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10 Ways to Ready Your eCommerce Website for the Big Holiday Surge

It seems like it was only a few weeks ago that we were all planning our 2018, and now it’s holiday season again. And, for eCommerce clients, the holidays means three things: sales, sales, and sales.

It’s a good time to be selling online during the holidays. Unemployment is low, and people are spending: there’s a recent history of massive holiday sales. The weeks between Black Friday and Christmas are the most commercially active in America.

For eCommerce players, it can feel overwhelming. Online (and brick-and-mortar) traffic becomes nearly unbearable, and advertising costs increase considerably. Even the technology industry is quick to keep up with these rushed times: Facebook’s updating data, Google is updating on mobile and Amazon has a new ad marketplace.

You deserve to get a piece of the 2018 eCommerce holiday action, and we’re here to guide you through this exciting and challenging time. Here’s our holiday checklist for eCommerce sites!

1. Be Ready for Mobile

More and more, users access all kinds of websites from their phones and tablets. People are browsing more, and ultimately buying more while they’re on-the-go. Mobile sales grow faster than brick-and-mortar and even desktop sales.

You certainly want to be up for that challenge.

For years, it has been essential to optimize websites for mobile devices. However, while it was relevant before, it has now become crucial for Search Engine Optimization. Since July 2018, Google added a new item for SEO: it now takes into account how fast your site runs on mobile.

Here are a few things you can do to make your website run more smoothly:

  • Run AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages. Backed by Google, this is a project that focuses on page designs that load quickly on mobile. It improves user experience, as your potential customers don’t have to wait extra time to see each page.
  • Optimize images. While they’re necessary to make websites more visually appealing, high-quality photos can take up a lot of space, increasing loading time. There are many online tools to optimize images across devices, such as Akami. Thanks to this, your site will load faster and get noticed quicker by Google.
  • Use digital wallets. Mobile eCommerce checkout can be cumbersome, and digital wallets make for a speedier way to purchase. They can even speed up desktop conversions!
  • Make check out a fully optimized experience. As the holidays approach, revamp whatever needs revamping. If you want to add an option to give to charity or create a better experience for users, now’s the time.
  • Befriend long tail search terms. For your product pages, focus less on keywords and more on long tail questions. This will also help you rank on voice search queries.

2. Tweak SEO

Of course, you’ve had an SEO strategy set up for a while, but the highly competitive holidays require a little extra. It can take weeks to get SEO results, so the best time to set up your holiday strategy is now!

As we approach significant sales dates like Black Friday, paid keywords will get more expensive, so it’s good to do some organic work ahead. We recommend:

  • Look at successful keywords from last year. Optimize for the terms that worked before, by creating more content around them like blog posts and videos.
  • Remember voice-related searches. Voice searches have increased in the past few years, and your website should take them into account. Incorporate your highest-value SEO questions for voice searches, including information about brick-and-mortar locations if you have them.
  • Create expectations. These provide an excellent rankings boost, and they set the tone for your coming holiday-related content, like upcoming gift guides.
  • Add holiday queries in advance. Because SEO takes its sweet time to work, it’s a great idea to begin working on optimized metadata and copy. You can do this by writing posts, adding some sneak peek pages, looking into your industry’s trends and even get a glimpse of what your competitors are doing. See what people are searching for on Google Trends and provide just that.

3. Increase Average Order Value

Most holiday shopping gets done between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which is when the big sales happen. However, you can increase your average by running discounts and promos throughout the season.

Here are some ad campaign activities to get you started:

  • Create a calendar and share it with your team. Build an integrated marketing campaign and make sure every member of your team knows every detail, including when it goes live and what are their roles. There are great organizational tools available to help you keep everyone in the loop, like Basecamp or Asana.
  • Build an excellent holiday email strategy. Make sure you have segmentized your mailings properly, and find the right frequency. It can be challenging to find the balance between spam and keeping your customers informed. Craft your emails as fun ways to engage with your customer base, written in a casual language, with fun images and even emojis. Let your customers get to know you and your team. Besides email, you can also do this through Facebook Messenger through a bot like Maisie.
  • Build a disclaimer page for your holiday promos. Be transparent with your clients regarding your new promos, and keep them informed on delivery dates and return policies. It’s always a good idea to have “you have until X date to get this by Christmas” notifications, on social media and/or email. Plan your marketing as big dates draw nearer.
  • Try tiered promotions. These include “buy more and get more for less,” and “free shipping with a purchase of over X.”
  • Everyone loves gifts. Promotions including gifts with purchase have proven very successful.
  • Upload your most significant holiday products on social media.
  • Build loyalty by offering previews or even promos to your customer groups.
  • Use less known sales days to your advantage. Consider partnering with a charity for Giving Tuesday. Perhaps use Small Business Saturday to engage more with your local audience. Since you have an online store, why not try Cyber Monday promos? Don’t constrain yourself to just Black Friday when the holidays are so long!

