We’ve all heard the tales of Black Friday — people waiting in line at three in the morning to score slashed prices on all the gifts and fancy tech they can get their hands on. However, Cyber Monday, the online shopping event that takes place the following week, has people skipping the lines in favor of shopping from the comfort of their own home.

When is Cyber Monday 2019? It’s fast approaching on December 2nd! So, now is a good time to start prepping your online store.

Following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday has fast become the go-to shopping day for techies, lovers of electronics, and, yes, mobile shoppers, too. Participating is a great way to improve sales for the holiday season!

In fact, according to Fundivo, the average order on Cyber Monday in 2015 was $128, several dollars higher than the average order for Black Friday. Furthermore, Cyber Monday 2017 saw mobile internet’s first $2 billion dollar day with $6.59 billion in spending overall, according to CNBC. That same week, BigCommerce merchants saw their highest sales period ever!

The volume continues to grow year over year (up to $7.9b in 2018!)So, come Cyber Monday 2019, how can you ensure that your business is in tip-top shape for the rush of customers? We’ve got your back!

What is Cyber Monday?

The phrase “Cyber Monday” was created in 2005 by a division of the National Retail Federation in an attempt to take digital advantage of the vast spending power behind Black Friday. At that time, it wasn’t even really a blip on the chart, in terms of record spending days. In fact, in 2005 was ranked the 12th biggest spending day of the year that year. Since 2005, though, Cyber Monday has grown monumentally:

2009: $0.887b in sales.
2010: $1.038b in sales.
2011: $1.3b in sales.
2012: $1.5b in sales.
2013: $2.29b in sales.
2014: $2.5b in sales.
2015: $3.04b in sales.
2016: $5.6b in sales.
2017: $6.59b in sales.
2018: $7.9b in sales.

In both 2017 and 2018 it was the #1 shopping day of the year, topping even Black Friday. Online retailers like Target and Walmart have even extended the sales earlier than Monday, in the last year, even going so far as to start them on Thanksgiving day itself!

The Technical Side: Make Sure Your Tech Can Withstand Cyber Monday Traffic

There is predicted to be close to 100 million people, if not more, shopping on Cyber Monday 2019. Is your tech stack equipped to support a burgeoning number of users while still running quickly? Here are some things to consider when priming your retail pump for Cyber Monday.

Site Speed

A fast website is a key part of offering a great customer experience in eCommerce. Slow-loading websites cost retailers $2.6 billion in lost sales each year, and 47% of users expect a maximum of two seconds loading time for an average website. Cyber Monday is a retail holiday which is about deals, not about loyalty, so consumers won’t hang around if you take too long! Luckily, Google has an excellent tool to check the average loading speed for your site.

Not only will this allow you to see how quickly or slowly your site loads: it’ll also help you diagnose potential issues so you can fix them ahead of Cyber Monday 2019. A few best practices to ensure your site is running at tip-top speed, courtesy of Moz, are:

Enable compression on programming files: you can use GZip or similar software to compress any of your JS, CSS and HTML files that are larger than 150 bytes.

Minify CSS, JavaScript, and HTML: Take a look at your code and remove any unnecessary spaces, commas, code comments or formatting. Optimizing your code can dramatically increase your page speed. Google also recommends using CSSNano and UglifyJS.

Minimize redirects: every time you add a redirect into your page’s URL, it takes extra time for the page to load. This is especially important to pay attention to for Cyber Monday, where many of your shoppers will be using mobile. If your mobile redirect pattern looks like this: "example.com -> www.example.com -> m.example.com -> m.example.com/home," each of those two additional redirects makes your page load slower.

Leverage browser caching: browsers “cache” and hold on to a lot of information for your site, like stylesheets and images. Use a tool like YSlow to see if you already have an expiration set and, if not, consider setting one. If you do not make a lot of changes to your site one year is often a reasonable expiration.

Remove render-blocking JavaScript: when pages load, any scripts that you have included on your page (such as Google tracking, for example), have the potential to reroute the page load. Google has a great article about how to avoid blocking JavaScript here.

Use a content distribution network: by using a content delivery network, you ensure that multiple copies of your site are stored across several different locations. That way, if one goes down, the rest are still up. Another benefit of a distributed network is that people are able to load your site from whichever source is fastest for them automatically.

Improve server response time:according to Moz, the optimal server response time is under 200ms. To improve your server response time, look for performance bottlenecks like slow database queries, slow routing, or a lack of adequate memory and fix them using your engineering resources.

