Oct 14 2009

Preparing for the Holiday Rush

For consumers, the passing of Labor Day signals the transition from swimsuits to sweaters. But for e-tailers, it marks the ramp-up for the biggest online shopping season of the year: the Christmas frenzy. The gap between web and brick-and-mortar purchases continues to shrink, most notably during the holidays. To help you get the maximum traffic—and, more importantly, boost your conversions—put your site at the top of customers’ lists with these savvy seasonal strategies:

  • Deck your halls. Just as you’d decorate your physical storefront for the holidays, create a festive atmosphere throughout your site by stringing up some virtual trimmings. Remember, less is more—don’t impede your path to purchase, your product descriptions, or the essence of your brand with too many blinking lights or dancing elves.
  • Showcase current, in-stock items. When designing home pages, category pages, and banners, give preference to those items that are available for immediate shipment. Keep discontinued and clearance items in the Outlet section so they don’t detract from your prime offerings.
  • Boost your organic presence. With roughly 8 out of 10 buyers beginning their shopping process at a search engine, it’s essential that you maximize your exposure. Some effective strategies include optimizing the text portions of your site with targeted keywords, expanding your offerings to include products customers are searching for, and adding blogs or editorial content with strategic interlinking.
  • Clearly convey availability dates. This should be a year-round objective, but it’s especially critical during the holidays, when consumers are much more conscious of shipment dates. Post a detailed holiday delivery timeline, so they’ll be able to tell at a glance if their order will arrive before Christmas. In the event of an unexpected delay, communicate the news as soon as possible.
  • Show affiliates some love. During the holidays, bargain-seeking customers are much more likely to make use of online shopping comparison sites, such as Shopzilla, NexTag, and PriceGrabber. If you haven’t explored these avenues yet, now’s the perfect time to start a relationship. If you already have accounts with these types of affiliates, consider increasing the volume of products you’re feeding to them. It’s a virtually foolproof way to drive more qualified traffic to your site.
  • Use cross-sells wisely. Customers are in prime stocking-stuffer mode during the holidays, making it the ideal time to encourage impulse purchases. Include relevant upsell suggestions on product pages, in the shopping cart, and throughout checkout. These can be accessory items that complement the customer’s previous selections or proven best-sellers.
  • Give the luxury of choice. Gift cards are no longer considered an unimaginative “easy way out”. With today’s personalized options and attractive boxed packaging, they serve as an elegant and foolproof presentation. Best of all, they’re guaranteed to be a perfect fit, dramatically cutting down on returns. During the holidays, give your gift cards prominent placement throughout the site, and make it easy for them to be redeemed.
  • Wrap it up. For busy Christmas shoppers, every minute counts. During the holidays, they’ll be much more likely to fork over a few extra bucks for gift wrap. If possible, offer multiple packaging styles for a custom look. This sort of premium service will also help set you apart from other e-tailers.
  • Grant their wishes. If you don’t already have it, the holiday season is the perfect time to add wish list functionality to your site. Recipients can easily choose what they want, and busy shoppers will appreciate the convenience of a pre-selected list—a recipe for increased conversions.
  • Put your service on steroids. Superior customer service should always be a focal point, but it escalates in importance during the holidays. Your volume of calls and emails is likely to skyrocket in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Make sure you ramp up your staff accordingly, and provide the necessary training to ensure that inquiries are handled with courtesy and professionalism. Finally, make it easy for customers to contact you by including your email address, phone, and fax in a prominent area of your website. If you don’t offer 24/7 customer service, be sure to publish your hours of operation so customers aren’t unpleasantly surprised when they reach a recorded message. Finally, make it easy to find and understand your returns process.

It’s never too soon to start preparing your online store for the Christmas rush. By incorporating these strategies, you’ll position your site to get a bigger slice of the holiday spending pie.

Blue Acorn

2 Comments

Jason Liebe
Oct 15 2009

Having been in the ecommerce development business for a few years, and having our own online store I have to say this is a great post with tried and true advice.

There are a few things on here I never knew, and I’m excited to try. Thanks for this great post. And correct me if I’m wrong, but you just redesigned your site yes? I love it.

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ecommerce website
Dec 22 2009

This is a really good read. The xmas season is where e-commerce stores can really cash in and make lots of money. With the mad rush at all the stores, people would prefer to sit back in the comfort of their home and order all of their xmas gifts.

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