What are eCommerce professionals thankful for? Easy – the huge spike in sales from the Thanksgiving Day weekend.

The Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend has now become such a firmly ingrained tradition as the Thanksgiving holiday it trails behind. Families make plans and get together, each with their own specific rituals and ways of bonding — except instead of cooking together or watching football, these rituals involve going to certain shops and chasing sales together.

But lately these traditions are shifting more towards the digital marketplace than the brick-and-mortar one. Statistical analysis reveals a decrease in in-store sales and an increase in online sales — and that’s just on Black Friday.

Cyber Monday itself is picking up sales steam in a big way. Last year, Cyber Monday breached US$3 billion total in digital sales, setting a new record and putting their annual gain between 12 and 21%, depending on the source. Add that to the online sales of Black Friday, US$2.74 billion, and you can see how eCommerce is making a play to control the heaviest shopping period of the year.

Notice that it’s a shopping period, because that’s how online retailers need to think of “Cyber Monday.” It’s no longer just a day, it’s almost an entire week. Cyber Monday is the pinnacle of online sales, with Black Friday coming in second.

But don’t forget that Thanksgiving itself is also a popular shopping day — even better for eCommerce since brick-and-mortar stores are starting to close their doors out of respect to the holiday. And then there’s “Bounceback Tuesday,” following Cyber Monday, where stores saw an average of 159% more sales than an average day (2014). Some sporting goods stores even saw better online performance on Bounceback Tuesday than Black Friday.

The data doesn’t lie. Retailers in all mediums are waiting in anticipation for the holiday weekend of November 24 – 29, 2016.

There’s no point arguing the importance of the weekend. The real question is… Is your eCommerce store ready for Cyber Monday?

Below are our 8 secrets for making sure you hit the Cyber Monday weekend hard. After all, the holidays come but once a year.

1. Create a Plan

First things first, you need a plan. Before you get started on the rest of the tips on this list, you need to solidify the essentials of your strategy. This requires conclusive answers for:

  • What kind of deals are you running? — percentage of sales, length of time, shipping bonuses, free gifts, competitions, etc.
  • Which products are you featuring? — your main sellers that will take center stage on your holiday campaign
  • What outreach channels work best? — you have extra information to communicate to your shoppers, so what’s the best way to reach them? Email, social media, your blog?
  • Shipping logistics — iron out any wrinkles in your shipping system now, before they become problems

Once you figure those issues out, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get into the dirty work.

2. Go Back in Time to Make Your Site Perfect

One of the advantages of Cyber Monday is that it gives you incentive to do all the upgrades you should have done already. Consider it the fire under your butt to get your backlog of work done.

If you have any outstanding upgrades or revisions, do them now. Fix those product page typos, hire that graphic designer for your new logo, and update your staff page. This is your big night, and you need to look your best.

Veteran digital marketer Alyssa Hanson suggests this is a good time to conduct an SEO audit for your entire site. Have the team go through page-by-page to uncover opportunities for SEO improvements. The sooner the better, as search engines need time to index these changes.

3. Optimize Loading Times

Optimizing loading times is one way to perfect your existing site, but it’s so important it deserves its own individual mention. Even if your site is already perfect, a little extra effort for reducing loading times might be worth it to compensate for the increase in traffic.

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While HD visuals are always recommended for eCommerce, too many of them weigh down loading times, especially videos and animations. Rather than sacrificing quality, you can:

  • Get rid of unnecessary visuals. Not every page element needs a data-heavy visuals. For example, a photo accompaniment in your customer service tag or animated flourishes that add no value to the interface can be cut… at least for this weekend.
  • Turn off auto-play videos. Videos are effective selling points, but they don’t need to drag loading times if they’re not even being watched. If the shopper is interested, they’ll click the video.
  • Employ a Content Delivery Network. A CDN caches your images for faster uploads, with proxy servers in locations around the world. For more information, read this article by digital marketer Brian Jackson.

Loading times should be a top priority considering how mobile online shopping is on the rise — especially during the Cyber Monday weekend.

4. Stock up on Inventory

Nothing kills a sale faster than “Out of Stock.” Depleted inventories reach record highs during Cyber Monday weekend, a natural result of a sudden sales spike. In fact, in 2015, 13% of product views showed an out-of-stock message, twice the normal rate.

