Preparing Your E-Commerce Store for the Holidays
The holiday shopping season is both a blessing and a curse for small businesses. The growth in sales can help the bottom line, but steep increases in traffic can crash a poorly maintained website. In addition, a frantic holiday shopper is likely to be in a rush, meaning that issues like slow loading times and counter-intuitive navigation will drive customers toward smoother waters. The ideal site customized for the season includes clear advertising of current specials, an easy-to-use search function and strong product descriptions. Below are the basics that will ensure your holiday is as profitable and stress-free as possible.
Every holiday season’s business is a learning experience, providing more data for the next year. By performing some holiday analytics on your site, you can identify problem areas and places for potential growth. For example, remarketing (or retargeting consumers who left your site without a purchase) both encourages site visitors to return and identifies certain issues that may be driving customers away before they complete the transaction. If many customers are leaving at the final page of the transaction, something as simple as reduced shipping rates may increase sales. Add a short site survey in the fall to get honest feedback and optimize the site for the winter.
The buying process
The shopping cart is the conversion generator for e-commerce sites. A buying experience that’s too complicated (asking for unnecessary information or steps) or doesn’t seem trustworthy will encourage browsers to shop elsewhere. Carefully screen your business's buying process. Do you accept PayPal? Do visitors have to leave your URL to purchase? Though it’s tempting to ask visitors to create an account to convert shoppers to loyal customers, when more than half of all shopping carts are left abandoned, the smart move is to focus on the ease of shopping, which can maximize your sales.
Of course, the fact remains that the holiday shopping season will likely bring many new visitors to your site, representing an interested market that could be converted into loyal customers through a weekly email campaign or membership in a discount program. The trick is to encourage people to leave their email address without frightening them off. Ask for the email once the customer is fairly committed by offering to send an online receipt and tracking information. To grab more addresses beforehand, take advantage of proven strategies like contests, social media outreach and (most importantly) valuable, interesting content that’s provided often enough to maintain interest but not so frequently as to drive people off.
All the smart design and efficiency in the world can't help your business if an unexpected spike in traffic causes slowdowns or crashes. Consult with your e-commerce hosting provider, both for the site and the shopping cart if necessary, to ensure that things will run smoothly on the back end. Be your own advocate and critic: Argue for the storage capabilities you need while ruthlessly testing and retesting the site for bugs. It should run smoothly on mobile and desktop browsers for various systems. By maintaining your brand message through a combination of advertising, social media marketing, and email marketing, you can drive traffic to a site designed to help shoppers and boost sales.
About the Author
Emily Miller is a marketing professional and small business blogger who recently graduated from Indiana University. She is an administrator and occasional contributor to Technected, and she is currently working to help startups and small businesses implement technology solutions for their companies.