The holiday season is a critical time for everyone, but for ecommerce businesses the intensity is exponentially amplified.
In this post we cover the following key areas you need to focus on to get your ecommerce store ready:
In the 2014 holiday season, retail ecommerce sales accounted for 23.4% of total annual retail ecommerce revenues. In 2015, the National Retail Federation is forecasting online sales to increase between 6% and 8% to as much as $105 billion.
Now, with the holidays just around the corner (including Black Friday and Cyber Monday), ecommerce retailers that specialize in digital goods are looking for new ways to create a positive, hassle-free user experience, while continuing to drive as many conversions as possible.
With that in mind, here are our top 6 tips on how to optimize your ecommerce store for the busy holiday season:
1. Go Mobile
Mobile accounted for almost 50% of total holiday traffic last year, and that number is only expected to increase. A mobile version of your site is essential for selling online, especially around holiday time.
Although transactions via desktop and laptop computers still dominate holiday buying, purchases from smartphones and tablets are on the rise. Shoppers also tend to use their devices for browsing and doing research on products and services, so your site has to be mobile-friendly - otherwise you run the risk of cart abandonment, and perhaps even a drop in your Google page rank.
2. Check Traffic Capability
Your site is likely to experience large volumes of traffic leading up to and during the holidays, so you’ll want to ensure that your platform can handle the surge without page load times slowing down. Speed is essential, particularly with ecommerce, and especially during the holiday shopping rush. A one-second page delay can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.
Also, by running a few A/B tests on your cart-to-checkout process, you can ensure that your checkout cart is functioning properly and is easy for your customers to use. Last, but not least, check with your content delivery network and host to make sure that your servers can withstand a spike in traffic. The last thing you want to have to deal with during the busy shopping season is a site outage.
3. Ensure Your Site is Secure
With increased volume comes a greater chance of a security breach. Regardless of whether or not you consider your company to be susceptible, it’s always a good idea to have a contingency plan in place. SSL certificates are not enough; your site’s design needs to have user security in mind. Ensure that your trust seals are positioned where customers can easily see them to reduce shopper anxiety at point of purchase.
Additionally, your site needs to have the right infrastructure in place to actually be secure. Start reviewing and testing your site now for vulnerabilities, and enhance security wherever possible. Hackers love this time of year, and will be probing for weak spots. Don’t let your company fall prey to an attack.
4. Ramp-up Email Marketing
Despite the plethora of marketing channels, email remains one of the most effective digital mediums for communicating and nurturing relationships with your customers. According to predictive marketing company Custora, email communication was responsible for driving 27% of Ecommerce sales on Black Friday last year.
As an online retailer, having an email marketing strategy in place during the holidays, especially for promotions (such as that irresistible giveaway you’ve been wanting to run) is an absolute must. Even after the holidays - continue to make ongoing improvements and tweaks to your email marketing campaigns, for they can be a powerful conversion generator year-round.
5. Keep Pricing Competitive
With the holiday season comes a retail environment where discounts drive demand and giant retailers dominate online pricing battles.
Digital retailers need to get creative and include pricing in their marketing strategy. Here are a few proven tactics you can use:
As a final note: make sure your customer service department knows the details for every promotion to help answer inquiries and reduce anxiety.
6. Preventing Fraud
With chip technology causing credit card fraud to happen increasingly online instead of in-store, it's important to ensure the increased volume of the holidays doesn't cause your fraud prevention measures to slip.
Monitoring significant transactions, utilizing verification systems, contacting customers to confirm their purchase and being wary of rush orders are some of the steps you can take to mitigate the impact of fraud. Additionally, if you have a fraud-prevention team, make sure you check in with them to ensure that prevention techniques are up-to-date.
For digital retailers, the holiday buying season requires a lot of thought and preparation to gain a strong foothold in the digital landscape. Meet this challenge head on by planning early with creative promotions, increasing your mobile presence, and having the proper technical infrastructure in place.
While this may seem like a heavy project to undertake, you’ll be enjoying the fruits of your labour by driving more sales and acquiring new customers along the way.