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Luckily, this can be handled with a little foresight. Since you already know which products you’ll be advertising most, you can plan ahead to make sure you have enough. Check with past figures to generate a realistic projection of what to expect.

5. Start Content Marketing Yesterday

Your grand Cyber Monday campaigns won’t do any good hidden in your notebooks and project management app. You need to share it with your customers, and you need to do it now.

The buzz and anticipation you build around your Cyber Monday deals will only help sales, so it’s best to start on it early. Get the word out on whichever channels you find most successful, and make sure it’s common knowledge what specials you’re offering, and when.

Additionally, there are measures to add to your existing content strategy to improve performance on Cyber Monday:

  • Tailor content to Cyber Monday topics. It’s easy to predict what content people want to read about during the holiday weekend. Armando Roggio, senior contributing editor of Practical eCommerce, suggests shopping and gift guides. Features like “Buying Gifts that Teens Won’t Hate,” or “7 Types of Friends and the Perfect Gift for Them,” will pique the interest of online shoppers before the sales events even begin.
  • Publish how-to videos for featured product on social media. Social media loves videos, so this period is a good time to post (or repost) the videos related to your featured products.
  • Prepare a backlog beforehand. The actual days up to and following Thanksgiving weekend will be stressful and full of unexpected errands. Preparing a backlog of posts beforehand gives you one less thing to worry about, so you can put your attention on putting out the fires as they arise.

Your popularity over the holiday weekend is largely determined before the weekend even starts. Post frequently to ensure your customers know what deals are happening, so neither you nor they regret their not knowing afterwards.

6. Promote Deals in Best Screen Real Estate

Spreading the word about your holiday promotions is half the battle, so this isn’t the time to be shy.

cyber monday sales

For an event this popular in eCommerce, a thumbnail in the right-hand sidebar won’t cut it. You need to promote your deals in the best screen real estate you have. Digital marketer Takeshi Young recommends:

  • The larger or header image at the top of a landing page
  • A butter bar (message bar) at the top of the screen above the header
  • A modal window that appears on entrance to the site
  • A pop-up window during the site visit

Shoppers get just as excited for Cyber Monday as eCommerce retailers, so they’re going to be interested in and even actively looking for these notifications. If they don’t see what your store is doing for the holiday weekend, they’ll assume it’s nothing and do their shopping on a site that was more obvious about displaying their specials.

7. Set Up Data Analytics

Didn’t plan far enough in advance this year? Then start planning for next year now.

Take advantage of the influx of traffic by upgrading your analytics, or setting them up if you haven’t already. The wave of new visits is a once-a-year opportunity for collecting data, so don’t waste it.

This doesn’t just apply to your site’s traffic, but also your marketing campaigns. Which efforts are most successful? Are you drawing in more visitors from social media or friendly external sites? What kind of visitors — bouncers or heavy spenders? Analytics can answer all of these questions and lead to more efficient planning in the future.

Google Analytics is a godsend to eCommerce sites on a budget, offering a wealth of data and statistics with very little effort on your part. This is an almost-mandatory standard, but there are more advanced tactics as well.

cyber monday sales - google analytics

For improved accuracy, try Urchin Tracking Modules (UTMs). These are those little “extra” URLs tagged on to them end standard URLs. These track source traffic and marketing campaigns with better results than analytics alone.

UTMs aren’t foolproof, however. For example, someone may copy-and-paste the URL of your Facebook post and use it for Twitter, but with the UTM intact, the data will still count it for Facebook instead of Twitter. Neil Patel helps to sort out these types of issues with his Ultimate Guide to Using UTM Parameters.

8. Use a Countdown for Urgency

Last, there’s a design tip for the actual holiday weekend: use a countdown to add urgency.

True, this technique is effective all-year-round. The countdown is a well-established, almost traditional sales technique to urge more purchases through fear of missing the deadline. The reason we’re mentioning it here is because it’s especially effective this weekend.

For starters, the Cyber Monday weekend itself is its own countdown. Everybody knows the shopping holiday is just temporary and must come to an end at some point. Displaying a physical countdown only heightens the impact.

Use specific numbers and times. Generic copy like “offer ends soon” has little effect, so add the sense of urgency to inspire action.

Takeaway

Working for the holidays isn’t so bad as long as the holidays are working for you, too. Don’t sell yourself or your site short with an underwhelming Cyber Weekend performance.

What are you doing for the Cyber Monday weekend? Share you own tips, tricks, and advice in the comments section now.