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How to Prepare Your eCommerce Site for the Holiday Season

Cillian McGillycuddy 29 September 2020 • eCommerce, Guides, Marketing

In a year unlike any other it might seem hard to predict anything, but online shopping for the holidays in 2020 is going to be huge.

And it’s not just for the major marketplaces like Amazon. Google has seen a major jump in support for local small businesses this year. A wide customer survey in June 2020 found that 66% said they will be shopping more online at local businesses this holiday season.

With COVID-19 having forced many businesses to shut earlier in the year, this holiday season is going to be more important than ever to make up for any shortfall. The sentiment from customers is strong, so retailers need to reward them by living up to expectations by providing a great digital shopping experience during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday shopping season.

Here’s a list of things that retailers can do to ensure they make the most sales this holiday season.


Focus on website performance

By performance we mean ease-of-use and speed-of-use and it should be your top priority. When you’re getting more traffic to your site, your site needs to be able to handle the demands.

Doing a simple page speed test should give you an indication of how quickly your site loads for customers. If your site is slow, then you will get a higher bounce rate and more cart abandonments. A common issue we have seen is the size of images being uploaded to sites. Using an online tool like TinyJPG before uploading your images can shave milliseconds off your site load.

As we touched on in a previous post, having a mobile-friendly site is key to digital success. Customers regularly shop via multiple devices and Google now penalizes sites that aren’t mobile-friendly. If site images aren’t scaling to every different device, then you are definitely losing customers.


Simplify the checkout process

Nothing loses customers faster than a complicated or lengthy checkout process. Once items have been added to a basket, customers have already decided to make a purchase. Now you need to make that process as smooth as possible.

Some retailers prefer a multi-stage checkout process and for valid reasons, but having all of your checkout forms on one page can make for a fast process. Customers have everything they need to complete the purchase which makes for a low bounce rate. Note: For certain retailers, a multi-stage checkout actually does mean a simplified process – make the decision based on what your customer base will respond to.

Offering multiple payment options and highlighting this to the customer will be key this holiday season. Whether it’s Stripe, PayPal, or American Express, having a number of different ways to accept payment presents maximum convenience to your shoppers.

Other features like guest checkout are also essential to get maximum returns this holiday season.


Dedicate resources to customer service

Getting your products online is one thing, but customers often need some questions answered before they complete a purchase. Or, if they have completed a purchase, providing care to that customer after the fact can win you repeat business.

This holiday season will be a busy time for all, so making your customer service information visible and prominent on your site will minimize headaches. Display your info on a simple banner on your site. If you have an FAQ page, build out the content and add in responses to common queries. Then your customer service can direct simple queries to that page.

Responding to enquiries quickly is essential during the busy season. While you may not always have the right response to hand, just letting customers know that someone is there to listen to their issue leads to positive experiences.

Prepare some templates responses to common queries to save you and your team time. Take last year’s most popular questions and just prepare an Excel or Google Sheets document with each response. Share the document with your team so everyone has access to the same responses.

For more on improving your overall customer experience, check out this blog.


Expand your offering into other sales channels

Your online sales don’t have to start and end with your website. With NitroSell’s seamless integrations, you can take your product inventory and automatically populate other online marketplaces with your inventory.

From Amazon and eBay to social media storefronts like Instagram, you can spread your product listings throughout the web to start making you money. Different strategies and items will perform better according to the marketplace. To learn more about how to sell on Instagram, read more on our 17-step guide.

This holiday season, shoppers will shop both locally and through your usual online marketplaces like Amazon – connecting the two is a no-brainer – particularly during sales events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Talk to us today to get your inventory on other marketplaces, so you can arm yourself with multiple sales channels.


Consider offering a shipping discount

By discount, we mean free. While this might not be an option for some retailers due to tight margins, free shipping has become a major selling point for today’s customers. Multiple studies have shown that  free shipping is the most important factor for customers when making an online purchase.

Many customers will even delay purchasing until they receive a free shipping offer. It’s an e-commerce buzzword that has dominated online retail in recent years, but it’s a decisive and motivating factor for customers.

If you do decide to offer free shipping, communicating this to your customers becomes essential. Create marketing campaigns, promotional emails, website content updates, etc. to let your customers know that you have free shipping.


Update your site and promotional copy

As mentioned previously, if you’re creating a new offer or updating an existing one, you need to let your customers know on-site. Your website copy needs to match your current offers and it should show the customers a hierarchy of promos too.

Is free shipping the most important new addition to your online store? Then make it the biggest and most visible banner on your site. The first impression you make is the most important and over 80% of website conversions happen on that first visit.

Brainstorm holiday campaigns if you don’t have an existing offer. A discount on a certain basket value can encourage big orders and is perfect for store’s with a large and varied inventory. Just make sure to update your on-site copy as well as your FAQ as offers like these always comes with questions.


Have a flexible returns policy

An unclear returns policy turns many customers off. It’s a fundamental customer right, so making sure your returns policy is clear is essential.

Many customer queries are related to returns and delivery, so creating a publicly available returns policy as well as some templated responses to returns policy questions is essential. You should allow for some flexibility in your policy though.

Businesses who go beyond their fixed terms and strive for happy customers when a situation arises tend to do well during the holidays. It might be a challenge, but working with customers to understand their situation can win repeat business.


Conclusion

There are other more advanced tactics like creating memorable product packaging or organic/local SEO strategies, but the above guide represents some key ways to optimize this year.

Don’t wait until the last minute to start making changes either. Prepare your marketing campaigns and messaging in advance so you can have a hassle-free holiday season.

If you’d like to work with NitroSell on getting your store holiday-ready, reach out to our team today.

We hope you all have a successful holiday sales season!


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