It only seemed like yesterday that it was November 1st, aka the day after Halloween. As I was getting ready for my final Halloween party of the year, I noticed that nearly every other ad that popped up was for the holiday season. While this isn’t exactly groundbreaking, it definitely felt like the upcoming rush of the holidays was suddenly upon us.
As marketers, we’ve been preparing for the holidays for months – whether we like it or not. Why? Because it’s the most wonderful time of the year – and that’s not including the holiday cheer, festivities, and exchanging of gifts. The 2014 holiday season is expected to be especially jolly this season, too. According to statistics from CMO.com, expectations for this year are:
- U.S. retail e-commerce will grow 16.6% this holiday season, up from last year’s 15.3% rise.
- Total holiday season sales for retail are expected to reach $863 billion in 2014 ($72.4 billion from e-commerce), up from $822 billion last year ($62.1 billion from e-commerce).
- 50% of sales will somehow be influenced by digital interactions (browsing online, for instance), and only 14% of purchases will come in the form of non-store sales (primarily e-commerce sales).
- 84% of shoppers use digital tools before and during their trips to a store, and those shoppers convert at a 40% higher rate than those who do not use digital devices.
- By November, mobile will account for more than 20 percent of site sales and more than 43 percent of site traffic, up from last year as well as earlier this year.
If that’s not enough to get you as a giddy as an elf, then you’re just a Scrooge.
But, what if you’ve been neglecting your website for the holiday season? Have no fear. Here are 12 quick fixes that will optimize your e-commerce site this holiday season.
1. Review Last Year’s Analytics
If you have a program like Google Analytics for the last year, then you should have a wealth of information at your fingertips. By examining last year’s analytics, you’ll have a better understanding at what content and deals worked last season and what didn’t. For example, you can see which pages had the most visits, where you customers originally came from and which pages had the most sales.
This really isn’t all that much different from what you’re already doing with tools like Google Analytics. However, reviewing analytics from previous holiday campaigns can inform you on who your audience is, how to effectively reach them, and how to create calls-to-action that result in sales.
2. Have Your Listing and Content Prepped and Ready to Go
You should have your listing and holiday content ready for the busy holiday, but it’s not going to hurt to make sure that everything is in order.
For example, if you have a physical location, then make sure that you do a quick audit of your listing. As Search Engine Land points out, this means double-checking to see if your listing has the correct spelling of the business name, the right address, phone number, website, etc. throughout online business directories. Remember, if any of this information is incorrect, it could affect your search ranking. Try downloading Andrew’s N.A.P. Hunter to easily find out if your “Name, Address, and Phone Number” are consistently correct.
Besides making sure your directory listing is in order, go through your site and content to ensure it’s scheduled and updated accordingly. For example, you could create holiday specific categories on your website to reflect what customers will be looking for this holiday season. While you’re at it, double-check meta description tags. These should contain seasonal messages or any special offers. Finally, if you’ve been on top of your game, then you should have your content prepared and scheduled. Take a couple of minutes to review and edit your content and make sure it will still be published on the assigned date.
But, what if you’ve been busy and have been putting this off? Well there’s good news and bad news.
First, the bad news. SEO takes a little bit of time – which means you’ve already missed the beginning of the hectic shopping season. The good news, however, is that there is still time to get some sort of content out there.
If you need some last-minute content ideas, then review this list from the Marketing Zen Group.
Included in the list are:
- Gift buying guides
- Decision guides
- Seasonal tips
- Introduction of new products
3. Create a Seasonal Landing Page
Hopefully you have a landing page for your customers. If not, you should get on that immediately. Why? Because, as HubSpot notes, a landing page generates leads, collects information about your customers, and gives a place for all the upcoming marketing offers to live.
Because landing pages are so important, they should get decorated for the holidays. Jeff Stevens shared 7 Ways to Spruce Up Your Landing Pages for the Holidays on Wordstream that you can try out for yourself. Some of his suggestions include:
- Create a landing page that has a sense of urgency or scarcity. This could include a call-to-action informing customers that they have only 3 days left for free shipping.
- Display all promotions and special offers prominently so customers know exactly what they’re getting.
- Make it easy for customers to check-out with 2 clicks or less.
- Make sure visitors can easily navigate through your site.
- Add seasonal colors and images to spread the holiday cheer.
