This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
This year, online holiday sales are expected to reach up to $267.6 billion—an increase of 10%–12% from last year. And Cyber Monday (the online shopping holiday on the Monday after Thanksgiving) is slated to remain the biggest shopping day of the season, racking up an expected $11.2 billion in sales.
Whether you have a brick-and-mortar store and website or sell exclusively online, adopting Cyber Monday strategies is crucial for driving sales during the holiday season.
Here are seven top small business Cyber Monday strategies and tips for improving the shopping experience and making the most of the annual shopping event:
1. Make a Great Offer for Cyber Monday
First, you need to determine which products to offer and promotions to run. According to Deloitte’s 2020 Pre-Thanksgiving Pulse Survey, better deals and lower prices are the most compelling reasons to shop. Next, free or fast shipping and good return options are what shoppers want.
For Cyber Monday, your best promotional strategy is offering a percentage discount or specific markdowns on particular items. Also, prioritize making life easier for shoppers—be generous in your shipping and return policies.
Shoppers are willing to search around for the best prices, with 83% saying that getting a great deal has the biggest influence on their retailer selection. In other words, small retailers can compete with larger stores by offering competitive prices.
When it comes to the question of which products to put on sale, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Some options include:
- A flagship item (often deeply discounted by up to 50% off or more) to generate buzz and bring in qualified traffic
- Slow-moving items and/or less popular product categories
- Popular gift categories, like clothing, toys, and electronics
- Your store’s entire catalog
Gift cards are a top holiday gift across the board, so another idea is to start with a buy one, get one at a discount gift card offer. Alternatively, you can offer a free bonus card with each gift card purchase of a set value— like a $5 bonus for every $25 card purchased.
There are several different strategies for promotions and offers that any retailer can use. Ecommerce platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, or WooCommerce have built-in features that make it easy to offer one or more of these promotions on your site and push them out across other online sales channels like Amazon and Facebook.
With rising inflation driving the cost of products upward, retailers will be forced to find a balance between offering deep Cyber Monday discounts and maintaining profitability this year.
It’s expected that Cyber Monday sales across the industry will feature fewer markdowns than in previous years. If your margins don’t allow for discounts or sales, consider a different creative promotion.
Offering bundle deals is one way of increasing your average sales total while also giving shoppers extra value. Try offering themed bundles with related items—these can also function as a mini gift guide. You can also use bundles as a way of pairing popular items with slower-moving inventory to help clear out excess and seasonal products.
BOGO or half-off deals are effective because customers can clearly understand the value they’re getting. As previously mentioned, price discounts are the most effective and popular type of sale. Like bundles, BOGO deals are an opportunity to move dated, out-of-season, or dead stock. Customers will be more inclined to purchase these items when they are on sale, even if they weren’t selling well at full price.
Free Gift with Purchase
This strategy is one way to add value without sacrificing your margins. Offer a free item either with a specific purchase amount—somewhere at or slightly above your average order value—or with the purchase of a specific product. The gift can be a mystery, a set item, or the opportunity to choose from several items. The gifts need to be appealing, but it’s another way to boost sales and clear out overstock or slow-selling merchandise.
Alternatively, you can include product samples as your free gift with purchase. This gives customers the chance to discover new items in your catalog, encouraging future sales. It’s best to provide trial-size, multi-use samples (or a generous amount of single-use samples) to ensure that shoppers feel that they’re receiving a gift with value.
According to the 2020 Deloitte Holiday Report, 60% of shoppers say free shipping is one of the most attractive promotions. If your store normally charges for shipping, try offering free shipping on certain items or at a certain order price point (such as $25 or $35 orders) as your Cyber Monday promo.
Make the threshold to qualify for free shipping at or just above your average sale. Providing free shipping at a certain order amount will help bump up potentially low-value orders, increase basket size, and increase customer satisfaction.
Learn how to offer free shipping on your orders without sacrificing profit margins.
Get the Timing Right
You could have the perfect deal lined up for your eager shoppers—but if the timing is off, they may not even see your offer in the first place. You’ve got to strike while the iron is hot, which is usually when shoppers are just starting to think about festive gift buying.
