Early bird gets the worm may be a bit cliché, but the message rings true when it comes to eCommerce retailers preparing for the holidays. Since holidays are a critical sales time, online retailers need to be strategic with their preparations in order to be successful.
With the festivities coming up next quarter, now is the time to prepare your site for the influx of online shoppers that are key to your 2012 sales. Below we will discuss six ways you should be optimizing your eCommerce efforts before the frenzy ensues.
1. Increase Security
The holidays are prime time for hackers to exploit your customers’ data. With so many transactions happening, cyber criminals will follow the money and target sites with the weakest security. During the chaos, it will be much easier to miss the warning signs of fraud, so you should rely on a third party to police your site traffic for you.
Before the shopping begins, find a security solution that offers daily security scans and have them run an audit well in advance in order to find and patch any vulnerabilities. Services like McAfee SECURE service for websites can detect most eCommerce weakness. Aside from pre-emptive measures, installing a security badge on your site will not only keep your customers safe but it will also help to increase trust and improve sales conversions.
2. Double Check Domain, Web Host, and SSL Certificates
Before the holidays you will want to make sure your Domain, Web hosting, SSL and Merchant Accounts are all up to date—so that there aren’t any surprises in November or December. If your domain name expires mid-December your holiday sales will most certainly be drastically reduced.
Make sure all of your qualifications (like your SSL Certificate badge) are clearly visible on your site’s homepage. Maximizing the visibility of encryption assurances and other confidence elements can often mean the difference between a customer clicking ‘buy’ or forgoing the transaction all together.
3. Streamline the Shopping Process
As we mentioned in our post on driving more eCommerce sales, hindering a potential customers’ way to a page or through the checkout can have negative effects on your sales. You want to make sure that your site is as easy as possible to navigate at all times.
Start by making your product pages clean, relying on multi-angle images, concise descriptions, and an easily accessible ‘add to cart’ button. Reduce the time and effort customers have to put into purchasing your products with a simple check out process.
Additionally, you may want to rethink the account creation process if you have one. This holiday season, shoppers will most likely be visiting many different websites and by allowing them to check out as a guest it will reduce friction and increase the chances of a sale.
4. Extend the Return Policy
People are often rushed and uncertain when purchasing gifts, but by offering a varied return policy, you can encourage more buyers. After Christmas is a prime time for returns and if your policy is only 30 days including receipt, you could end up with less loyal customers than before.
Even though a customer wasn’t happy with their purchase, being more lenient with holiday returns will ensure their continued patronage. Extend your return window as well as making sure that your return policies can be easily located on your site.
5. Optimize for Mobile
This year consumers will rely on their mobile devices more than ever before to research their holiday purchases. In order to take advantage of this channel, it is key to implement a “mobile-friendly” version of your site with reduced graphics and simplified navigation.
Don’t be fooled by the smaller screen size, smartphones have tremendous functionality and customers will be turned off to poor quality. Make sure your site loads well on a variety of smartphone models by testing different layouts a head of time. If your site is unreadable on a smartphone, a consumer will simply go somewhere else.
Q4 is the most critical sales period of the year for most eTailers. Don’t let your site be left by the wayside because you didn’t make the proper preparations in advance. Shoppers are short on time, and during the holidays consumers won’t tolerate any site malfunctions that would ordinarily be sources of mild annoyance.
Following the above checklist is the first step to being better prepared for the holidays.
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