Holiday sales
Posted December 17, 2015 by Lina Vashurina, Ecwid Team

The 8 Things You Need To Do To Get Your Site Ready For The Holidays

If you’re an e-commerce shop owner reading this, you probably already know how important the holidays are. The season is without a doubt the most important month-long stretch in retail. According to comScore, the top 10 days for online shopping all occur after Thanksgiving and before Christmas.

In 2014, there was over $70 billion in online sales, and over 100 million Americans made purchases from their mobile devices. The online holiday pie is just going to grow, which is why, as an e-commerce owner, you’ve got to take steps to ensure you get your piece.

With that in mind, here are our eight steps to getting ready for this year’s holiday bloodbath season.

Related: E-Commerce Blueprint for the Holiday Season: 30 Guides in One

1.  Add a seasonal “holiday gifts” category to your website

You know what sells best from among your inventory. You also know that some items are more popular around the gift-giving time of year.

Cull together a collection of items that are not overly expensive that would make a great gift for colleagues or friends. By giving customers easy one-click access to these items, you’re ensuring that they’ll at least get seen by motivated holiday shoppers.

Shopping for others can be a tiresome, time consuming task, so do a little of the thinking for your customers and point them to where the work’s been done.

Holiday gifts section

Cloud9design Ecwid store

2. Make sure your security game is A-1

Security is one of those issues that may seem like a pain to deal with. Then you suffer a breach and the real headache begins. And that’s why we’ve put it first.

During the holidays, when there’s so much shopping, comparing, and buying, no website can afford to go offline, or get hit with a breach.

The Ponemon Institute estimated that a single minute of downtime could cost a company up to $8,000, and that the negative brand impact of a mere hour-long outage could cost as much as $3.4 million!

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Clearly, this is not the time to cut security corners. So what to do? Aside from an SSL certificate (which you should have anyway), it’s crucial to have your network scanned for vulnerabilities. These can identify weak spots you may not have known about, help you fix them, and get you doing what you’re best at  running an e-commerce site.

Furthermore, show visitors that your site is safe to engage with by displaying a security certification seal, like the McAfee SECURE trustmark, which is readily visible on platforms like Weebly and WordPress.

3.  Have great deals and let people know about them

People love a good sale, especially at this time of year when everyone is trying to stretch their holiday budgets as far as they can. You can offer your customers the best deals on the Internet, but if you’re not talking about them, then you’re tripping yourself on the walk to easy success. Incorporate word of your holiday deals into your social media presence. Brick-and-mortar store employees ought to be talking about them to in-person customers.

Your repeat customers will catch wind more easily, whether they subscribe to your email list of follow you on social media. Incentivize such customers to spread the word.

4. Load times, load times, load times

If it takes your website longer to load than it did to read this section’s header, I’ve got bad news. According to Kissmetrics, nearly half of consumers expect pages to load in less than two seconds.

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And each second you make them wait, your conversion rate drops 7 percent! With so much on the line during the holidays, you definitely can’t afford to have a slow site.

There are many ways to test your website’s load time, but we like the fine folks over at Load Impact. Test your site using a suitable service — if something is slow, make sure you fix that well before it ever becomes an issue.

Related: 6 Settings That Turn Your Store Into a Magnet for Holiday Shoppers (Without Discounting)

5. Keep those big-selling items in stock

Don’t be defeated by a problem you can plan for. Pay attention to what becomes popular on your store leading up to the holidays and be prepared to accommodate for its surge in demand. You can’t make money on something that’s sold out, so work to keep the right items in stock.

Keep an stream of communication open with your customers and suppliers alike. If you do business both online and in a brick and mortar storefront, you’ll also want to make sure you’re using an inventory management system that can account for sales across both venues.

6. Don’t focus on number of clicks, focus on usability

A myth going around the Internet since 2001 says that users are likely to stop looking at your site if it takes more than three clicks to find what they’re looking for. Such a parameter turns to be untrue, but e-commerce store owners ought not use it as an excuse to indulge a less-than-graceful user experience on their storefronts.

Find small changes you can make to streamline your shop’s design and ease-of-use for your customers. Bold headings and bulleted lists are elegant, straighforward ways to display information about your items. Trending items should be readily viewable so that customers can quickly see what’s selling strongest from your store; when certain items sell better than others, make it a priority to get those items front of consumers’ eyes.

If you want to be sure you’re literally getting things in front of your customers’ eyes, you can use heatmap technology to track where people look after loading your website. While there are some general hotspots—like the top middle and top right—everything is affected by your color choice and layout. If you’re interested in seeing where people are looking on your website, you can use software for that.

7. Old flames make better customers

Now that your network is secure and site is running as quickly and efficiently as it can, it’s time to bring people to your store. But with every store on and off the Internet making their own special offers for the holidays, you’ve got to figure out what will be effective at bringing people to you.

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Odds are, those bags come from stores she’s bought from before

That’s why we like to focus on making previous buyers repeat customers. Because average order value increases the more a customer shops at your store (and because they’re more than six times as likely to convert), you’re going to want to focus on getting people who have already bought from you to buy again.

Our advice: Send marketing emails to previous customers letting them know about your best offers.

8. Invest in your advertising

Repeat customers are fantastic, but there are only so many of them. To truly grow as a business (and to take advantage of the massive amount of dollars being spent in the next month), you’ve got to get new people to your store.

Although it’s old school, online advertising is an industry stalwart for a reason. During the holiday season, searchers convert at a consistently higher rate than people who did not use a search engine, according to Think With Google.

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That’s why we recommend spending a little now, when people are more likely to actually purchase.

But how should you advertise? It’s a tricky question. One of Think With Google’s most revealing insights was that holiday customers who searched for general terms rather than brands or retailers (e.g. “tablet” vs. “iPad”) were three times more likely to convert.

Our recommendation? Find out the best general search terms that you want to advertise on, and go from there.

Wrapping Up

The holiday season doesn’t have to be intimidating. It’s simply a matter of approaching it piecemeal, and checking the right boxes so that you can give your business the best chance to succeed. When you embrace usability, publicity, security, and general preparedness, the holidays are not only a more manageable time of year, but more profitable at the same time.