According to Deloitte, nearly 40% of shoppers expect to start on Thanksgiving or later, while another survey shows 48% of shoppers usually begin the hunt before December. Of shoppers planning to make purchases during major shopping events, 29% planned to shop during Cyber Monday. This makes Cyber Monday a key shopping date and a prime time to launch promotions.
Taking advantage of key shopping dates like Cyber Monday will help you get in front of more potential buyers since they’re already hunting for deals.
Create Gift Guides
Choosing the right gift is a common struggle for holiday shoppers. Giving customers some much-needed gift inspiration can help encourage them to buy targeted products and make the overall purchase process more hassle-free.
There are a few ways to approach gift guides. One method is to partner up with other local businesses and feature their products on your site in a gift guide in exchange for a feature on their site. Just make sure you’re not in direct competition and competing for a specific target audience.
You can also try to have your goods appear on third-party publication gift guides. This is typically done by reaching out and pitching your products to be included in their gift guide roundups. To reach a variety of shoppers, try pitching to both local and national publications. This gives you the best chance of getting products in front of more customers.
2. Advertise Effectively
Now that you have a great deal for Cyber Monday, it’s time to develop an effective advertising strategy. To get the results you want, shoppers need to know about your store and your Cyber Monday sale. For online shopping, there are four main advertising channels we’ll focus on:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
Here’s how to use these channels for you Cyber Monday advertising:
Build a Dedicated Cyber Monday Landing Page
When shoppers arrive on a dedicated Cyber Monday landing page, it shows them they’re in the right place for powerful seasonal deals. Then it guides them toward conversion and promotes targeted offers.
A landing page is a single webpage created to be linked to digital adverts like Google Ads or a Facebook ad campaign. Landing pages reduce normal website noise—including menus, contact forms, or other call-to-action (CTA) buttons—and simply offer one clear CTA that results in higher conversion rates than other webpages.
Part of effective Cyber Monday advertising is building a slick-looking and on-brand landing page that pushes shoppers to purchase from your store. To learn how, read our guide to creating a landing page.
Increase Visibility With SEO
Online search is the number-one place holiday shoppers go for gift-giving inspiration—and 67% of customers say they prefer to do their holiday shopping online this year.
But the commerce landscape is highly saturated as well as fiercely competitive, so sellers must take measures to increase their store’s online visibility through search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is a set of practices that improve your products’ visibility and help your store gain more clicks while boosting conversions.
Here are some SEO Cyber Monday strategies to get your goods onto holiday shoppers’ radar:
Sell on Popular Online Marketplaces
It’s much harder for small retailers to rank in the top results of a Google search than large retailers like Target or Walmart—particularly if a shopper just searches for a generic term (like “leggings”).
To combat this, you can add your products to online marketplaces, which receive large amounts of regular traffic and typically rank highly in Google searches. The top online marketplaces in the world sold over $3.23 trillion in 2021 (around 62% of global web sales) according to Digital Commerce 360’s analysis.
Some of these marketplaces include:
- Google Shopping: Create a Google Shopping listing to appear on Google search results and under the Shopping tab.
- Amazon: Having an Amazon seller account is a good way to boost brand visibility and capture sales.
- Etsy: You can sell on Etsy, which appears high on search results for gifts and is a popular shopping site for unique items.
- Walmart Marketplace: Similar to Amazon, you can sell on Walmart Marketplace as a third-party seller.
- NewEgg: Go-to marketplace for new and used hardware and consumer electronics.
- Handshake: A wholesale marketplace, this site is best for unique non-mass-produced products.
- The Grommet: This site specializes in gifts and unique items from independent businesses.
- Bonanza: This is a newer buy-and-sell website that’s a popular eBay alternative.
- Uncommon Goods: Submit your products for approval on this popular gift site.
Although online marketplaces can help you reach more customers, they host a large number of competitors and rely on search engines of their own. To boost your store’s chances of success on these platforms, make sure you use SEO practices in your marketplace product listings. Read our guide to Amazon SEO to learn how.
Use Ecommerce SEO to Boost Your Site’s Search Engine Rankings
While it’s difficult for small businesses to outrank heavy-hitting retailers in general searches, more specific keywords can lead qualified customers directly to your store. The key is to use proper SEO practices to target the right queries.
