How to Prepare Your Ecommerce Site for the Holidays

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You may have already noticed retailers putting up Christmas decorations now, before Halloween has even arrived. Deny it all you can, but the holidays are fast approaching.

Luckily, you can proactively prepare your ecommerce site now for the holiday onslaught by beefing up its security, promotions, and other items. Here’s what you can start on today to get ready for eager shoppers.

1. Handle your hosting.

Talk to your hosting company about whether it’s equipped to handle traffic spikes during your sales promotions, or if you need to upgrade your plan. Perform a load test on your website to learn how it can be optimized. Free load tests are available at LoadImpact. You can test your website speed for free through GTMetrix and Google Webmaster Tools.

Finally, examine the security of your website and its payment gateways to protect it from hackers, viruses and cyber criminals. WordPress website owners should read these posts on security issues and solutions and how to protect your website from cyber attacks.

2. Get mobile-friendly.

More and more people are using mobile devices to search on stuff online- this past May, Google reported that it served more search queries on mobile devices than on desktops in 10 countries.

With mobile devices outpacing standard computers for use, it pays to enable your website for responsive design. To this end, DudaMobile can quickly get your website “mobilized”- and for free too. You can learn more about creating a mobile-friendly website or even an app here.

If you are emailing a subscriber list, ensure that your emails are mobile-friendly too. Consider including links and call-to-action buttons that work well on mobile devices.

3. Beef up your marketing.

Consider what promotion or product discount you can launch around the holidays, then choose the marketing channels that will carry that event. You might wish to create an email campaign that leads up to your promotion, or you may want to create some Facebook or Google ads that announce your product discount.

When you have the time, create a series of blog posts, social media announcements, and landing pages that lead up to the planned promotion or product discount. When the time comes, you’ll have those items ready to launch.

If your email subscribers are already segmented, create specific discounts/promotions for each group. If your subscriber list is not yet segmented, consider sending a few holiday announcement emails now to gauge response rate and interest.

Not sure which promotion to run or product to discount? Talk to your affiliate managers or advertisers about any coupons or promotions they have on the horizon. Ask them if you can obtain vanity coupon codes (i.e., coupon codes whose code words match your website or page topic).

4. Optimize your website structure.

Even if visitors are being directed to your website quickly, they won’t find your great content if the site’s navigation or design is sub-standard. To this end, UXPunk enables you to test your website for usability via its free Optimal Workshop, which uses the concept of card sorting to create a better taxonomy system for your website.

iPerceptions allows you to survey your website’s visitors and gain almost immediate feedback on what features you should be adding (or removing). The basic plan is free. UserEcho also provides a limited free survey service.

If you really want to see how your website ranks for findability, ask a few of your friends to complete specific tasks on your website, such as locating a particular product or downloading a paper. If your friends report difficulty in finding an item, or if their success rate times vary considerably, you may wish to examine the reasons behind this issue.

Other ways to test your website include looking through your search logs to learn what keywords are being input into your website’s internal search engine. Also, Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics provide you with reports of external search terms and traffic patterns to specific web pages.

5. Work out the logistics.

Think about what might frustrate your customers or even turn them away as they are shopping online. Add different shipping options so that packages are delivered on time and within shopper’s budgets. Consider your refund policy and, regardless of what you decide to offer, state it clearly and concisely on your website. If possible, offer several different payment options.

If you decide to run any promos, clearly outline the terms and conditions of these events so you don’t have any misunderstandings. If you decide to run an online contest or social contest, make sure you don’t end up operating an illegal lottery or engaging in copyright infringement.

Don’t forget to make the holiday shopping season profitable for you as well. Ask affiliate managers if they will consider raising their commission rates in exchange for paid placement of their products and/or holiday promos. Those paid placements can include placement not only to your website, but your email newsletter, social accounts, and blog.

The Bottom Line

Take steps now to get your website ready for the oncoming holiday season and you’ll stand to make a lot more revenue by the time it’s all over in January. You’ll also likely benefit by adding new email subscribers and strengthening your ties to advertising managers.

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