This post was also co-written by Patrick McPhail, Associate Director of Operations.
Thanksgiving is a day to appreciate all the wonderful things we are blessed with in life. Be it a roof over your head, good friends and family, a healthy year, or the anticipation of Season 3 House of Cards on Netflix. Black Friday is a day to forget all that crap and shop ‘till you drop. It's the day to come out of your tryptophan coma and really chase after your dream of finally getting printer ink cartridges for 30 percent off.
Now, welcome to the future: Cyber Monday, ladies and gentleman. In case you didn’t do enough shopping over the past 24 hours, you get one more chance to buy that voice-activated juicer you really need.
For consumers, Cyber Monday is fun. For businesses, Cyber Monday is terrifying. Getting all of your inventory up-to-date online, scheduling pre-sale email blasts, deciding the most convincing call-to-actions, all while making sure your website is equiped to handle the extra traffic…It’s no wonder all of these major sales lead to Taser fights. Studies are showing this year’s Cyber Monday will be bigger than ever. EMarketer predicts that holiday retail e-commerce sales in the U.S. will jump 17 percent to $72.4 billion, accounting for 24 percent of online sales for the full year.
While we can’t be there to make sure your consumers are clicking and spending the day away, we can pass along a few tips to help you prepare your website for the big 12-1.
First things first, your website should already have social media integration. That could mean a live feed of your Tweets on your homepage, or a simple social media tool bar. But if you don’t have social media integration, then at the very least make sure you are updating your social media account so your followers are made aware of whatever sales or promotions you’ll be having. With the rise of photo-based social media like Instagram and Vine, it’s a huge opportunity to show off your latest and greatest products in a fun, engaging way. Utilizing social media provides one more way that consumers may remember you on Monday and head to your website to check out those sweet new speakers that they have already seen are now $20 off.
For some inspiration, here are some brands that use Instagram and Vine right.
Analyze, Analyze, Analyze
Right now, Google Analytics is your best friend. If you don’t have any analytics installed on your site, get set up now. You’ll still be able to gain some valuable information a week before.
Things to look for: abandoned carts. If people are adding products to their cart and leaving before they pay, something needs to change before Monday. It could be because the checkout process is too long, or perhaps it’s too confusing. Either way, if you notice this in advance, you can nip it in the bud and be confident that on Monday users will have a smooth, easy checkout process.
Google Analytics will be able to tell you how many people are abandoning their carts, versus how many people are buying. Say your checkout process is five steps (that’s about two steps too many, by the way) you can see how many people drop off at step one, two, or three.
Another thing to look for: product views versus sales; how many people are buying your product compared to how many people are seeing it. (Essentially, online window shopping.) Your web stats can show you how many people are visiting your product pages. If there’s a product with lots of views but no sales, people may be interested, but not enough to buy. For the big day, consider focusing discounts on those items, or perhaps adding a better photo or product description. It’s a great opportunity to take advantage of the traffic.
Make it Mobile
Now is not the time to make a full transfer to mobile. (But if you want to…give us a shout :)) Nevertheless, there are a few things you can do in the meantime to make your mobile experience as effective as it can be. Why bother? For starters, An Accenture study found that almost one-quarter of Americans plan to make a purchase from a smartphone this holiday season, up from 18 percent in 2013. Additionally, a survey found on psfk found that in 2013 mobile sales led the way with more than 17% of the total online sales – an increase of 55.4% year over year. Mobile is huge, and if your site isn’t easy-to-use on smartphones, you may suffer on Cyber Monday.
While you’re not going to be able to rebuild your entire site for mobile in the next day, maybe there is some low-hanging fruit you can address. Fire up your site on a couple devices… can you see any of the calls-to-action you just spent a week agonizing over? Is it is a wall of text? Depending on how your site is built, it may be quick to adjust text, or even remove some ancillary content on mobile.
Prepare for the Deluge of Traffic
When you were going over your analytics a few steps ago, you hopefully noticed a spike in traffic about this time last year. Being prepared for the extra demand is just as important online as in a brick and mortar store – and thanks to your analytics, you should be able to project the load the site is going to face. Over here at iMarc we do a number of things to optimize our sites, and there are some easy-ish steps you can take even at the last minute.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights gives some extremely valuable tips. Here are a few:
This is a big category, but depending on how you’re doing things today could really reduce your site’s page weight and response time. Images often account for most of the downloaded bytes on a page. Audit the images you’ve got up there now – can they be compressed into JPEGs? Can some even be eliminated? Are you using background images where a CSS gradient or background color would suffice?
Minify Your Code
Stripping whitespace out of your whitespace-agnostic files can save some bandwidth and speed up your page load. Look especially for quick swaps that might be available with plugins/3rd-party code your site uses. Swapping out jQuery's non-minified code with the minified version cuts down the filesize by 2/3rds, for example.
All modern browsers support and automatically negotiate gzip compression for all HTTP requests. This can reduce the size of the transferred response by up to 90%, which can significantly reduce the amount of time to download the resource, reduce data usage for the client, and improve the time to first render of your pages.
Enable and test gzip compression support on your web server. The HTML5 Boilerplate project contains sample configuration files for all the most popular servers with detailed comments for each configuration flag and setting: find your favorite server in the list, look for the gzip section, and confirm that your server is configured with recommended settings. Alternatively, consult the documentation for your web server on how to enable compression:
Leverage browser caching
Fetching resources over the network is both slow and expensive. All server responses should specify a caching policy to help the client determine if and when it can reuse a previously fetched response. Google recommends a minimum cache time of one week and preferably up to one year for static assets, or assets that change infrequently.
Remove any non-essential plugins
Plugins help the browser process special types of web content, such as Flash, Silverlight, and Java. Most mobile devices do not support plugins, and plugins are a leading cause of hangs, crashes, and security incidents in browsers that provide support. Most content that once required plugins can now be created using native web technologies, including content requiring first-class support for audio and video, advanced graphics and presentation effects, network connections, local storage, and file access. Using these web platform features will help ensure that your rich content can be accessed on all devices.
By giving some attention to your brand’s social media, Google Analytics, mobile presence and page speed, you should be able to spruce up your website just in time for Cyber Monday.
With an easy-to-use, engaging online-presence, your users will no doubt have something to be thankful for!