To maximize visibility for your Cyber Monday promotions, start by taking these ecommerce SEO steps on your site:
- Perform keyword research to identify the most successful search terms for your store to target. The best keywords have a healthy balance of search volume, difficulty, specificity, and purchase intent.
- Organize your site structure to be simple, scalable, and easy-to-navigate for customers and Google search-bots alike.
- Optimize on-page elements like title tags, body content, and images. Incorporate your chosen keywords and make these parts of your store clear and accessible.
- Use technical SEO, content marketing, and link building to further boost your store’s performance on popular search engines.
For an in-depth explanation of each step, read our ultimate beginner’s guide to ecommerce SEO.
Platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce have built-in tools and tutorials to help you easily tackle your store’s SEO.
Sell & Advertise on Facebook
If you don’t already have a Facebook business page for your retail store, the pre-holiday season is an excellent time to set one up. It’s simple and can be accomplished in a matter of minutes. Once you have your Facebook business page, you can sell items directly through Facebook. It’s a successful channel to use because it streamlines the sales process by letting customers discover, shop, and checkout without leaving the app. This frictionless model also makes paid ads highly effective.
Before running a paid Facebook ad campaign, the first step is to create regular posts to schedule throughout the week leading up to Cyber Monday. Facebook video posts receive a higher click-through rate (CTR) than other post types.
So it’s a good idea to make a video showcasing your products and deals. To liven up regular in-feed image posts, you can use a free tool like Canva to create professional-looking on-brand posts. To save time and ensure you’re targeting your audience at the right time, schedule the posts directly through Facebook.
Once your page and regular posts are set up, the final step is to advertise. Facebook is a powerful advertising tool, especially for small businesses. It offers an even playing field between big and small retailers for reaching a targeted audience for a relatively small investment.
There are several different ways to advertise on Facebook—you can boost a post or create an ad campaign. Often, the most effective strategy is creating a specific Cyber Monday ad campaign using Facebook Pixel. Pixel helps retarget people that have clicked on your ads or visited your website so that your Facebook campaigns are shown to people who have demonstrated interest.
Sell & Advertise on Instagram
As a highly visual platform, Instagram is an excellent channel to showcase your products in their best light. Like Facebook, Instagram is also shoppable, making it a great place to convert followers into shoppers.
The first step to start selling on Instagram is to make sure you have an Instagram Business account. You’ll need to connect your Instagram account to your Facebook account and create a product catalog or connect it to an existing online store. Next, create shoppable posts that promote your products and the Cyber Monday deals you’re running.
The final step is to create an advertising campaign. Since Facebook owns Instagram, you create Instagram ads under your Facebook Business Page. Alternatively, if you are using an ecommerce platform like Shopify, you can manage your ads and product catalogs directly through your Shopify dashboard.
Use Email Marketing
Email marketing is a tried-and-true marketing tool for online businesses. According to Litmus email software, email campaigns generate $36 for every $1 spent on a campaign, which is higher than any other channel.
The key to email marketing for retailers is to personalize your campaigns to different audience segments; marketers who use segmented campaigns note as much as a 760% increase in revenue. Another study found that a segmented email campaign can get open rates as high as 94% and CTRs of 38%.
Many national brands send out their Cyber Monday promotions on the day itself. But attempting this strategy runs the risk of getting drowned out in a sea of other promotions. The solution is to get in first and send out your promotions the night before. You can then create an email sequence and send out a reminder later in the day.
An effective strategy for email marketing is to promote a specific deal or product in the email. Then, have the email link to a landing page that is specific to your deal. This helps streamline purchases and make the process easier for shoppers, especially for mobile users.
3. Provide a Great Experience
So you’ve attracted shoppers to your site with targeted advertising campaigns and irresistible promotional offers. What’s next? You need to make sure you’re providing shoppers with an easy-to-use, enjoyable and frictionless shopping experience. Doing so minimizes bounce rate and shopping cart abandonment—which in turn maximizes conversion.
Here are a few simple steps you can take to improve your site’s user experience for Cyber Monday:
4. Offer Convenience Services
The rise in contactless experiences during the covid pandemic sparked an enduring demand for convenience services. Even as shoppers are feeling more comfortable returning to stores, options like Buy Online, Pick Up In-store (BOPIS); Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL); and contactless payments are in high demand.
