Posted on Sep 26, 2017

Get Your Website Ready for the Holidays

If you think it’s too early to prepare your ecommerce site for holiday shoppers, it’s not!

As a small retailer, you’re already at a disadvantage to the mainstream retailer sites that have large a staff, and an even larger budget. But if you prepare the holidays early, get your website in order to attract the right audience, and to handle the additional traffic, you can reap significant benefits from the throngs of holiday shoppers who are looking for a bargain.

There steps you can take right now to help get you ahead and to continue running smoothly when busy times begin.


Test and Perfect the Site

Web speed is your friend. Kissmetrics reports that 40% of people abandon a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. You can’t afford that kind of a hit, so you’ve got to make absolutely certain that your website loads quickly and is glitch free.

Test all aspects of the site to make sure that it’s fast, user-friendly, and easy to navigate. Here’s a basic checklist to make sure that your site offers visitors the experience they expect:

  • Are the top pages loading in 3 seconds or less?
  • Are product images high quality and optimized?
  • Is the page copy well-written and scannable?
  • Is search working and offering valid results?
  • Are there any errors or hang-ups with the shopping cart?
  • Do sales confirmation, shipping details, or other email communications send as expected after the sale?

If you do experience any issues when evaluating your site, take the time to fix it now. If it’s beyond your technical expertise, see if we have the answer in the knowledge base, or contact iPage support. If a buying customer finds the error before you do, you’ve likely lost a sale.


Make the Site Festive

Brick and mortar stores go to a great deal of trouble setting up elaborate displays in order to attract holiday shoppers and put them the mood to buy. An ecommerce site is no different.

This doesn’t mean that the site should be cluttered with Christmas trees and bows, but rather that it emphasizes products and special deals with an appealing holiday display. It could be as simple as adding colorful accents, or an updated description for the items you think are desirable during the holidays. Why would this item make the perfect gift, or is it something that will improve the life of the holiday gift giver or party planner?

Select items to promote with special holiday pricing or promotions. And don’t make the shopper have to search for the deals. Bring the offer right to the front of the site, so the visitors can’t miss it. Try A/B testing on your offers, and even your visuals, so you can present the promotions that will have the most traction with your customers.

website sale banner

image: Pixabay

The more you highlight your offers, the more likely they are to move items, and that’s the name of the game this holiday selling season.


Fast Navigation

Nothing is going to kill an ecommerce site like slow navigation. Online purchases are often more spontaneous than at the brick and mortar stores, and you don’t want to discourage that.

A slow site only provides more time for the potential customer to change their mind. And a poorly performing website could affect the trust they have in your business or your brand. Users will likely abandon your site, and the sale, if any part of the purchase process is slow or complicated. The small ecommerce site just can’t afford that.

Test your site for speed and especially make certain that it can remain speedy even under high-volume conditions.


Mobile Responsiveness

This day and age, it would be unusual to find a site that is not optimized for use on mobile devices. But sometimes legacy technology, or outdated designs just won’t display properly in a mobile format. It’s easy enough to see how your site holds up. Simply view it from your own smartphone. Look for all of the items in the checklist above. Does the site load in a timely manner without distortion or cropping of text and images? Can you find the items you need and actually make a purchase?

Retailers will ignore mobile at their potential peril. Over 50% of all online searches happen on mobile devices. And one-third of all eCommerce purchases during the 2015 holiday season happened on a mobile phone.


Diversify payment methods

In order for online shoppers to make a purchase, they need to be able to pay for it. If you’re limiting your payment methods, you could be limiting your sales.

There’s nothing more frustrating for the customer than going through the entire shopping process and then only finding out at the checkout that the site doesn’t take your payment method.

Most sites today accept credit card and Paypal, letting the user select the one they prefer. If you don’t know what is right for you, talk to your bank about the possibilities, and possible fees associated with each transaction type.

Make sure you have a current SSL Certificate on your web server. Having an SSL initiates a secure browsing session to keep any data collected by your website safe.


Cheap and On-time Delivery

Sometimes the delivery costs are the final factor in an online purchasing decision. Make sure your shipping methods and prices are competitive. Offer the purchaser the option to pay for faster shipping if they need the products expedited. And don’t inflate shipping costs to put money into your own pocket.

Once a purchase is finalized and delivery expectations are set, you have to ship on-time. If you anticipate sales beyond your capacity to handle with the current staff, you may need to look into temporary help, or plan to put in hours yourself. There are certainly circumstances beyond your control that impact delivery schedules. But being slow to package and ship will not earn you a repeat customer, and could get you blasted on social media and review sites.

We want you to have a successful and profitable holiday sales season. Putting in the planning and website cleanup effort now will help ensure you and your website are ready for the holiday shopping season.