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Cyber Monday – The marketing term coined for the Monday after Thanksgiving in the United States. The online world’s version of the brick-and-mortar’s Black Friday, the unofficial kick-off to the holiday shopping season and our busiest online day of the year. It’s an online retailers’ blessing, but without the best hosting for high traffic websites it can be a painful event thanks to a huge spike in traffic.

According to Statista, the 2013 Cyber Monday was the biggest day ever for U.S. online retailers, with online sales totalling 1.74 billion.

Cyber Monday’s popularity is growing. Why? Online shopping is growing in general. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • To get the best prices and deals (64%)
  • For the convenience of shopping from home (57%)
  • To avoid the holiday shopping crowds (47%)
  • Access to a better inventory and wider selection (32%)
  • To save money on gas (16%)

Source: Get Elastic

Suitable hosting for high traffic websites during the holiday season

As the biggest online retail day approaches, you should be asking yourself, is my business Cyber Monday Ready? Even if you have a stellar promo and catchy marketing materials, you’ll still want to make sure you browse through our list of questions to ask in order to ensure you have the Best Hosting for High Traffic Websites on Cyber Monday.

#1 – Research

Before you do anything, it’s important that you begin by reviewing your reports from last year’s Cyber Monday. Reference your wrap-up documents and use google analytics to gather information on the following:

  • Sales – Review the Cyber Monday sales from last year and the year prior
  • Promotions – What did you do and how successful were your efforts?
  • Marketing – How did you promote your Cyber Monday offers and how successful was it?
  • Customers – Were your customers new or repeat and where did they come from? How did your customers shop?
  • Competition – Who were your direct and indirect competitors last year and what were their sales? What promotions did they do and how successful were they? What are they doing on social media – how can you compete with them?

If you have everything documented in a post-mortem – good for you. If not, it’s a good idea to compile the information into a report after each Cyber Monday. Use these key learnings when creating your strategy for the next year.

#2 – Establish Sales Targets

Based on the research you did in step #1, establish your targets:

  • Sales – Projected sales for Cyber Monday.
  • Market Share – What additional share of the market can you gain from your competitors this year?
  • Resources – Do you have the capacity to aggressively increase your sales?

Once you have an idea of your desired targets, let’s determine how you are going to reach them.

#3 – Create a Promotion

Work with your marketing department/person/you to determine how you are going to reach your audience and achieve your sales goals. What marketing tactic is enticing enough to create excitement and create a sense of urgency – not to mention one that is better than the competition? Some suggestions:

  • Discount – 10, 25 or even 50% off
  • BOGO – Buy-One-Get-One Free or Buy-One-Get-One Half Off
  • Freebies – Free gift with purchase, free shipping, free gift card with purchase, free gift wrapping or free gift bag with purchase
  • Promotion Length – Extend your promotion to Cyber week/weekend
  • Promo Variety – Different promo every hour, unique promos for different audience segments, elite programs and benefits for loyal customers, social media only promo
  • Coupons – Coupon codes in an email blast

Cyber Monday is based on awesome promos – make sure yours is compelling!

Here’s what other etailers are doing:

  • 92% of online retailers are offering deals over Thanksgiving weekend and 80% linked to Cyber Monday
  • 45% offer coupon / percent-off deals
  • 38% will offer limited-time promotions
  • 30% will promote free standard shipping with conditions
  • 15% will include a free gift with purchase

#4 – Establish Your Audience and Medium

How will you deliver your message? You can have the best promo, but it won’t matter if no one knows about it. According to a Black Friday Shopping Survey, 82% of people are interested in receiving email updates on Black Friday sales – and for Cyber Monday, I think people just expect it! Here’s some of the popular ways to get the word out.

  • Email list – Send an email to your customer base informing them about your Cyber Monday promotion. If you want them to share the information, consider a referral incentive – ie: share with a friend and receive 25% off.
  • Social media – What better way to spread the word than by social media? According to Deloitte, 44% of consumers are using social media sites for holiday shopping and 57% use social sites to find discounts.
  • Teasers – Lead up to Cyber Monday by posting teasers on your Facebook and Twitter pages. Start doing this at least a week before Cyber Monday.. if you don’t have a social media presence, now is the time! Set-up Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest and start populating them with content that is timely and relevant to your business.
  • Offer Exclusivity – Create a Facebook event and invite followers for a sneak peek of your promo. Have followers, sign up for email, newsletter, or “like” you to see a sneak peek of your Cyber Monday deals
  • Online Advertising – Invest in some advertising. Google and Bing are an inexpensive and less risky way for small and medium-size businesses to try advertising (if you’re interested in a current $100 free Bing advertising promotion click here!)
  • Advertise on Cyber Monday site – i.e.: , features Cyber Monday deals
  • Pinterest – Who knew? – Referrals from Pinterest led to higher-priced purchases on Black Friday (on average, customers spent 77 % more per order originating on Pinterest over Facebook, according to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark. Facebook did however generate four times the amount of conversions over Pinterest.
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Regardless of how you get the word out, ensure that you give your audience enough time so they don’t have to hunt for you on Cyber Monday.

