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Today is the biggest shopping day of the year. People are flocking to their favorite online stores to take advantage of today-only specials to purchase Christmas gifts for their loved ones. Will you be one of them? Better yet, will your online store be one of the merchants that Christmas shoppers visit today?

Cyber Monday is not just a one day event. If you haven’t thought about it yet, then you may be too late. But there are some last minute things you can do.

For starters, why not offer a last minute mark down? Just because you haven’t created any specials yet doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. How about offering a generic 10% off any item in your store, or a discount on a purchase of $50 or more? Or you could simply offer free shipping – today only.

These types of specials are easy to implement. All you have to do is update your website and send out an e-mail to your mailing list. Then promote the special through Facebook, Twitter, and your other social media accounts.

You might even drive traffic to your landing page through a well-targeted PPC campaign.

While last minute mark downs are not the most effective way to promote your Cyber Monday specials, they can get you some additional business or at least gain you a few customers down the road. People who shop on Cyber Monday may not buy today, but when they see an item they like and they can’t find it anywhere else for a better price, they’ll be back.

According to the National Retail Foundation, 41.4% of Americans will start shopping for Christmas before Halloween. Many of them have already started shopping. And more than 50% will start shopping before Thanksgiving.

Another statistic worth noting is that 51.8% of those consumers will do their shopping online. That’s good news.

Well, it’s good news if you are an online retailer, maybe not such good news if you are a brick-and-mortar retailer. Hey, but things change. Maybe it’s a good time for you to build an online presence if you haven’t already.

Here’s the million dollar question: How are online consumers deciding where to shop for this Christmas? How will they know what to shop for?

Thirty-six percent (36.6%) said the most important factor in deciding where to shop are offers for sales and discounts, along with 16.1 percent who say the most important factor is selection of merchandise and 13.7 percent who say it’s quality of merchandise.

So there you have it: Discounts, merchandise selection, and merchandise quality.

If you want consumers to shop at your online store, then you are already behind in marketing if you haven’t started already. Before they make a purchase they have to find you. Now is the time to market your online retail store. Then what?

Make sure you have the highest quality merchandise on stock and offer a few sales and discounts. Online retail is becoming more competitive. You’ve got to give yourself an edge somehow.

Last Christmas shopping season was a record-breaking season. In fact, Cyber Monday (November 29, 2010) was the biggest online shopping day in history topping $1 billion in sales. Are you ready for this year?

Whether or not we’ll surpass that landmark day in online sales this year is a big question, but it’s not out of the question. In fact, it’s quite possible.

Online sales have increased year over year for the past three or four years. The trend is developing. More and more people are getting comfortable shopping online and the Christmas season is the time when they are most likely to break down and whip out their credit cards. Online merchants should be ready. And if you’re not ready by now, you’re not likely to be ready.

What’s it take to succeed in online commerce? You have to have a website ready to take orders. That means you need an attractive web design with clear and easy navigation and a safe and secure payment system. The No. 1 factor in whether online shoppers are willing to buy from you or not is whether you build trust. If they don’t trust you, they won’t buy from you.

Cyber Monday is just around the corner. Are you ready? Let the shopping begin.