If Black Friday belongs to the big-box retailers, then Cyber Monday was made for small, independent businesses — on the web, of course.
Cyber Monday deals abound in businesses of all sizes. But smaller retailers, including some that sell primarily online, often reserve this day for their biggest sales of the year.
It’s up to you, dear shopper, to know how to get them.
If you often find yourself cruising Etsy shops for hours at a time, or can’t stop scrolling through the offerings on your favorite specialty designer’s website, now’s the time to study up on how to get the best deals on Cyber Monday.
Resist Impulse Buying
The first rule of Cyber Monday: Don’t spend all your cash before the big day.
Autumn months are prime time for craft shows, festivals and holiday markets, all designed to get you in the shopping mood.
But while special events and markets are great for scoping out wares and testing them out up close, you can guarantee everything’s going to be full price.
If you don’t need that knit hat or tote bag right away, take a business card for the shop instead. It’ll undoubtedly have their social media info and an address for their online shop or Etsy storefront. Finding the shops you like is the first step to extra holiday shopping success.
The next few tips ensure you’ll get the best deal once you’re a fan.
Sign Up for Email Newsletters
Nobody wants more emails to sort through, but I promise they’re worth it for the Cyber Monday deals alone.
If a shop offers advance notice of a sale, it’s going to share it with its email list first. And sometimes, a shop will maximize its sales by running a discount from Black Friday all the way through Cyber Monday, for a long weekend of deals.
“I usually run my Cyber Monday sale from Black Friday to the Tuesday afterward, just to catch any stragglers,” Noelle Burke, owner of apparel and home decor shop Xenotees, said.
Follow Shops on Social Media
The most current way to get info about sales is through your favorite social media platforms. Most online shops are on Twitter and Facebook, and many have joined Instagram to display their work, along with discount details.
Some shops offer sales spontaneously, meaning you won’t get notice of a sale until it’s already in full swing. These are called flash sales.
“We don’t give much notice for sales; instead, I announce it the day of and try to post reminders at least once a day,” said Becky Waddell of natural beauty retailer Be Clean.
Since we aren’t big enough to have people anticipate a big annual event, we just like to establish the norm that we have promotions, you just have to watch out for them and keep an eye on what’s going on.
Be Clean’s Instagram feed is often both the first place you can find out about new products, as well as discounts and promotions.
If You Don’t See a Sale, Ask
Websites typically advertise their sales on their homepages, but great deals aren’t always evident — especially when a storefront is on Etsy, where there’s limited space to advertise such specials.
Illustrator Katie Vaz primarily sells her greeting cards and prints on Etsy. “Honestly, [promotions] typically don’t lead to more sales than normal,” she said of big holiday specials.
I use promo codes, and even if I have more orders that weekend because of holiday shoppers, only a small percentage actually use the code.
Burke agreed, noting even during increased sales periods, customers have used her coupon codes sparingly. “I think it’s because it is sort of the official launch of the holiday shopping season, and people get excited to make purchases,” she said.
So before you cash out on that cart filled with goodies, double-check you’re not missing coupon codes or free shipping offers.
Don’t see a coupon code? There’s no harm in asking for one to make sure you aren’t missing a deal.
Burke, for example, noted her Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale is the only time she ever marks down all her popular pillowcases. She stays close to her computer on Cyber Monday so she can answer shopper questions through her site’s live-chat feature.
Not sure how to ask for a discount? Just use the common sense and manners you would in a retail store.
Terrible way to ask: “Can I have a promo code?”
Excellent way to ask: “I love your handmade hair barrettes and have been following you on Etsy for a few months. I wanted to check to see if you’re offering any discount codes for Cyber Monday. Would love to stock up for the holidays!”
The worst a seller can tell you is no, they’re not offering a sale. Either way, they’ll probably be grateful you’ve been checking out their items.
Your Turn: What are your tips for scoring a deal on Cyber Monday? Share them in the comments!
Lisa Rowan is a writer, editor and podcaster living in Baltimore.