#5 – Confirm That You Have the Resources

So ask yourself, does the entire organization know about your Cyber Monday plans? Identify how each department will be affected by the promotion and communicate what their involvement will be.

  • Channels – Identify all necessary channels that the promo touches in the organization and communicate what is needed from each department.
  • Alignment – Ensure that the departments are aligned – is Operations aware of what Marketing is doing?
  • Fulfillment – Determine if supply meets potential demand – Do you have enough product?
  • Customer Care – Manage overtime – will you need to extend their hours or bring in additional employees for the week?

#6 – Determine If Your Site Can Handle the Traffic

So you have done your research, developed your sales targets and promotion and have figured out how you are going to get the message out. Think you are done planning? Wrong! This is where most companies drop off the radar. If you read our blog, Ghosts of Monday Past, you will learn that there is a common theme that a lot of companies share – they neglected this very important step!

Best case scenario – your promotion is a hit and your site is flooded with traffic. Do you have adequate hosting for high traffic? Will your site survive a huge spike in traffic and if not, do you have a back-up disaster recovery plan just in case? How can you ensure that your site doesn’t go down on your busiest day of the year? Standish Group calculates that an average cost per minute of downtime for a point of sale website equals $4,700 per minute. Check that you are prepared:

  • Infrastructure – Make sure your servers are solid enough for a spike in traffic. Have you considered a cloud server environment or hybrid?
  • Hosting Provider – Does your hosting provider provide the best hosting for high traffic websites? Ensure that your provider has a redundant network with a good track record to reduce chance of downtime.
  • Load Testing – Conduct load testing to anticipate peak traffic.
  • Resources – Do you have people available (i.e.: hosting company, IT department) in the event that something goes wrong?
  • Emergency Plan – Does your traffic automatically redirect to an emergency overflow site? Ensure you have a plan to serve traffic if primary services fail and also have a plan get up and running again.
  • Security – Are you security proof from holiday-timed attacks?
  • Subscriptions – Ensure that your domain registration and SSL certificates aren’t about to expire. Seems like a no-brainer, but it happens.
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Don’t forget to request a regular Hosting Services Checkup with your hosting provider. Make sure your plan can handle seasonal and circumstantial spikes and bursts of traffic – and essentially that they are the best hosting provider for your potentially high traffic website. Also confirm that you have adequate security and backup services in place.

#7 – Test Your Website Speed

Did you know that 40% of users will abandon a page that doesn’t load in three seconds? There are free tools that you can use to test your web page load times. You want to ensure that your website is in tip-top shape on Cyber Monday.

  • Web Page Testorg – Enter your url and voila see your website’s speed
  • Web Page – Another great tool that will provide you with an analysis and recommendations for your site’s speed.
  • Google – Google will help provide you with data, tools, and diagnostics for a healthy, Google-friendly site. This includes addressing site issues, understanding your site traffic and how people are directed to your site, and better optimizing your site.
  • Host Provider Does your provider manage other high traffic websites? Are they the best at what they do and can they provide you with recommendations on how to improve your speed?

If you have a slow-moving website, use some of these tips to help improve its speed:

  • Optimize Images – Reduce large file sizes
  • Bulky Code – Remove excess spacing and condense code
  • Limit – Flash, embedded media, third party widgets and plugins
  • Research – Be cautious of shared hosting plans
  • Spam – Block it using a spam blocker and use captchas
  • Compress – Use third party site to compress webpages

# 8 Are You Mobile Ready?

Mobile accounts for 37 percent of all online traffic during Cyber Monday, so is your site mobile ready? Check that your website view properly on all browsers, devices and operating systems. Approximately 85 percent of small businesses have websites that aren’t responsive for mobile.[1]   With mobile research and purchases on the rise, regardless of your industry, it pays to have a mobile responsive site.

Test your website on the following:

  • Browsers – Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Opera
  • Mobile Devices – Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry
  • Devices – Tablets
  • Operating Systems – Windows, Mac

Source: Business2Community

#9 – Load Your Promo and Update your Product Images

Do an audit of your site to ensure that all images are current, high quality, and the most effective representation of your product as possible. A picture speaks a thousand words!

  • Quality – Are all images current and best represent your product and brand?
  • Optimize – Use a Keyword rich ALT tag for every image, and add a caption as well
  • Anchor Text – Build links to the image to increase rankings

#10 – Audit your Sales Process

Sixty-seven percent of people abandon their shopping carts! Why do they “check out” before they “check out?” Twenty-five percent of people abandon their shopping cart because the company’s website navigation is too complicated. Go through the entire sales process as if you are your customer. Rate your experience by noting the following:

  • Clarity – Is it clear what I’m supposed to do next?
  • Confusion – Are there any confusing or potentially misleading elements that might interfere with a purchase completion?
  • Metrics – Review your shopping cart abandonment rates. This can identify problems in the funnel
  • Breakage – Try to “break” the process. Enter data incorrectly or incompletely and see if the order will still go through. Try to abandon your cart.

Have a happy and prosperous Cyber Monday!

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