Embrace customers’ preferences and make the shopping experience as comfortable as possible by implementing these services. And make sure to promote them alongside your deals and offers, so interested shoppers will know that the options are available.
Set Up BNPL
Buy now, pay later (BNPL) is a type of short-term financing that lets customers pay for purchases over time, often with zero or little interest. It’s a popular convenience service because it lessens the financial impact of online purchases for the customer which is especially helpful during the holidays. For retailers, implementing BNPL as an option at checkout can result in lower cart abandonment rates and higher average order values.
Merchants can use BNPL solutions like Affirm, Afterpay, or Klarna in their stores. To learn more, read our guide to buy now, pay later services.
Embrace Click and Collect
Engage with customers’ preferences by offering them a variety of different delivery options. By embracing options like click and collect (also referred to as ‘BOPIS’), you’ll show customers you’re willing to make life easier for them and go the extra mile.
Learn how to set up click and collect for your store.
Offer Contactless Pay
Cyber Monday is an online event, so contactless payment is a given; however, if you’re also offering some in-store promotions, make sure you have several contactless or NFC payment options like Apple Pay and contactless bank cards.
5. Close the Sale & Prevent Cart Abandonment
Getting customers on your site and clicking “Add to Cart” is only half the battle. On average, nearly 70% of online retail orders are abandoned altogether. And cart abandonments during shopping holidays tend to be even slightly higher.
Here are a few strategies for reducing cart abandonment rates on Cyber Monday:
Clarify Promotional Pricing
To prevent customers from losing interest because of unexpected costs, be specific with your pricing language. That way, you eliminate the risk of misinterpretation or shoppers getting frustrated and leaving their order.
Ask yourself, “Is the sale price reflected on the page? Or, will it appear once they add the item to the shopping cart?” Either way, state the facts next to the product’s price.
Offer a running total that shoppers can see when they hover over the cart icon. If customers can track costs as they shop, they won’t be surprised at the end.
Offer Multiple Payment Options
Recent surveys show that 18% of shoppers abandon their cart if they don’t trust the site with their credit card information, while another 9% will abandon it if there are too few payment options.
In addition to accepting all major credit cards, it’s helpful to accept PayPal and Apple Pay too. That way customers don’t have to enter their credit card information if they prefer not to.
Be Transparent With Shipping
More than 20% of shoppers abandon carts because delivery options are too slow. Be sure to offer a wide variety of shipping methods: ground shipping, two-day shipping, and overnight shipping with clearly labeled pricing for each.
Even if the faster shipping options are more expensive, it’s better to have them as an option rather than risk losing a sale. Also, be sure to provide estimated arrival dates or at least timetables for when shoppers can expect their order to arrive.
Related: FedEx vs UPS vs USPS: Which carrier is best for small businesses?
Establish a Clear & Flexible Return Policy
Baymard’s survey reveals 12% of shoppers abandon carts because of an unsatisfactory return policy. This number is likely even higher during the holiday season when items are being purchased as gifts. It’s crucial to have a clearly stated return policy so that shoppers know what to expect. Include the return policy on your checkout screen and in all digital receipts.
Additionally, it’s worth considering a more lenient policy for the holiday season. If shoppers are buying Christmas gifts on Cyber Monday, the recipient won’t even be given the gift until almost 30 days later. Offer at least a 60-day window to ease shoppers’ minds and minimize customer service issues.
Minimize the Number of Clicks to Purchase
It’s widely reported that about a quarter of shoppers will abandon a cart if they are required to make an account to complete the purchase. Although collecting customer data and contact info are valuable, you don’t want it to be at the expense of sales. If your site uses customer accounts, be sure to give time-pressed shoppers the option to checkout as a guest.
Every screen a shopper has to click through is an additional opportunity for them to drop the sale—especially if the customer is shopping on mobile. Having one-click payment options like PayPal and Apple Pay helps streamline the payment process. For customers who do enter their credit card information, have the option to save their information for future payments so it’s easy to purchase again.
Retarget Lost Customers
If someone does abandon their cart, all isn’t lost. Instead of giving up, try to win back lost customers with email marketing.
Many major ecommerce platforms like Shopify have features that automatically send out emails to lost customers with links back to their abandoned cart. As time runs out, consumers often rush to take advantage of Cyber Monday sales.
