Excelerate Online featured in the original article published on the National Federation of Independent Business by Karen Sams, November 13, 2015

Make the most of increased online traffic at your small business with these tips.

The Monday after Thanksgiving is the biggest online shopping day of the year for businesses and consumers. Small business owners offer tips for how to prepare and make the most of Cyber Monday this year.

Use discounts to build an email subscriber list.

An email subscriber list is the best way to promote holiday sales to loyal customers, and it’s never too early to start building one. Offer one-time discounts for new email subscribers and keep them up to date on sales throughout the year. Begin promoting Cyber Monday sales to your email subscribers first.

Meredith Davis, founder and chief strategist at Excelerate Online in Austin, Texas, suggests offering special discounts to email subscribers to reward customer loyalty and encourage them to shop your Cyber Monday sale. “Some incentives could include a free gift with purchase, a free gift when a customer spends a certain amount or free shipping when a customer spends a certain amount,” she says.

Cyber Monday is also a great opportunity to add new customers to your email list, so be sure to remind customers of the benefits of subscribing and encourage them to sign up.

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Prepare your site and staff for heavy traffic and sales volume.

If your business isn’t prepared for an increase in traffic and sales, your Cyber Monday sale could be a customer service disaster. Check with your hosting company to ensure that your website will be able to handle heavier traffic than normal, and make sure you have staff available to handle extra demand for customer service and order fulfillment. “You want to ensure that your website visitors won’t experience technical issues that will lead to frustrated shoppers and lost sales,” says Leeyen Rogers, vice president of marketing at JotForm.com in San Francisco.

Be specific in promotions.

“Avoid broad calls to action like, ‘Come check out our deals!’” says Gabrielle Boko, executive vice president of marketing at business management software developer Sage North America. “Instead, offer advice on which products or services make great gifts, and tell customers and followers exactly what’s special at your business.”

Boko recommends creating promotions that clearly explain which products are on sale, what kind of discounts customers can expect, and exactly how long the discounts and specials will be available.

Build anticipation with “sneak peeks.”

Cyber Monday shoppers begin planning their purchases in advance. Be sure to give them time to prepare by sending out promotions several weeks before the event, and rolling out several promotions with “sneak peeks” to build anticipation before releasing a full list of promotions. “I suggest running a series of sneak peek email promotions that drip-feed the Cyber Monday sale information over a few weeks, which will get the customer excited to shop with your store,” Davis says.

Don’t lose sales to abandoned carts.

Shopping cart analytics can show you just how many customers are abandoning their shopping carts on your website, and higher traffic volume on Cyber Monday means even more abandoned carts. Scott Smigler, president of Exclusive Concepts Internet marketing agency in Burlington, Mass., says many of these customers can be encouraged to complete their orders with a special discount or free shipping offered only after they attempt to abandon their carts. “Seventy-five percent of shoppers abandon their carts before completing a purchase, but more than 30 percent of these shoppers can be ‘saved’ by revealing an instant discount or free shipping offer. Tools like the Cart Closer enable this functionality,” he says.