8 Ways to Get Your Ecommerce Site Ready for This Holiday Shopping Season

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This holiday shopping season is predicted to be a big one for retailers. The National Retail Federation expects retail sales in November and December to increase by 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion this year. Online sales are forecast to increase between 7 and 10 percent over last year.

The projected increase in online and mobile shopping shouldn’t surprise any business owner. (We’ve been writing about online and mobile shopping trends for years now.) However, this is not a “build it and they will come” scenario. Having a website to sell your products from doesn’t automatically mean that droves of online shoppers are going to purchase from you. Today’s shopper is savvy and expects a lot from their online shopping experience. If you want to win them over, you’ve got to meet their expectations.

To get ready for this holiday season (and for the shoppers who seem to have extra money to spend compared to past years and who are ready to spend it), retailers should be looking at more than in-store promotions and point of sale. They should be making sure their ecommerce sites (and more importantly the data and processes running those sites) are ready to handle the traffic. Competition this year will be fierce. Are you ready to compete? Here are 8 ways to get your ecommerce site ready for this holiday shopping season.

Make sure your site is mobile responsive

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – your site has to be mobile responsive in order to be competitive. Even Google now favors mobile responsive sites in their search algorithms. Consumers are increasingly turning to mobile devices to research and make purchases in micro-moments throughout their day. According to Google, mobile searches in stores are up by over 30%.

Is your website mobile responsive? Is it easy to navigate on mobile devices? If not, you will likely lose the increasing number of shoppers who are looking for gifts and gift ideas this holiday season. If you’ve already got a mobile responsive site, double check what each page of your website looks like on mobile devices before the season kicks off.

Check your site speed and loading time

Long loading times can kill your traffic and your sales. Web users expect sites to load within two seconds. After that, they will abandon your site for one that can serve them what they want in the time they expect. Kissmetrics reports that “79% of web shoppers who have trouble with website performance say they won’t return to the site to buy again” and they’re likely to tell their friends about the poor experience, too.

Your site speed is another important thing you should check prior to the holiday rush. Try doing a load test using a tool like WebPageTest or Google’s Page Speed Tools. The great thing about Google’s tool is that it will make suggestions for how to improve your website’s speed. Authority Hacker also has a great article to improve site speed.

Plan your content

Why spend hours aimlessly roaming the stores for the perfect gift when you can do the research online and find what you want with just a few key words? Consumers are doing the shopping research at their convenience online and on mobile devices before they buy. In fact, in the same Google article that mobile searches are up, they also report that within Google’s own metrics, mobile searches related to “best” products have grown by more than 50% in the last year. This is why creating good, easy-to-find, high-search-ranking content related to your holiday promotions and products is important. Make sure you have plenty of gift guides for moms, dads, coworkers, kids, etc. so you can improve your organic search placement.

Perfect your checkout process

Abandoned carts can be the most frustrating part of ecommerce for retailers. High cart abandonment rates are a sign that your checkout process is not as easy you think it is. Are you taking them to too many pages? Are there way too many fields to fill out? Does your checkout page look untrustworthy? All these things can lead to cart abandonment. Kissmetrics has a great list of 40 checkout page strategies to improve conversion rates. It’s a great starting point for ideas for improving your own online checkout pages.

Perfect your design

How you organize products throughout your website can have a huge impact on sales. Make sure your most popular items are front and center, high margin and add-on items are pushed appropriately, and it’s easy for shoppers to find exactly what they’re looking for.

In addition to featuring your best sellers, make sure your gift guides are front and center so shoppers can breeze through and find something for everyone on their list.

Find the bugs and fix them

Have you checked in with customer support lately? What are the known bugs that need to be fixed? What are the most frequently asked questions? Is there anything you can change about your design or processes to eliminate these questions?
The easier your website is to use, the more conversions you’re going to have. Customer support can be key in helping you smooth out the areas of your website that cause confusion or aren’t working properly.

Secure your website

Cyber criminals love the holidays, which is why this time of year is when we see the majority of cyber breaches. Is your website truly secure? Do your users know it? Perform a security audit before the season. If you’re processing credit card payments on your site, make sure your site is covered under an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate, and that your certificate is valid and doesn’t need to be renewed. Also, at some point in the shopping process, let shoppers know their personal information is encrypted before it’s transmitted. That will give them peace of mind instead of leaving them guessing and worrying about how secure (or not) their personal information is.

Have a way to track metrics

Finally, you need to know exactly what’s working and what’s not working in your ecommerce experience as a whole, so you can tweak your marketing all season long and repeat your successes (and avoid any mistakes) next year. This means having a plan for tracking metrics before the season starts. For example, put up heat maps on your website, so you can see where your customers are clicking the most and catch patterns of activity or places that seem to draw more attention. Another really productive idea is to set up conversion goals in Google Analytics. That way, you can track the successes of your campaigns and run A/B tests to learn which page elements and layouts perform the best.

Competition will be tough for online retailers this holiday season. And these 8 ways to get your ecommerce site ready for this holiday shopping season can help you be more competitive and increase your sales.

Have questions about any of the moving pieces that can make or break your ecommerce experience? Maybe you’re ready to request a free consultation with us. From backend analytics and business intelligence to sharper, friendlier user design, the RTS Labs team has the right experience. If you come away with even one new idea from the conversation, it will have been worth your time.