Five Ways to Prepare Your Ecommerce Site for the Holidays

Holiday Shopping

The most wonderful time of the year is quickly approaching us. In fact, we are just two months away before the holiday season kicks into full gear. A single day of sales in November and December can easily bring in double or even triple the amount of revenue seen on a typical sales day. To show you just how much revenue potential is out there, 2012 saw $33.8 billion spent on online sites alone during the holidays, which was up from $30 billion in 2011 (a 13 percent increase!). It’s safe to say that there will be equal if not larger sales numbers for this year. Here are a number of ways you can prime your ecommerce site for the holidays.

Start Planning Your Strategy and Supply Chain Right Now

Even though we are not quite in November or late October yet, it is never too early to start hatching a strategy. One of the things you need to do is lay out a schedule for promotions. If you take a look at your website analytics reports, you should be able to identify big spikes on Cyber Monday, Black Friday, and the days leading up to Christmas. Start to figure out sales that will make people excited. After that, be sure to setup a timetable for campaign promotions leading up to the big days. Social media and email blasts are key in getting the word out about your great specials.

Once you figure out promotions, be sure to have your inventory ready for the holiday season. Take a minute to look at your previous holiday seasons’ sales records and note which items were hot sellers. You want to plan purchases accordingly to these numbers, ensuring that you have the right amount of stock before and during the holiday rush. On the supply chain side of things, check with your suppliers to see if they have enough stock to meet your projected demands, and make sure that your logistics and supplier invoices are fully cleared. You want to do your best to avoid delays and hiccups as much as possible.

Inspect All of Your IT Assets and Web Content

On the backend side of things, you want to make sure that all your IT assets are up and running. As people flock to your site in droves, the worst thing that can happen is some sort of server failure. 404s, long load times, and 502s—these can make customers frustrated to the point of mashing the reload button for minutes. Be sure to also update your programs and IT assets so that they have latest patches. Recently, the USPS updated its shipping API, and sites that ran an outdated version of it experienced checkout problems. If you run a smaller shop with less brand recognition, these errors can kill consumer momentum completely and send your viewers elsewhere.

Additionally, thoroughly test your links to ensure that they all lead to their intended pages. People will frantically navigate your pages in hopes of securing the best deals in time, and you don’t want to confuse them any further. For the page content itself, take some time to review all of it to make sure that that all your images are correct, each product description is solid, and all grammar is perfect. Keeping your information current, clean, and accurate is key in providing a friendly consumer experience.

Make Your Pages Festive for the Holidays

Most big retailers and ecommerce sites want to set the mood for the holidays. They want to remind you that Christmas is coming up, and if you don’t have your gifts planned out, you better hurry up! To do this, a number of sites have holiday-themed landing pages. When consumers land on your site, you want to shower them with products and offers that would make great presents. Think about implementing a holiday gift guide with items categorized as stocking stuffers, “for him,” “for her,” and the like. It never hurts to be helpful to the customer. Having holiday themed pages also brings your rank up in search engines via SEO. Have some small toys that need to go? Put them on a page with holiday words, and people who are looking for stocking stuffers on Bing and Google will take notice.

Offer Customer-Friendly Logistics Options

People like to save money here and there, especially when they have to make a large number of purchases for friends and family. In fact, free shipping can make or break an order at the checkout screen. In a 2013 study, UPS ran a survey stating that 76% of online consumers consider free shipping an essential option. Other retailers and ecommerce sites out there have already taken notice of this information and are starting to offer this service. You need to keep up with your competitors, and free shipping will be key this holiday season. You can also use free shipping to drive the consumer to purchase more goods. Say that a customer has $95 worth of products in a cart but needs a minimum of $100 to qualify for free shipping. That customer is likely to add more goods into the cart to earn that free shipping ticket.

One other study from UPS shows that 68% of people who recommend an online store to others did so because free shipping was available. If you’re looking to capitalize off your holiday momentum to dive head first into next year, free shipping seems to be the way to go.

“What if he doesn’t like what I bought him?” “I think I have the right size?” “Did her mom last week tell me she already has one?”

A lot of stress goes into holiday shopping, so it’s also a good idea to try to make the consumer’s experience with your site as pleasant and stress-free as possible. Be sure to offer a return policy that is clearly and succinctly presented on your website. Having this takes a large load of stress off of consumers since they know that they can easily get their money back in the event of a bad purchase. They won’t have to fret about making poor decisions, can click the checkout button with a clear mind, and move on swiftly to the next item on the list. Try to also offer gift wrapping options. Presentation is always important, especially if you are trying to impress someone.

Establish an Effective Mobile Ecommerce page

Keep aware of your mobile device ecommerce avenues this holiday. Mobile commerce, or mcommerce, has accounted for 15-16% of all ecommerce purchases in 2011 and 2012. As people are becoming more reliant on browsing the web through tablets and smart phones, they are also relying on devices to take care of online purchases. When big businesses along the lines of Best Buy and Home Depot are priming their mobile media content, pages, and checkouts, it is a smart idea to follow their lead and keep up with them. Companies like Burberry have already put out fall and winter themed mobile ads to bring visitors to a user-friendly landing page. You definitely don’t want to miss out on these opportunities. Some key features for a good mcommerce site include real-time information on pricing and inventory, easy linking to customer review sites, and quick access to critical product information.

Published by

Joseph Yi

Since he was a freshman in college, Joseph has worked in several internet startup companies and has developed campaigns and digital strategies for Fortune 500 companies and brands including the Los Angeles Lakers, Manchester City FC, the Oakland Raiders, Sephora, and Whole Foods. Follow Joseph on Twitter.