Think about setting up retargeting email sequences to arrive toward the end of the day. That way you’ll capitalize on those last-minute converters.
6. Earn a Lifelong Customer
Cyber Monday is a great opportunity to get in front of new customers. Ideally, these customers will continue to buy from you long after the holidays are over.
When compared to new customers, existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products and typically spend 31% more on average—so it’s important to hang on to previous customers.
Even if you manage to just hang on to a few of your Cyber Monday customers, the results in time will be well worth the effort.
Here are a few Cyber Monday Strategies to increase customer retention:
7. Prepare for Next Year
Hopefully, by following all of these tips, you’ll experience record-breaking Cyber Monday sales. But—believe it or not—once the holiday season is over it’s already time to start planning for next year. You can never prepare too early. And starting preparations promptly will get you ahead of the competition.
Here are some Cyber Monday strategies to prepare for 2023:
Beef Up Your Social Media Presence
Take the same concepts you used to create your Cyber Monday sales posts and use them to showcase your products year-round. By scheduling your social media posts ahead of time, you can keep an active page by just investing a few hours a week.
More followers on social media equal more eyeballs for your Cyber Monday promotions. So, work on building followers throughout the year so that next year’s promotions have an even greater impact.
Take High-quality Product Photos
Brick-and-mortar stores have the advantage of letting customers feel and test products in person before making a purchase. For online sellers, your product page and photos are all you have to work with. Give shoppers a clear idea of your products and ease any concerns by having high-quality photos that highlight products individually and lifestyle shots that show your products in action.
- Give multiple perspectives: Make sure to offer pictures of all angles of each product so there is nothing left to the imagination and customers aren’t surprised when their order shows up.
- Showcase different sizes: If you sell apparel (which has notoriously high return rates) take pictures of models wearing different sizes so shoppers can get a better sense of how the item will fit.
- Lighting matters: Bright white lighting will help showcase the product accurately.
For instructions and tips to take your product photos to the next level, check out our guide to DIY product photography.
Gather More Reviews
Online reviews are social proof and help build trust among consumers. Nearly 50% of consumers say they trust the reviews they read online as much as personal recommendations.
Reviews also help shoppers understand what makes your product or service stand out from the competition.
Your website needs genuine reviews to show customers that what you’re selling is worth their money, whether they are buying something for themselves or a gift for someone else.
Here are a few tips to get more customer reviews:
- Offer an incentive like loyalty points or discount coupons to current customers who write reviews. Adagio Teas, for example, rewards customers with five loyalty points for each review written, and it has helped them generate hundreds of reviews per product.
- You can also offer raffle entries to customers who leave product reviews; prizes may include gift certificates or bestselling items in your store.
- Use a customer loyalty program like Podium that makes it easy for employees to ask customers to leave reviews.
Cyber Monday Sales Trends
As you review our seven tips and plan your Cyber Monday strategies, keep in mind recent trends that can inform your decisions.
Every year since 2009, Cyber Monday sales have steadily increased on both mobile and desktop devices. Plus, the general trend toward online purchases has been accelerated as a lasting result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, rising inflation and supply chain crunches are expected to impact Cyber Monday for consumers and retailers alike. Consumer Price Index is up 7.7% over 2021, causing significant increases in the cost of goods.
But according to the NRF, total holiday sales for 2022 are projected to grow 6%–8% over the previous year, reaching up to $960.4 billion. This means consumers will still be on the hunt for holiday gifts, but deals will be the top driver behind their purchase decisions.
Additionally, like its sister shopping holiday Black Friday, Cyber Monday is increasingly expanding beyond just a single day. Some retailers, particularly those with both brick-and-mortar and ecommerce operations, are effectively merging the two events into one long sale. For other online retailers, Cyber Monday is evolving into a weeklong sales event, known as Cyber Week.
Standing out from the crowd on Cyber Monday isn’t always easy, especially as a small business. You need to have clear Cyber Monday strategies and make your offers irresistible to your target audience.
Effective advertising, compelling deals, and a smooth shopping experience are all essential components of a successful Cyber Monday. Approach Cyber Monday with a step-by-step strategic approach and see what results you can drive.