4. Focus on Content

Creating compelling and unique content is an essential part of selling online. Merchandising strategies for this medium depend a lot on having updated and relevant information. That’s why, for the holidays, you should definitely:

  • Compose gift guides. This is a great way to get users flowing around your site and go where you need them to: the store. Create guides with themes, like presents for different user profiles (such as gifts for fashion lovers) or by price range. Update these constantly to stay relevant.
  • Bundle up. Create “frequently bought together” bundles with promotions, and feature these sets on your social media and mailings.

5. Optimize for your Internal Search Engine

Just as you perform SEO to rank well on Google and other search engines, you can do this inside your site. You wouldn’t want potential buyers to leave because they can’t find a product they need and you have. Some tips to keep that from happening:

  • Keep common misspellings in mind. Offer an autocomplete search to help your customers write their search terms correctly, but also add them to your dictionary. Review weekly.
  • Create holiday landing pages, including gift ideas and other popular search terms. It’s important for your visitors to get these pages in their search results, even if they’re not directly looking for them. Stay ahead of your customers’ thoughts!
  • Work around the “no results” page. Since even a less-than-common misspelling can take potential customers to a “no results” page, it’s important to avoid that experience. One good idea is to have your “no results” page show gift guides.

6. Keep an All-around Seamless Experience

Once your customers have browsed your eCommerce store and shopped, the critical final steps await: shipping and delivery. The way you handle the last line of defense will make all the difference.

To avoid issues, we suggest:

  • Prepare your stock. There’s a strong chance your sales will skyrocket during the holidays, and you don’t want these hot days to catch you off guard. Pre-order whatever might take longer to arrive, mainly items from abroad. Make sure each warehouse has enough stock and set up a plan to move things around in case of an emergency.
  • Set a minimum threshold for stock. That means that, if you’re running too low on a particular item, it will be automatically deleted from customers’ carts. This way you’ll have room to hear from your different warehouses and restock.
  • Sync sales from all channels. Every channel where customers can buy your products needs to be fully synchronized with the others. Make sure everyone’s on the same page to avoid deadly mistakes!
  • Offer shipping options. Let your customers know they have several ways to get each product. Offer in-store pickup, and different shipping options depending on speed.

7. Check that your Site is Ready for the Holidays

As the holidays usually come with much higher traffic, it’s essential to make sure your current website is up to the challenge.

Here are the technical aspects you should be checking:

  • Infrastructure. Make sure your servers are currently able to handle a substantial increase in traffic and transactions. Reach out to your server provider, like Bright Vessel, to perform any tests necessary to check that the site is running smoothly.
  • Old posts. This is an excellent time to go through your entire website and check that everything is in order. Make sure there aren’t any broken links or images around the site. Purge old data that isn’t relevant anymore, and update wherever necessary.
  • Add trustworthy payments. Make sure your customers have plenty of options when it comes to payment, including methods like PayPal and Apple Pay.
  • Have a look at all third-party integrations. Make sure the outside apps on your website are running well, and then keep them that way. Don’t toggle with new apps until after the holidays, as they can change the flow of your site.

8. Consider Going International

There are many potential customers outside our borders, and it’s a significant opportunity you might want to consider. You might be able to capture a chunk of the international market by:

  • Learning about your targeted sales region. Find out how to position your products in the right way. Research the customs, taxes, importation legislation of any country where you want to expand. Even better: research which items are “hot” in the region to promote those in particular.
  • Find out about the preferred local payment methods. Do they prefer PayPal or a region-specific way? Find out and try to sell in the local currency, or at least include a currency converter.
  • Lowering shipping costs. Low or free shipping can give you the edge on your competitors in the region. Keep in mind that the practice of reducing shipping costs could ultimately earn you lifetime customers.

9. Cater to Last-minute Shoppers

Most people do their Christmas shopping between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday (a sales period now called Cyber Five), but not everyone. There are still a lot of last-minute shoppers out there, and you should keep them in mind. A few strategies you can follow until your drop dead delivery date:

  • Organize an offer leading up to Christmas. Plan 12 different offers for the 12 days before your drop dead delivery date. Vary them up and say each of them on the very day, as to attract more visitors. Write the copy and schedule the offers in advance.
  • Market for last-minute shoppers. Remind them of how many days they have left for your drop dead delivery date and let them know which offers are available, including lowered shipping fees.
  • Once the drop dead delivery date has passed, market for gift cards. Redirect key site search queries for your gift cards home.

10. Make your Brand Known in the Holidays

The holidays provide the best possible way to make your brand known. Remember that a great sales experience leads to returning customers, so this provides the perfect opportunity.

A few things to set yourself apart:

  • Be personable. Set up a warm thank you email wishing your customers a happy new year, invite them to follow your social media and show some love there too. Let your customers get to know you and the team.
  • Invite customers into the store to use their gift cards and certificates.
  • Provide a friendly returns policy. Make the process seamless and hassle-free. Customers can forgive errors, but unpleasant and cumbersome experiences stay in the brain.
  • Don’t stop marketing. After the New Year, prepare new campaigns for new product launches or even national holidays. Stay on your customers’ lives!

Find out what worked well and what didn’t work, and file it for next year. You’ll find the data useful for the 2019 holiday season!

Bright Vessel provides you with everything you need to get your eCommerce store working at its highest performance during the holidays. Contact us now to find out about our services and prices!