Question: Cyber Monday is coming up quickly and I feel like I haven't had time to prepare. What are some simple things I can do to make sure my website is ready to handle the increase in traffic?
Answer: The Monday after Thanksgiving has become a big deal for online shoppers and retailers, so you’re right to want to prepare. Last year, online shoppers in the U.S. spent a record $1.25 billion that day, according to comScore, up 22 percent from the prior year.
With this year’s date approaching fast, make arrangements now to conduct a load test of your website to determine whether it can handle, say, twice your normal traffic volume. (A Web search will turn up plenty of firms that can do this for you). If you find that your site is underpowered, talk to your IT team or the firm that hosts your site about getting additional server capacity. You might also consider temporarily shutting down expendable features on Cyber Monday, such as visitor tracking, that could slow performance.
Beyond testing your site’s traffic capacity, also check to make sure your site is functioning properly — that product search, product detail, log-in, shopping cart and other key features are working as intended. Finally, create a backup plan. If something does go wrong on Cyber Monday, be ready to post a basic Web page showing a toll-free phone number that customers could use to call in orders.
Now that you’re on track to have your site ready, why not make the most of your hard work? Advertise your Cyber Monday deals on your website; emails to existing customers, text messages, direct mail and banner ads on other sites could all work.
Get physically prepared, too. Make sure you have adequate inventory, of course, but also plenty of people to field phone calls and fulfill orders, relieve overwhelmed regularly scheduled workers, and maybe even bring in lunch. Keep those IT guys on standby, too, just in case you run into a snafu.
Finally, leverage your Cyber Monday sales results. Track which promotions led to the greatest increase in sales, and consider repeating them from time to time through the rest of the holiday shopping season. With a little luck and a lot of preparation, Cyber Monday could be the key to your best holiday sales ever.