Top 10 Things You Need to Do to Have a Successful eCommerce Holiday Season

Written by Brenda on December 8, 2014 How to sell online.

Consumers spend around $52 billion on holiday shopping, and 90 percent of people will complete at least some of their shopping online. Those are some huge numbers, potentially bringing holiday cheer for all eCommerce website owners and businesses that are preparing for that holiday rush.

In short, the holidays are a good curse. As an eCommerce business you are pushed to your limit and have to prepare like no other time throughout the year. And mistakes do occur. Websites slow down, and customers get frustrated when the slightest mishap strikes during their shopping experience.

You can’t really blame them either, since the holidays are stressful and they just want to get their shopping done—until next year, of course.

There are two types of eCommerce sites during the holiday season: Those that are prepared and those that are unprepared. Your preparation creates your fate as to whether or not that eggnog goes down well. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top 10 things you need to do to have a successful eCommerce holiday season.

1. Make Sure Your Site is Up and Runs Fast

It’s inevitable; more people are going to come to your site over the holidays, putting stress on your servers, slowing down your site and potentially crashing the entire thing. Your first order of business to prepare for online holiday shopping is to ensure the site runs smooth and quick, preventing frustrated customers.

gtmetrixFree up database disk space and clear old and unnecessary files and logs throughout your site. Give your site the ultimate speed test by going to GTmetrix. Forecast how many visitors your site can withstand by load testing on sites like Load Impact.

Use these tools to identify areas that need improvement, and if you must, consider upgrading your hosting account to handle the rush.

2. Stop Testing During the Holiday Season

Let’s say you plan on testing how well your checkout process is working during the holidays. It seems like a decent idea at first, because you get a large sample of customers. The only problem with testing during traffic spikes is that your data is skewed dramatically, wasting time you could spend on other aspects of your site.

Avoid A/B testing at all costs during the holiday seasons. The data won’t reflect realistic numbers and people have completely different mentalities during the holidays. They jump through hoops to redeem coupons and search for offers like free shipping. What does this mean? Maybe your checkout isn’t as good as you think. olks will put up with yourj unintuitive checkout system to redeem a coupon during the holidays because they’re hungry for the deal. Don’t expect that kind of flexibility at any other time of the year.

3. Streamline the Checkout Process

Checkout our guide to streamlining your e-commerce store checkout process to truly understand the numerous areas you can improve on your site before the holiday season.

Your checkout is the holy grail during peak times. After all, it’s how you get money from customer pockets to yours. Start by ensuring the site offers all the possible payment options, and test if they actually work. Include large checkout buttons and see if there are any confusing portions in the checkout process.

And for goodness sake, don’t make people register for an account until after the checkout. Simplicity is the key here, so customers can get in and get out without wanting to bash your company later.

4. Prepare Your Store for Upselling and Bringing Customers Back

Overall, customer retention is the practice of bringing customers back to your site to purchase additional items. You know that your site gets an influx of holiday customers, so you can expect a wide range of new customers who you can capture and bring back for more.

How should you go about bringing customers back? Start by creating a high-converting email opt-in form for sending future promotions and product releases. Implement and test cart recovery emails to remind people they need to finish a purchase.

Reward programs and customer support all tie into the idea of creating a relationship with customers to bring them back for more.

There’s also a good chance some of the customers have no intention of returning at all, so upselling during the checkout is key to maximizing your holiday profits.

5. Double Check Your Offer Codes and Discounts

discount-codesCustomers are stressed enough as it is, but when they see an offer code or promotion and then realize that it isn’t working, problems arise. This goes both ways as well. Maybe one of your promotional codes is setup wrong and a customer receives an 80 percent discount when they should have only received a 20 percent discount.

Prepare for these situations by knowing how you will respond. Will you honor the promotion? Are you going to credit back their money completely? Is your customer support ready to handle angry customers?

6. Optimize for All Devices

Over $42 billion in purchases were made through mobile devices in 2013. The trend is only skyrocketing, so you need to optimize your site for mobile buyers during the holiday season.

Test the entire purchasing process on all the different browsers and devices to see if there are any problems. If your site is not currently optimized, you’re missing out big time, so get it figured out by next year.

7. Make Your Brand Unique With Alternative Offerings

What’s your primary value proposition during the holiday season? Is it free shipping or returns? Are you offering some nice discounts? That’s nice, but so is everyone else. It’s essential to think outside the box to see what you can offer to customers that no other business is thinking about.

Even the emails you send out to customers are being cluttered between all the other emails they receive for the holidays. Think about sending out emails at less popular times to get past this. The holiday season is a time to get creative and differentiate your eCommerce site.

8. Keep an Eye on Your Inventory

If you have pay-per-click promotions going directly to some sales pages, keep an eye on those products to ensure you have enough inventory. Make a list of your most popular products to either restock or notify people that they are sold out when stock runs out.

customer-support
Try to have better customer support than a potted plant, k?

9. Boost Personalization and Customer Support

This all ties into building a line of trust with your customers. Since people are willing to trample over each other on Black Friday, how do you think they will respond when they buy a product and you are out of stock?

Open up all modes of communication such as social media, email, live chat, and more to show that you are always working to make a personal connection with them. Think about personalizing emails and giving a peek into your business to show that you are a business filled with actual people, instead of just another faceless company.

10. Identify Top Sellers and Push Them Big Time

Your homepage is the prime location to put together striking graphics with promotions for your best products. If you sell them the most during the regular season, you can bet they fly off the shelves during the holidays. Make it easy for customers by hitting them with the most relevant links right from the start.

While in the process, check to see if your marketing copy is working to sell these popular products.

Conclusion

That’s it for making your site run like a champ during the holidays. Good luck reeling in the dough and Happy Holidays! And please let us know in the comments section how you have made changes to your eCommerce site to make it a successful holiday season.

Image Source: Sharon Hahn DarlinChristopher Sessums, bdunnette

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