Every online retailer knows the emotional roller coaster that is Cyber Week – the hectic week of sales, deals, promotions and blow outs that follows the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s a chance for retailers to benefit from record-breaking sales days, but with that comes huge, sudden (and sometimes even unexpected) spikes in visitors – and an increased chance of something going wrong. Even minor downtime can drastically impact your customers’ experience and your site’s revenue potential.

Planning for Cyber Week begins months ahead of time; with some retailers even starting as early as January. And really, with so much relying on those few days in late November, every effort should be made to ensure Cyber Week preparation is underway early.

More and more shoppers are spending their holiday budget online. In fact, one third of consumers completed more than half of their holiday shopping online in 2015 (National Retail Federation, 2016).1  Of course, with greater comfort and willingness to shop online, comes greater expectations from consumers. Customer favorites like guaranteed delivery and free returns are now considered must-haves by shoppers.

There are a few things you can do now that will have a big impact on your Cyber Week success.

Prepare for the Cyber Monday traffic

One of the most important things you can do is to ensure you have measurements in place to handle the influx of traffic, because if shoppers can’t reach your site, they can’t complete their purchases. Work with your hosting provider to ensure your site can handle the spike in visitors, and develop a backup plan in the event that you do run into problems.

Optimize (and reduce) page load times

We know it’s tempting to show shoppers your shiny new products featuring dozens of high resolution images on every page, but resist the urge to include too many images as they can account for up to 80% of the bandwidth used on your site. Cut back on the amount of data you’re sending in order to provide your visitors with a better, faster shopping experience. Using a content delivery network (CDN), to cache your images ensures smooth sailing when Cyber Week hits.

Create content and start ranking

It’s not just retailers that are thinking about Cyber Week early in the year, your customers are too. Create a landing page so you can start ranking for the keywords associated with your products + “Cyber Monday”. Some major retailers have mastered this technique; Walmart’s Cyber Monday landing page is live year-round. At the beginning of December, once Cyber Monday has wrapped up, Walmart updates the hero image, dates, and merchandising mix to reflect the next Cyber Monday event – a whole year away.

Boost your SEO

Dedicate some time and resources to doing an SEO site audit. eCommerce SEO presents it’s own challenges, and your eCommerce site has unique requirements that a regular site without commerce capabilities doesn’t. Work with your SEO team to perform a site audit and prioritize changes you can make based on overall impact and ease of implementation.

Get social

Consider every tool in your toolbelt an opportunity to drive customer loyalty. Use social media to build customer trust with prompt, thoughtful replies (according to J.D. Power, 67% of consumers say they’ve used social media for customer service inquiries).2 Facebook now indicates how quickly brand pages are to respond to customer inquiries via Facebook chat, giving customers reassurance when contacting brands via Facebook, and giving retailers an opportunity to connect.

It’s never too early to start planning for the biggest online event of the year, especially with the holiday season just around the corner. Using these tips will help you get on the ball to getting the most out of Cyber Week.

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