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16 Ecommerce Website Tweaks to Do Today to Prepare Your Business for the Holiday Season

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It’s never too early to get your business ready for the upcoming holiday selling season. Planning ahead is the key to profitability. Here are some tips to help make sure you’re prepared when shoppers arrive looking for holiday deals.

Optimize Your Site for Mobile

In April of this year, Google changed the way it ranks websites in searches from mobile devices. The change boiled down to how well your site is optimized for mobile viewers. If it isn’t, your site might now rank lower in mobile searches. Given that nearly half of all ecommerce browsing and purchasing research occurs on mobile, if you aren’t ranking well or aren’t catering to that audience, you are losing out in the consideration process altogether. For the 2014 holiday season, ecommerce sites saw an average of 33.7% of traffic coming from smartphones, and another 12.4% from tablets.

Here are a few ways to ensure your online store is mobile-optimized for the holidays:

  • Ensure your mobile experience is in fact mobile-optimized: Don’t just assume that your desktop website works just as well for mobile viewing. Pick up your phone and tablet and see how user-friendly your experience is. Ask friends to do the same. Google Developers even has a mobile-friendly test you can take.
  • Take the responsive approach: While there are various ways to configure your site for mobile, the simplest is responsive web design. Fluid page layouts, images that resize and media queries give you a site that looks great no matter what device it’s viewed on. For a new business, responsive web design is the most cost and time-effective option.
  • Checkouts need to be as mobile-friendly as the rest of your site: One of the most important features of your mobile-friendly site is an easy-to-use checkout process. Ensure the “Add to Cart” and “Checkout” buttons, as well as your shopping cart icon, are easy to find and read. Keep image use to a minimum because load time affects site abandonment. Use large buttons that can be tapped easily on a small screen Put your phone number at the top of each page. Ask for as little new information as possible from existing customers. They should be able to check out with just their username and password.

Get Your Site in Shape

Just like any brick-and-mortar store, your website must be ready to shepherd a crowd of shoppers through your front door, down the aisles and to the register. For a website, that means quickly loading pages, intuitive navigation and a secure checkout.

  • Test your infrastructure: Do a round of load testing to ensure servers can handle increases in traffic and transactions. Remember, page load time impacts not only the current visit, but future visits as well — not to mention your search rankings.
  • Clean up your site: Do a survey of your website to ensure there are no broken images or hyperlinks. Use 301s to redirect any 404s.
  • Add acceptance and trust marks: Put these marks in easy-to-see spots on your website. An example is the PayPal acceptance mark. Seeing it can help instill confidence and allay customers’ security concerns about payments.
  • Have an emergency plan: Make sure you have the phone numbers of your hosting and shopping cart providers, development team and credit card processor.
  • Don’t mess with success: Don’t push your luck messing about with your website the day before Cyber Monday. Unless something is broken, put a “code freeze” in place a few weeks before Thanksgiving.

Tee Up Your Holiday Sales Strategy

Preparing for holiday sales is about more than server capacity and navigational flows. Make sure you leverage your marketing efforts appropriately, as well.

  • Do your homework: Review your sales from last year. What were the big sellers? Don’t know? Make it a priority to install tracking codes and capture those metrics this year.
  • Beef up inventory: You know better than anyone else about lead times, especially for items coming from overseas. Place your orders now, so you’re well stocked for the holiday rush.
  • Optimize for search (SEO): Update your keywords for better search engine optimization, adding any product or category keywords you know will be hot sellers this year.
  • Create “quick navigation” paths: It can be especially profitable to include navigational “quick links” on your home page, linking shoppers directly to seasonal bestsellers.
  • Build buzz with social media: Prepare a holiday promotion to launch on your Facebook page and Twitter account, offering discounts for people who follow your social efforts.

Think Globally

“It is a small world after all” has never been more relevant than it is today. By leveraging free online tools and research on global trends, even SMBs can find success selling internationally.

  • Do more homework: Learn the customs, duties, taxes and regulatory requirements of your targeted sales regions, which can allow you to position your products effectively and appropriately. Plus, stay on top of the product categories and brands that are hot overseas.
  • Keep shipping costs low: 47% of all online shoppers say that free shipping would make them more likely to purchase from another country. Consider the trade off between incurring shipping costs and the lifetime value of a new customer.
  • Consider how customers want to pay: Research local buyers’ preferred payment methods, which vary significantly depending on the country. If you can’t offer payment in local currency, at least provide a currency converter.

Even though there are several months until the holiday sales season is officially underway, tackle several of the items on this list now so that you’ll have time to spare. You don’t have to do everything we recommend. Accomplishing even just one or two of these marketing initiatives can help make this a more successful shopping season.

Want to learn more about how to increase your brand awareness online once you have the non-negotiables in place? Join Paypal, Bigcommerce and Harvard Business Review in a webinar on Tuesday, October 13. Sign up here. 

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