Hectic Black Friday, Meet Civilized Cyber Monday

"Cyber Monday was yet another historic day for ecommerce, with online spending reaching a record $1.25 billion. It was just the second billion dollar spending day on record, following on the heels of Cyber Monday 2010. While last year saw Cyber Monday rank as the heaviest online spending day of the year for the first time ever, it will be interesting to watch the next couple of weeks to see if any future individual days in 2011 manage to leapfrog this year's highest day-to-date."

- Gian M. Fulgoni comScore Executive Chairman

Black Friday is against my religion. Black Friday to me is like Filene's Basement Running of the Brides or the Spanish Running of the Bulls. Running amok in a sea of delirious strangers for a "deal" is beyond my comprehension. Year after year, the decision to boycott Black Friday is affirmed. This year, it was the crazed Wal-Mart maniac who pepper sprayed 20 others in line for a deal on an XBox. Just the thought of gunshots, arrests, and old men being body-slammed by cops over waffle makers and tv's, lowers my IQ.

I prefer to do my Christmas shopping among the growing ranks of the far more civilized online shoppers on Cyber Monday. No crazed mobs, no pepper spray, just me, my computer and a cup of coffee. Instead of wasting several hours of time and gas driving all over town from one mall to the next searching for the perfect gift and a parking space, I was actually able to find everything on my list at the very best price and finished up the bulk of my holiday shopping in just under an hour. Even better, at my fingertips was every detail I needed to make sure I was making the absolute right purchase. Not just based on price, but on reviews, recommendations, specifications and in the case of electronics, the exact requirements. Try finding that info among the psycho Target Shoppers at 3 in the morning on Black Friday. Is it any wonder that according to IBM, Cyber Monday beat out Black Friday with a 33% increase of last year's sales?

Small to Medium-Sized Retailers - Santa is Coming to Town!

While it's clear that corporate retailers like Macy's, Amazon, and Best Buy benefit tremendously from Cyber Monday, the question then becomes, what does this mean for the small to medium-sized business? Perhaps the best news is that more and more online shoppers are not only turning to ecommerce to avoid the holiday hassle but to also find unique and specialty items that are not always available at the big-box retailers. Also, take into consideration the current consumer attitudes which are not exactly favorable toward large corporate chains. This combination presents a virtual golden opportunity for small to medium-sized retailers. Perhaps the icing on the cake is the fact that, unlike mall shoppers, online shoppers have pretty much made a buying decision even before log-in. This translates to a better educated, more confident consumer walking into your store with their wallet already open.

For any retailer these days, having an online store is a necessity. Even for the more traditional, brick and mortar stores, the expanded market and lower overhead is simply too critical to ignore. However, there are some key points to consider:

A. Your online store is a vital aspect of your product or service. It is your brand and a poorly designed and developed site will send online shoppers clicking in the opposite direction.

B. Trust is key to successful ecommerce. This means that your site not only needs to execute flawlessly but also offer the same standards and accessibility as other online retailers. Simply installing a Paypal button or shopping cart on your existing site is no longer an option. Online shoppers, particularly the holiday variety, expect and demand the ability to make purchases with expanded payment options, without being redirected, with the option to create or not create an account, choose shipping options, and the ability to track their purchases and access their order history.

C. Promotions and coupons are extremely useful to increase online revenues. We advise our clients to be very cautious when considering bargain hunter networks such as Groupon. Some of these networks demand bottom dollar pricing and special offers that can actually overload and cause small and medium-sized ecommerce businesses to lose money. However, a well planned promotional campaign and strategic coupon/special offers program can chum the waters with dramatic results for your online business (and increase offline sales as well).

The key element to keep in mind is that much like a brick and mortar store, you do not want a sloppy and unkempt shop, with poor service located in the seedy part of town. Making sure to have a seamlessly designed and well developed site that has the capacity to handle even the most robust shopping demands is essential. Don't leave the store in the hands of amateurs and used car salesmen. Hire professionals who have the experience and the know-how to build an ecommerce site that online shoppers will enjoy visiting and confident about returning to.