How To Prepare Your Small Business For Cyber Monday

Cheerful young woman wearing Santa's hat is buying Christmas presents online.

Somewhere between back to school and Halloween, it begins. It may only be a store or two at first, but before all the treats are handed out and the ghosts and goblins are stored away, it’s an epidemic. Department stores everywhere are donned in Christmas décor and the season is in full swing. Too early to deck the halls? It depends. If it’s just decorating, yes, it’s too early. Decorations and the sale of wrapping paper can wait. But if decking the halls means preparing your e-Commerce business for the upcoming peak season, it’s almost too late.

In fact, e-Commerce shops should start preparing during the summer months to ensure online sales put your small business in the black that Monday after Thanksgiving. Known as Cyber Monday since 2005, online sales have more than tripled since 2009. In 2014, Cyber Monday sales topped out at $2.5 billion. To get in on some of this action, it is imperative to plan early. Haven’t started yet? Take a deep breath and use your time wisely to position your small business for success.

WHAT TO DO FIRST

Determine what you want to promote. What products do you want to feature and move off your shelves? Meet with your staff and decide not only what products, but also what price points and offers you want to extend to customers. Cyber Monday is all about deals, so it is important to offer customers some sort of sale promotion. According to the U.S. Economy, nearly 90 percent of retailers offer Cyber Monday sales, while 50 percent offer coupons or percentage off deals. More than one-third of retailers have limited time only promotions and 15 percent offer a gift with purchase. Free shipping is offered by half of all retailers and some 36 percent of online shoppers said they would purchase more with a free shipping offer.

TRACK YOUR INVENTORY

Once you decide what you will be offering and how, you must make sure you can support the offer. Holiday sales can clear your shelves quickly, so it is important to track sales and inventory to project quantities needed. To track, look at the previous year’s sales to provide a benchmark for the upcoming season. There’s nothing worse than extending an offer you can’t fill and sending a message to customers telling them their item will arrive after Dec. 25 is not acceptable and it will cost you.


Related Article: BLACK FRIDAY: PREPARING AND MAINTAINING INVENTORY FOR THE RUSH

In 2011, Best Buy offered several Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals but failed to stock the proper amount of inventory to support orders. To make matters worse, they didn’t alert consumers until the week before Christmas that orders could not be filled in time for the holiday. Further, PriceWaterhouseCopper sites that the biggest problem retailers faced during the 2012 holiday season was their mismanagement of inventory tracking.

According to the 2016 State of Small Business Report, 48 percent of small businesses don’t track their inventory and 43 percent of small business owners in the U.S. still track inventory with the pen and paper approach.  These two business practices open your small business up to human error and lost revenue. In fact, the lack of tracking inventory or tracking incorrectly is one of the top reasons small businesses fail. The best inventory management system will vary by business needs, but is imperative to success.

Utilizing data from inventory tracking allows you to estimate holiday inventory and be prepared for the season. Once that is completed, stock up. And do so with the knowledge that you are prepared for the holiday rush, most importantly the Cyber Monday rush.

Woman shops online

PREPARE YOUR WEBSITE

So you know what you are offering customers and how to keep track of it all and you lure folks to your website and it crashes because of the influx of traffic. Not what you had planned? Wait, you didn’t prepare your website? Now is the time. First, design an easy-to-use website with a simple and fast navigation system with clear access to customer support. User friendly websites ensure a painless experience and retain customers long after Cyber Monday has ended. Secondly, enlist the assistance of an IT specialist to structure your website so it has a scale-out, fault-tolerant database with increased bandwidth, which has the ability to grow and accommodate traffic and online transaction volumes. It will ensure that your e-commerce site can handle any amount of traffic in almost any situation. Then, as odd as it sounds, spend time trying to break the system. Assume the position of an online customer on your own website and order 1,000 of one item. In other words, test it out. Next, make sure you have a mobile version of your e-commerce site. By not offering a mobile-friendly site, you could lose out on large amounts of revenue, as some 25 million online shoppers did their 2014 Cyber  Monday shopping via their mobile device.

PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE

With all of the ground work complete, there is one major component still on the to-do list. You need to let people know of your Cyber Monday deals. There are many ways to do this, but since 75 percent of retailers promote their Cyber Monday sales via Facebook and more than 40 percent promote on Twitter, the use of social media is imperative. Develop a list of what you want to post to Facebook and schedule posts on a weekly basis by either using the Facebook algorithm or an outside scheduling application such as Buffer or HootSuite. Do the same with Twitter and any other social media you prefer. Posting several times a week increases the number of impressions and as a result, engagements. Your dashboard will help guide you as far as the number of times per week your industry should post, but nevertheless, leading up to and during Cyber Monday, more is better.
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Photos are a must. Showcase what you are selling by posting pictures of the retail items. A recent 2014 study by eMarketer, revealed that photos are the most engaging type of Facebook post with 87 percent interaction via post sharing. The same goes for Twitter in that tweets with picture URL’s are 35 percent more likely to get retweeted.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

The plan is in place, but make sure everyone on staff knows about it, as well as their role for Cyber Monday. Develop a checklist and meet with your employees before and during the big day to ward off any potential disaster. After Cyber Monday is one for the books, meet with your staff once again to discuss both the successes and anything you would do differently for the following year. And with the holiday season just kicking off, continue to operate in Cyber Monday mode to increase online shopping revenue.

 

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Brian Sutter

Brian Sutter

Director of Marketing at Wasp Barcode
Brian Sutter is the Director of Marketing at Wasp, responsible for the development and execution of the company’s marketing strategy. His role encompasses brand management, direct and channel marketing, public relations, advertising, and social media. He also writes and speaks on topics related to helping small business owners grow their business and improve operational efficiency.
Brian Sutter
Brian Sutter