Optimize images: just like with programming files above, try to ensure that images on your site are no larger than they have to be. A great way to do this is by using PNGs rather than JPGs. Also, for things that you use regularly on your site (like buttons or icons), try using CSS sprites.

Mobile Compatibility

It’s predicted that 46% of Cyber Monday 2019 shoppers will be shopping with a mobile device. Is your site compatible with browsing on mobile or tablet devices? Hostgator has some excellent tips for making your site accessible and easy to use for people on mobile:

Make Your Website Responsive
Don’t use Flash.
Include the Viewport Meta Tag.
Turn autocorrect on for forms.
Allow an easy way to switch to desktop view.
Offer mobile wallet payment options like Apple Pay.
Regularly perform mobile testing.

Checking these things off of your Cyber Monday 2019 checklist will ensure that you get maximum purchases on the big day!

Don't Forget Backups!

Anyone who’s ever lost any kind of important data after a computer failure understands the importance of backups. On your website, it’s no different: keeping backups of your transaction data and even of the site itself can save you immense amounts of time in the face of an outage or site failure under high-traffic.

If you host your store with BigCommerce, our partner Rewind.io can back up all of your sensitive and important data automatically. That includes products, product details, product images, themes, customers, orders, and more. Help Cyber Monday 2019 go off without a hitch by making sure that if something does go wrong, you’ve got a backup plan!

Cyber Monday 2019 Marketing Strategies

Even though Cyber Monday drives a lot of traffic on its own, it doesn’t hurt to encourage users to purchase your product, rather than your competitors’. These clever marketing ideas can make your brand rise up from amongst the rest during the holiday season!

1. One-day Deals

Create a special one-day deal that is only available on Cyber Monday. For example, if you have a specific product that is extremely popular, drop the price or bundle the product to make it even more attractive for the holiday. A great example is this “20% Limited Time Offer” on Cases.com:

2. Surprise Products

Do you have something that your customers are always asking for? This can even be something as small as a set of new colors in something that you are already offering. If so, consider creating and releasing it on Cyber Monday for an additional boost in sales as well as word-of-mouth marketing. Check out this new release from Jigsaw Health as an example:

The more people that are talking about you, the more incoming holiday traffic you’ll get!

3. Philanthropic Giveaways.

In 2012, a coalition of more than 1400 charities launched Giving Tuesday as a follow-up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Kick-off your holiday giving by pledging a certain amount of your Cyber Monday 2019 earnings to a charity that aligns with your company’s values. Modavanti did that this year by donating 10 percent of each sale.

Don’t forget to let shoppers know about it through emails or an informational slider on your website ahead of time. You can even include a notification at the top of their shopping cart on the day of with a calculation of how much their purchase will contribute!

4. Offer An Additional Gift Beyond Free Shipping

Instead of just offering free shipping, consider adding a special gift with purchase. Companies like Gerard Cosmetics do this with every purchase year-round and have developed cult loyalty from doing so.

Think about what items you could bundle together to sweeten the pot and thank your customers for shopping with you on Cyber Monday. The extra push may mean the difference between them buying with you or with a competitor. The online Gift With Purchase community (such as the GWP Addicts blog) is huge —you could even get some free word-of-mouth-marketing from your decision!

5. Advertise Based On Location

A convincing 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that provide relevant offers and recommendations. Use customer data to advertise things that are actually relevant to them, and you’ll see a steep increase in purchases. For example, if you were a clothing retailer, marketing warm weather clothing to customers in warmer climates, and jackets and long pants to those in cooler climates.

6. Create Some Special Interest Gift Guides

Many people shopping on Cyber Monday are doing so to get sweet deals on gifts for loved ones during the holidays. Take advantage of that with customized gift guides for your users! For example, last holiday season WeWork did the #‎wwgiftguide, and for each week of the holiday season they created different guides: "gifts with a personal touch," "gifts to get the party started," "gifts for the family," and "gifts for the digital nomad.”

Guiding users through your products can boost sales and even prompt them to buy things that they hadn’t thought of before. Another effective way to do this is with a holiday lookbook like Pink Lilly Boutique did:

Cyber Monday 2019 is a huge opportunity for sales and customer engagement, but don’t let it scare you! By doubling down on your site infrastructure and prepping your marketing tactics ahead of time, you’ll be able to kick off the holiday spending season with a bang.

This is a guest post by Corinne Watson. Corinne is a writer and researcher at BigCommerce, where she works directly with agency and technology partners to bring their tools, services and ideas to the commerce industry at large with educational content. When she’s not working, she’s creating and designing for fun online.