Practical Ecommerce

9 Things to Check for Black Friday, Cyber Monday

The busiest days of the year are here. Do you have all the key things in place to ensure people can locate and purchase products? Earlier I shared 7 tweaks you can make to help boost conversions. Now, I’ll address what happens when things don’t go as planned, and what to do when products sell out.

Here are nine things you should review right now to better secure those shopping sessions.

9 Things to Check for Black Friday, Cyber Monday

1. Test as a customer. Place a handful of test orders to make sure proper discounts — including discounted or free shipping offers — are applied. Place orders using a credit card, as well as alternate payment methods, such as PayPal and Amazon Checkout. You’re looking for any hiccups in shipping calculations, basket adjustments, and payment processing delays.

2. Test the capabilities of the server. If you expect a big surge of incoming traffic over the next few weeks, make sure the website can handle all the requests. Free services like Load Impact can give you a decent idea if it can. If the test results are less than desirable, contact your host.

A quick test at Load Impact shows us load times in relation to number of active users.

A quick test at Load Impact shows us load times in relation to number of active users.

3. Make sure product listings reflect the offer. If banners, buttons, and category headers direct shoppers to price-ranged products, double check to make sure all assigned products fall within the range. It’s easy to miss when things fall off sale, but this mistake can frustrate the shopper.

This page at Kohl's is supposed to be $4.99 shirts. Several higher-priced tops, however, were assigned to the category.

This page at Kohl’s is supposed to be $4.99 shirts. Several higher-priced tops, however, were assigned to the category.

4. Create a “Next-in-line” list for featured items. If a featured product sells out, either replace it or, if it was heavily advertised, accompany it with other items that are in stock. Have all the promotional text, graphics, and other elements ready to go.

Be sure to display other options when key items sell out. Source:

Be sure to display other options when key items sell out. Source:

5. Assign related products to featured, popular, and sale items. That way if one sells out, the shopper is not left seeing a page that has no call to action.

Yankee Candle Sold Out Page

Related items help keep shoppers in the store when certain products are sold out.

If your shopping cart is configured to hide out of stock items, turn that option off for featured goods. Avoid broken URLs and head scratching. Alternatively, you could set up a 301 redirect to a different page loads, explaining that one item is no longer available and others are recommended.

6. Install a live chat feature. This is the perfect time to play Santa with your shoppers. Many live chat scripts can run on third-party servers, and will float the chat button, which means you don’t have to code anything special on the actual page. Most can be set up in minutes; you can start engaging with shoppers right away. As an added bonus, you’ll learn about issues sooner so you can get onto fixing them.

7. Have a fallback shipping method. Sometimes shipping gateways go down and rates can’t be calculated. Make sure the shopping cart is configured to offer a default option, even if it is a flat rate. As a last resort you can display a message that shipping costs will be calculated after the order is placed, but this may cause more shoppers to abandon the cart.

8. Have a fallback payment method. Should the payment gateway go down, make sure customers can still order. A simple validation module allows you to collect credit card information that can be run manually. Make sure this data is accessed only via an encrypted connection.

9. Check analytics often. Both real-time and daily updated analytics will give you key information, including any failed attempts, unusual bounce rates and load times. This information is key during the holiday shopping season. For example, an unusually high bounce rate may indicate wrong pricing or inaccurate product description. It may indicate problems with loading images or related media. By checking these reports at least daily you can help curb those abandonments and close more sales.

This is by no means a complete list of every contingency for a killer holiday season. However, if you’re not prepared during these final hours before launch, these steps should help get you further ahead.

Pamela Hazelton

Pamela Hazelton

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  1. Natalie November 25, 2015 Reply

    Great advice, Pamela. With so much focus on sales and marketing at this time of year it can be easy to forget the basics. One tip I would add is to use form validation such as Checkout+ to validate customer’s address, email and phone data. Anything to move customers through the checkout process quicker is a win-win in my eyes.

  2. Agnieszka / LiveChat November 27, 2015 Reply

    Agree with Natalie – sometimes it’s easy to forget about the basics when you’re focus on marketing and promoting the deals. If you have LiveChat (as you suggested in point 6th), I would suggest to limit proactive chats and involve all of your agents. And don’t forget to monitor your social media channels.

    We also wrote a ‘survival-guide’ for Cyber Monday on our LiveChat blog. Take a look if you’re interested :) –


    Agnieszka / LiveChat

  3. Ivona Vukovic December 2, 2015 Reply

    Good tips, Pamela. I especially like “test as a customer” – it’s silly how easy it is to forget to take a step back and see the online shopping journey from customer’s viewpoint. I also agree with adding related products to the selection to improve AOV. I’d add also creating shipping guides (again, helps with AOV) and adding videos to product pages (makes it easy for visitors to learn everything they need to know about a product right then and there). This article is a nice addition to the discussion

  4. Tenzing December 3, 2015 Reply

    Awesome article – it’s great to see that you’ve included a recommendation for testing the server capacity. I would also add ‘have an emergency plan in place’ because the last thing you want is for a stellar marketing campaign to bring down your site. To help, we’ve put together a 7 tips to manage unexpected traffic infographic –