Online retail sales skyrocket in the weeks leading up to the holidays. According to the National Retail Federation, 131 million consumers shopped online in 2013 on Cyber Monday alone. Online stores need to be prepared to handle an increase in potential visitors. If your website doesn’t run smoothly, it could be troublesome for your sales and reputation. Last year Best Buy’s website crashed on Black Friday because of a spike in mobile traffic, which undoubtedly resulted in a loss of sales.
There are a number of things you can do to prepare your ecommerce store for the holiday shopping blitz, and do them now. The bottom line is that your store needs to perform seamlessly to keep customers happy and sales high. Make any changes early and test them so you know they work. This blog post will go over some things you should keep in mind during this merry period of increased traffic.
Commit Big Updates Now
Don’t update your site or server during the holidays. Make all of your updates before the holiday season. This is very important. With higher than average visitors and purchases on your site, you don’t want to make changes in case they cause unexpected technical problems. Make any updates now (with increased traffic numbers in mind) and test them all out before the busy season starts.
Don’t Experiment With Site Layouts
It’s good to keep things fresh, but don’t try anything new during the holidays. People like consistency. They won’t appreciate coming to your store and finding out the navigation they’re used to has changed. Changing up your layout can also cause unforeseen glitches, which, again, you don’t want during such a busy period.
That being said, it is a good idea to create holiday-specific landing pages, if you do it before the holidays start. Add some holiday-themed images to put customers in the mood to shop. Create new gift-specific categories, like “Gift Ideas for Dad” or specialised gift guide pages. Give yourself time to test that it works well and looks pretty. Here’s an example from The Body Shop:
Are Loading Times Up To Speed?
According to KissMetrics, 47% of visitors expect a page to load in 2 seconds, and 79% of shoppers will not return to a website if they were dissatisfied with its performance. Not only will these customers not return, but 44% of them will also tell their friends about a negative experience. With so many potential eyeballs on your site over the holidays, you can’t risk a slow landing page and an unhappy customer.
You can use Google’s Page Speed Tool to see how your website’s loading times perform and understand where you need improvements. Consider using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) or a load balancer to help distribute the traffic load to multiple servers. Keep your website light and remove large photo and video files that can slow things down.
Don’t lose potential customers over something that can be tested and fixed early.
Increase Web Security
This Deloitte holiday survey from 2014 indicates that 55% of people are concerned with online security when they shop online. And they have good reason – more data breaches occur over the holidays than any other time of year.
Reassure your customers that their data is protected, avoid any hacks, and protect yourself from fraudulent purchases. Use SSL authentication and a secure ecommerce platform, implement address verification system (AVS), require card verification value (CVV), and don’t store your customers’ data.
Your website’s security should be a priority throughout the whole year, but double-check it’s all working fine over the holidays too. Click here to find out how to make your website compliant with PCI SSC security standards.
Scale Up Your Store’s Inventory
Take a look at your sales trends from the year before and use them to predict how many sales you’ll be making this year. Stock your inventory to keep up with the demand – don’t promise an item that you can’t deliver.
One of the pros of using a drop shipper like Printful for your fulfilment is that you don’t have to worry about inventory or shipping – we have that covered for you! However, it might still be a good idea to check in with drop shippers (and all of your integrations for that matter) to make sure you’re all on the same page.
Optimize for Mobile Use
Mobile search and purchases are growing, especially over the holidays. Marketing Land reports that in 2014, one in four purchases were made on a mobile device during the holiday season, up from 18.6% in 2013. So your website should be optimized for mobile use to anticipate spending on smart devices.
Hopefully you have already done this, given Google’s recent algorithm update that punishes non-mobile friendly websites. But if you haven’t, start by testing out your website with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
Test Your Store’s Buying Process
So, you’ve successfully run your marketing campaigns, your products are ready, and you have customers visiting your store. Can they buy your products without a hitch? Shopping cart abandonment is a huge problem for online retailers. 74% of carts were abandoned by shoppers in 2013. Go through your buying process to make sure it’s seamless and easy to understand. You don’t want your preparations and marketing efforts to go wasted. Once people find your website and products, make sure they can actually buy what you’re selling.
It’s better to be safe than sorry. Think of all the problems that might occur during the holidays and come up with a plan for how to handle them. What will you do if your server crashes? How will you handle a data hack? What if your products go out of stock? You can’t always predict what will happen, but you can cover your bases and prepare yourself for any scenario.
Conclusion: Test, Test, Test
Test your processes and whether your servers can handle increased traffic. Fix any bugs. Update security. Fix everything and anything that can cause delays or crashes for your store over the holidays. Test everything, and do it now, while you have time to repair what needs to be repaired.