Though consumer spending is expected to grow this year, the predictions for holiday sales are lower than last year's rate of growth, making it vital to seize upon every possible advantage during the crucial post-Thanksgiving shopping weekend. And for the online retailer, few advantages are easier to capitalize on than Cyber Monday.
Quickly rising in esteem among shoppers - most of whom plan to do almost 40 percent of their holiday shopping online this year according to recent consumer surveys - the deals offered on Cyber Monday are now expected to rival (if not beat) the ones offered on Black Friday. This vital weekend, now encompassing Small Business Saturday, is especially crucial for small businesses, typically accounting for between 20 to 30 percent of annual sales revenue.

Success on Cyber Monday is All About Planning and Creativity

Unlike big-box operations like Best Buy, Target and Macy's, the average small business owner or local retailer doesn't have the advertising dollars to draw in the consumer. That's why an effective strategy for Cyber Monday is even more crucial.

Here are a few tactics to consider - some of which you may have partially in place - that can help edge out your competitors for the all-important holiday dollar.

Make sure your site is clean and focused

Have someone proofread the content you're planning on using for Cyber Monday promotions to ensure there are no misspellings or errors in prices advertised. In addition, keep the content minimal. Too much information or content that's presented in large intimidating blocks will cause web browsers to search elsewhere. In the same way, focus on four to six main products and make those a priority, rather than throwing everything you offer at the consumer up front.

Get the word out to your followers

Businesses that use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have invested heavily in these outlets for the promotion of their products and services, directly targeting holiday shoppers searching for deals from their favorite brands. You can do the same by providing package deals or other special incentives to those who routinely follow your brand, inviting people to your Cyber Monday event by tapping the networks that you've spent all year cultivating.

Break down purchase resistance by offering free shipping

One reason many small businesses have trouble competing with bigger organizations is the sticker shock related to the cost of shipping. If a consumer pays $15 for a sale item and is then forced to pay another $7 to $10 for shipping and packaging, there's a good chance you've lost the sale. Many small businesses think they aren't big enough to negotiate shipping costs. But that's not true. Whether you're interested in using the US Postal Service, UPS, FedEx or any of the other smaller shipping companies, many will send out a representative to your store to discuss your shipping options and negotiate rates based on your volume, enabling you to provide the same free shipping incentives that are now standard among most major retailers.

Do your homework

You should already be signed up for your competitors' e-mail programs. If not, do so as soon as you finish reading this article! It's crucial to know what your competitors are doing for Cyber Monday. Doing so will provide a clear picture of any advantage that the customer may see when deciding between you and the other guy. And being a small business, you can quickly change the course of your message, getting the word out through social media.

Make sure you can handle the load

Whether you rely heavily on an e-commerce site or just use it as a supplement to your brick-and-mortar shop, check with your web host provider to ensure there will be enough bandwidth to handle a spike in traffic. Few shoppers will try to reload a page after receiving a 404 error page or similar problem.