Retailers, get sites ready for Cyber Monday surge

Articles
November 20, 2008

Retailers, get sites ready for Cyber Monday surge

If retailers’ chief marketing officers are correct, sales on this upcoming Cyber Monday (December 1) will grow by 2.4%—a shadow of last year’s 21.0% growth. Nevertheless, the day will kick off an 8.0% gain in Internet sales this holiday season, according to CMO projections in a BDO Seidman, LLP survey. Compared with overall retailer prospects, that looks pretty good. Last year, Cyber Monday drew 72 million shoppers who spent $733 million in one day. But retailers won’t be able to count on an online boost unless their websites can service heavy bargain-hunter traffic without a hitch. “They won’t forgive you if they miss out because your site didn’t perform. If you nail this day, however, I think you keep these shoppers for the next year or two. Your site can’t go down, it can’t lag, it can’t give shoppers trouble finding and buying merchandise, and it has to be secure,” Mark Sarbiewski, senior director of product marketing, Hewlett-Packard Software, told SupermarketGuru.com.

If retailers’ chief marketing officers are correct, sales on this upcoming Cyber Monday (December 1) will grow by 2.4%—a shadow of last year’s 21.0% growth. Nevertheless, the day will kick off an 8.0% gain in Internet sales this holiday season, according to CMO projections in a BDO Seidman, LLP survey. 

Compared with overall retailer prospects, that looks pretty good. Last year, Cyber Monday drew 72 million shoppers who spent $733 million in one day.

But retailers won’t be able to count on an online boost unless their websites can service heavy bargain-hunter traffic without a hitch. “They won’t forgive you if they miss out because your site didn’t perform. If you nail this day, however, I think you keep these shoppers for the next year or two. Your site can’t go down, it can’t lag, it can’t give shoppers trouble finding and buying merchandise, and it has to be secure,” Mark Sarbiewski, senior director of product marketing, Hewlett-Packard Software, told SupermarketGuru.com.

Retailers risk a lot if they don’t get it right:
• Warwick University research says retail has an average probable downtime cost of $524,836 per hour.
• JupiterResearch said 75% of shoppers who experience poor Web site performance will no longer buy from the site.

The key preparation: retailers must “understand the real performance of their site from the user perspective. Retailers generally add enough speed and capacity, and they test the parts, but not the whole experience. As a result, sites often run like terribly tuned engines. People want lightning quick response and an intuitive feel when they traverse the site,” Sarbiewski added.

Security is another must. The Web Application Security Consortium found that 85% of over 31,000 websites scanned had vulnerabilities that could give hackers the ability to read, modify and transmit sensitive data. “New security threats come all the time. The more cool interactive features you put on your site, the more vulnerable you make it,” he cautioned. “Everywhere there’s a field where people enter data, your application has to be bulletproof against hackers. Use available tools to identify vulnerabilities and substitute code that is bulletproof. Retailers that keep the trust get so much return business.”

Enact an early-warning system to spot and fix logjams before they become apparent. Monitor site performance in real-time through synthetic transactions, or anonymously to see how real consumers navigate it, he added.

Electronic follow-up with shoppers should query about their online experience and perception of the site’s performance, security and functionality, Sarbiewski suggested. “Then take it to the next level. If answers are positive, say ‘you seem to be a happy customer. Would you like to be regularly notified of promotions, or join our club?’”

Meanwhile, shop.org has hundreds of retailers signed up to promote on its CyberMonday.com site, powered by Mall Networks. The site had 1.5 million unique visitors and rang up more than $8 million in sales last year.