It’s here! Well almost, just days away. If you’re an online retailer or a marketer for a brand with an online presence you most certainly know what I’m referring to … Cyber Monday. The predictions have been giving the online retail community a lot to be excited about. Highest-ever online spending season. Record-breaking Cyber Monday. has been covering this story too and recently reported that 53% of U.S. adults have plans to shop on Black Friday with 72% doing it right from the convenience of their computer. That means online holiday shopping will actually start before Cyber Monday. Contributing to this year’s anticipated spike is the fact that the 2013 shopping season is six days shorter than last year. So with less time to hit the malls, many of us will be doing our shopping virtually. This means one thing for all you with Internet storefronts – get ready, and get ready now.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed?  That’s understandable. From online fraud to slower website loading times to efficiently delivering the goods post purchase, online retailers have countless issues to consider as the world heads into holiday shopping season. However, there are some things you can do to prepare for what could be your best holiday sales yet. Follow these three tips and you’ll be on your way to delivering a safe, secure and smooth shopping experience to every cyber customer who enters your site.

  1. Identify Online Shoppers Before the Order is Complete. Thanks to website plugins, like The Onion Router (Tor), it’s become fairly easy for a fraudster to hide his or her identity and appear “anonymous.” This means it’s easier for online schemers to conduct bogus transactions – like purchases made with stolen credit card information. Not good. Every online retailer should be on the lookout for such transactions. One way to stay a step ahead of these virtual villains is to employ a service that automatically detects Tor network and other anonymous proxy users. Being notified of these types of potentially fraudulent transactions as they enter your system gives you the power to determine if that shopper is genuine, or if it’s smarter for you to deny the purchase.
  2. Valid, Accurate Data = Better Customer Service. One easy way to help improve your customer service is to ensure you’re capturing the right information about your customers. Data validation software can be a great way to help you catch simple errors – because small typos can often lead to big problems, such as lost packages, lost sales and lost shoppers. For example, you definitely want to avoid mistyped email addresses. They’re simply too essential to the process – it’s how you provide purchase confirmations, shipping updates and more to your virtual customer. So if a busy shopper inputs a typo to his or her email address, you’re bound to have issues down the line. Speaking of typos, it’s very common for people to mistype their names or the name of an intended gift recipient. Their fingers take over and letters are skipped or transposed. A data validation service can flag these names and give the shopper the opportunity to correct a spelling error before a gift – and gift card – is shipped. Just a small way for your brand to show that you’re always looking out for your customer’s best interests.
  3. Get the Package from the Virtual Shopping Cart to a Real Front Door. You’ve just experienced the busiest Cyber Monday yet. Now all of those shoppers better receive their purchases before their holiday fetes, right? Make this process easier on yourself by having a web service integrated into your system before the holiday shopping season begins. A real-time address verification service will instantly (we’re talking a response time of .15 seconds!) verify and correct address information as it is entered. Your customers won’t even know that a service is verifying their address data, but you’ll be very thankful because this type of address verification service will dramatically improve delivery rates by standardizing contact records against USPS data. And if you’re able to deliver all of your packages on time, you’re showing that your great customer service doesn’t exist solely in cyberspace.

Now I know you have a lot on your mind, but your site needs to be in tiptop shape to handle the deluge of visitors that are expected to hit on Cyber Monday, or if things go as expected, as early as Black Friday. I hope you’ll find these three tips helpful as your prepare for a hopefully record-breaking shopping season. But, there’s no time to waste. Those crazy consumers – including myself – will be hitting the Web before you know it!