Black Friday is just a couple weeks away and you should start preparing for it if you haven't yet. It has long been one of the biggest shopping days of the year, and in recent years, the crowds have gradually begun to shift from storefronts to the internet. This is partly because customers are realizing more and more about the benefits of shopping from the comfort of home.

While brick-and-mortar retailers ensure their stores are prepared for long lines and demand for certain products, e-commerce businesses have their own list of preparations. As this year's big day approaches, here are a few tips to help your business survive the onslaught.

Check Your Infrastructure

If you're marketing your Black Friday deals, the day after Thanksgiving could bring unprecedented traffic to your site. As part of your pre-holiday planning process, check to ensure your server infrastructure can handle the load. If you're website is hosted by a third-party provider, contact them to alert them of the expected surge in traffic so they can brace for impact.

This process should also include a security check to make sure your customer data will be safe throughout the holiday season. A data breach during the holidays can be disastrous, especially if you've worked hard to build loyalty and trust with your customers.

Offer Free Shipping

Since shipping costs rank among the top reasons for shopping cart abandonment, free or very inexpensive shipping is a must. In surveys, customers have also ranked free shipping higher than percent-off deals, so consider that as you're planning your promotion. On Black Friday, customers expect special deals in general, so it's important to offer a greater level of discount on that day than you do during your normal promotions.

As the holidays rapidly approach, make sure your shipping processes and credit card payment options are ready for the onslaught. If you contract with a fulfillment center who hasn't done your sales before, make sure they're aware of the surge in business you're expecting so they can staff appropriately. If you handle shipping on-site, purchase large quantities of mailing supplies in advance and have it ready to go before the big day.

Be Creative

Brick-and-mortar locations go all out on Black Friday, finding the most creative ways possible to lure customers into their stores. E-commerce retailers should employ similarly creative strategies to win online customers. Add a holiday theme to your business logos and banners to help get your customers in a festive mood and inject some fun into your Black Friday deals.

One example is Amazon's Lightning Deals, which introduces cut-rate deals throughout the day for short periods of time. This "going, going, gone" approach prompts customers to buy items they might not buy if they could procrastinate. Have fun and set a time limit on your sale for best results.

Think Long Term

A successful Black Friday event brings a large number of people into your online store for a short period of time. While they're there, find ways to take advantage of the opportunity for your long-term business success. Offer shoppers the opportunity to sign up for special deals and coupons. With each purchase receipt, include a coupon good for use during your after-Christmas sale.

By building your database with the names and email addresses of interested customers, you can utilize your Black Friday success to build your overall customer base throughout the following year. You can also use analytics solutions to generate reports about your website traffic, conversions, and sales to make fully-informed decisions in advance of next year's Black Friday sale.

Black Friday brings a great opportunity for small businesses, both online and in traditional storefronts. A well-prepared business can make a good impression on new customers and increase the chance of bringing those customers back after the holidays and for many Black Fridays to come.