrastructure’s limits, upgrade. The additional costs of an upgrade will be far outweighed by the losses you’ll incur if your website goes down on Cyber Monday.

Here’s an at a glance list of the essential website checks you should carry out before Cyber Monday:

  • Site speed.
  • Responsive design.
  • Load testing.
  • Checkout functionality.

Optimise your website for mobile devices

In 2019, mobile transactions on Cyber Monday reached $3 billion. It’s expected that this figure is going to increase, with mobile transactions accounting for a larger share of overall transactions.

You should ensure that navigation, mobile responsiveness and the buying process all work on mobile – if not, get them fixed fast!

Make sure your checkout process is barrier-free

One of the main reasons for abandoned or failed transactions are poor checkout processes.

You have to remember that Cyber Monday shoppers are fickle. Brand loyalty isn’t particularly important to them – especially when there are thousands of other eCommerce stores vying for their attention. 

If your checkout process is a pain, then customers will just give up and go elsewhere. They haven’t got the time or patience to input unnecessary details. 

Try streamlining your checkout process. Are you asking for too much information? Can you offer multiple payment options such as PayPal or Bitcoin?

The more you can do to make the checkout process barrier-free, the more transactions you’ll convert.

Simulate the in-store experience

There’s one barrier that you can’t avoid when it comes to online shopping – the screen.

In a brick and mortar store, shoppers can see products close up. They can touch them. They can see how they compare to other items. 

These are all things that are much harder (or impossible) to replicate online.

But, you should try. 

Where possible, you should let customers feel like they’re having an immersive shopping experience. Here are some things you can do to bring your online shopping experience to life:

  • Include photos and videos of your products in different scenarios. Don’t just include a photo of your product on a plain white background, try putting it into relevant contexts.
  • Build an FAQ page. Some shoppers don’t want the hassle of speaking to a customer service representative and would rather read an answer. So, include an FAQ page on your website.
  • Use a live chat box. Some shoppers prefer to have a text chat to get the answers they need. Chat boxes are now an almost expected part of the online shopping experience, so if you haven’t already got a live chat box on your site, consider installing one.
  • Make your site interactive. The more fun and engagement you can create, the more likely someone will stay on your site (and hopefully) make a purchase. Elements such as polls, quizzes, coupon spin wheels all work well.
  • Write great product descriptions. Product descriptions don’t have to be boring lists of specifications. Make them fun, personable and interesting to read and you’ll find that your sales will increase. There’s a reason copywriting was the original advertising profession!
  • Recommend products. This is particularly important for shoppers who have landed on your site for the first time. They may not know your full range of products, so be sure to recommend other related products on your product pages.
  • Compare products. This can be difficult to get right, but it’s worth the effort. In a physical shop, consumers can quickly and easily compare products. If you’re able to do this on your site, then you’ll increase the likelihood of a conversion.
  • Send your customer something straight away. When a consumer buys a product in a shop, they get the instant gratification of being able to take their new purchase home immediately. You can try and replicate that sense of instant gratification by sending them something as soon as they’ve made a purchase. It could be a voucher, a small PDF of recipes or even a music track. 

Make your website more ‘shoppable’ and you’ll benefit on Cyber Monday. 

Improving your checkout process will reap dividends on Cyber Monday

Communicate with customers

If there’s one thing that’ll lose you customers, it’s poor communication. 

Throughout the Cyber Monday buying journey (pre, during and post purchase) you should communicate clearly and consistently. 

Pre-purchase, you should be including detailed, clear descriptions on your product pages. Include sizing guides, details about materials, construction, and anything else that will help set shoppers’ expectations.

For example, if you have a 2-3 day delivery time for a popular product, say so. And say it clearly! That way you’ll secure purchases from people who are happy to wait for the specified delivery period.

Post-purchase, you should be communicating regularly, providing regular email updates on the progress of their order, and notifying them of any potential delays. 

If there’s one rule you should stick to when it comes to customer comms – you should always contact the customer before they have to contact you. If they’re ringing up asking where their order is, they’re already unhappy with you!

Aim to retain your customers and maximise value

Cyber Monday will almost certainly be your busiest day of the year. Therefore you should aim to get as much value out of it as possible. 

There are several ways of squeezing value out of Cyber Monday. 

Firstly, it’ll be a day where potentially thousands of people will be buying from you for the first time. If you can retain even a small percentage of these new customers, you’ll be looking at higher revenues in the year ahead. 

You can increase customer retention by adopting the following tactics:

  • Encourage first time customers to sign up to your email list by offering an exclusive discount.
  • Encourage customers to sign up to a loyalty scheme, making it more likely they’ll make return purchases. 
  • Make your customer service as good as possible Set KPIs for your team to answer customer enquiries as quickly as possible. Incentivise your staff to go above and beyond in serving customers.
  • Assess your returns policy. If you make it straightforward to return a product, the more likely customers will be to buy from you again.

As well as improving customer retention, you can get more value from Cyber Monday by making a concerted effort to increase Average Order Value (AOV). 

Think of it this way. If you’re only going to be seeing such a large volume of traffic once a year, you should make every order during that period as valuable as possible. 

You can increase the average order value of your customer’s orders by doing the following things: 

  • Offer free shipping at a certain threshold. Whilst free shipping has a cost for you, the vendor, it has become an expectation amongst holiday shoppers. However, you can make free shipping work for you and increase average order values by only offering it once a specific order amount is reached. Do your sums correctly and you can make free shipping (almost) pay for itself and increase average order value. 
  • Offer a free gift at a certain threshold. Another way of increasing average order value is to offer a free gift once a specific order amount is reached. This not only has the bonus of increasing your revenue, but you can use it as an opportunity to move slow moving items (however, the free gift does actually have to be worthwhile.You can’t just offer anything as a free gift and expect it to increase order values!).

Ensure your inventory, fulfilment and shipping are prepared

Getting customers to place an order is only half the work. A major part of Cyber Monday readiness involves getting your inventory, fulfilment and shipping prepared to deal with a large volume of orders. 

We’ve taken a look at what you can do to prepare across inventory, fulfilment and shipping below. 

Does your eCommerce store have enough shipping capacity for Cyber Monday?

Inventory

You should begin by ensuring you actually have enough inventory to fulfil your anticipated sales. Conduct an analysis of last year’s sales figures and inventory. Did you have enough of each product line? Did you rapidly sell out of certain verticals? Apply the lessons you learnt last year to this year’s inventory planning. 

You’ll also want to make sure that inventory is properly set up on your website. Do product pages say you’ve got certain sizes in stock when you haven’t? Then sort it! 

Checking your site’s inventory against your actual inventory can be a tedious process, but it’s absolutely essential to ensure you get the most out of Cyber Monday and don’t leave customers disappointed. 

If you expect certain products to sell out, set up a waitlist option on your website so customers will receive an email notification when their selected items are back in stock. This will also help you generate additional revenue after Cyber Monday. 

Fulfilment

Is your fulfilment team (or fulfilment partner) ready to deal with a deluge of Cyber Monday orders? 

Ensuring you have sufficient warehousing space for inventory and enough staff or temporary staff to deal with quality assessment, picking and packing are just a few of the things you’ll need to do ahead of the big day. 

If you expect a significantly larger volume of orders than you’re used to, then it can be a good idea to partner with a 3PL that’ll be able to take this burden off your hands. 

Shipping 

Cyber Monday is not only one of the biggest days of the year for the eCommerce industry. It’s one of the biggest days of the year for shipping companies too. 

So, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got all of your shipping arrangements sorted way in advance of Cyber Monday. If you suddenly find you don’t have sufficient shipping capacity for all of the orders you’ve received, then you’ll either have to pay exorbitant rates to secure the services of a shipping company at the last minute, or you’ll have to refund those orders. Neither of which is particularly appealing. 

As with fulfilment, if you’re not used to dealing with a large amount of shipping, then it can be much easier (and affordable) to partner with a 3PL that will be able to take care of the end-to-end inventory management, fulfilment and shipping process on your behalf.

Partner with 3PL for this year’s Cyber Monday

If you want to get the most out of this year’s Cyber Monday, then partner with 3PL. 

As you’ll have discovered in this article, there are myriad things that you need to do to maximise the value you get out of your busiest shopping day. 

So, why not leave the inventory management, fulfilment and shipping to the professionals? That way, you can concentrate on everything that needs doing such as promotion building, website optimisation and customer service improvements. 

Luckily, you’re on the page of just those fulfilment professionals – 3PL. 

3PL makes ship happen. We offer multichannel order fulfilment and logistics for aspiring retail brands. By insourcing your physical operations to 3PL you’ll generate more time to focus on your core business activities, streamline your operations and extend your customer reach.

Talk to 3PL today to find out how you can make this year’s Cyber Monday your most profitable ever

Find more eCommerce advice on the 3PL blog

How to Pick the Best Shipping Company for Your eCommerce Store | How to Get Your eCommerce Store Ready For the Peak Selling Season | Why International Shipping Rates Are so High and What This Means for eCommerce Stores

Barry Ryan

Barry Ryan is Marketing Manager at 3PL. He researches and writes everything you need to know about eCommerce fulfilment and logistics.