- Optimize for mobile users.
- Have social sharing button so visitors can promote your site for you.
4. Have a Countdown
Remember how I just mentioned your landing page should create a sense of urgency or scarcity? There’s actual psychological evidence to support why this technique is so effective.
Robert Cialdini, a professor of psychology and marketing, published his book Influence in 1984 and outlined six principles on why people say “Yes”. Included in these six principles is scarcity. As noted by Mark Macdonald on Shopify, this means “people are highly motivated by the thought that they might lose out on something.”
You can easily apply this principle to your holiday campaign by adding something as easy as a countdown on your website, social media platform, or landing page. In fact, you’ve probably seen Amazon effectively do this for years. By adding a countdown until the beginning of a sale or the end of a discount is a simple enough measure to get customers excited about your you’re selling, but it also gives them a little push to act fast or they’ll be left out in the cold.
5. Don’t Underestimate Site Traffic
There’s a very good possibility that you’re going to experience a spike in traffic during the busy holiday season. Are you certain your bandwidth can handle it? As Amanda Bayane recommends on Small Biz Daily, now is the time to “look at your web hosting infrastructure and evaluate past usage patterns.” She also adds that “insufficient bandwidth can slow down operations, leading to lost sales.” And, slow site speed can be detrimental for your business.
According to Aberdeen Group research, one in four people will abandon a website if it takes longer than four seconds to load. Furthermore, for every 1-second delay in page load time, you’re decreasing customer satisfaction by 16%, pageviews by 11%, and conversion rates by 7%.
Don’t make the mistake of underestimating site traffic this holiday season. Plan ahead and make sure that your plan will be able to take care of the increase in traffic.
6. Be Optimized for Mobile
This may sound obvious, but having a mobile website that is optimized is a really big deal. Kissmetrics found from February 2009 to August 2011, mobile user share grew an astounding 1000%. They also discovered mobile browsing represented a quarter of all worldwide browsing activity and that a mobile site can boost engagement by 85%.
Be certain that your website is ready for mobile users to window shop and make purchases during the hectic holidays. Moz has put together a very through and technical checklist if you want to have an optimized mobile site. But, for the time being, here are a couple of basic recommendations from Jeff Bullas:
- Streamline your site: Avoid lots of text, Flash/Java and keep file sizes small.
- Make it responsive: Website adjusts the device it’s being viewed on.
- Integrate Instagram: Share your quality images from Instagram to your blog.
- Keep it secure: Make sure your program is up-to-date and you have change username/password
- Test: Make sure everything is working properly.
7. Optimize Your Checkout
This should be another obvious move, but it’s one that can be overlooked when you’re getting everything else ready the holiday season. To optimize your checkout, you should review this neat infographic from HiConversion. Included in the graph are the following ten tips:
- Contain pre-filling fields wherever possible.
- Prevent customers from entering wrong information by preserving information on validation errors.
- Mark fields as optional, as opposed to mandatory.
- Keep all form fields visible at all times.
- Have specific calls-to-action.
- Place your call-to-action above the fold.
- Make registration optional during checkout.
- Provide a consistent shopping cart.
- Remove unnecessary options during checkout so that there are fewer distractions.
- Don’t surprise customers with additional costs during checkout.
Also, remember to provide customers with shipping and return information. People need to know when to expect gifts to arrive so they can plan accordingly. And, they want to be assured if there is a problem with the purchase, such as the wrong size on a piece clothing, that returning it won’t be a hassle.
Overall, customers want a quick and painless checkout experience so that they can make their purchases and move on.
8. Offer Discounts and Coupons
People not only want discounts, they expect them during the holidays. Which is offering discounts and coupons should be a top priority for your online business.
Data from AmeriCommerce showed over half of all internet users in the US have redeemed digital coupons in 2014 for both online and offline purchases. During a survey of 4,000 online shoppers from Pricegrabber (via Marketing Land) during October 2013, found that “61% said they planned to download coupon apps for holiday shopping; 55% said comparison shopping apps; 54% intended to download apps from their favorite retailers; 50% said they would download Black Friday and Cyber Monday apps to search for the best deals; and 44% planned to download apps with the ability to scan barcodes.”
In short, if you want to attract customers, make sure you have competitive prices and offer them discounts or coupons.
9. Give Away Freebies
If you thought that offering a discount or coupon was a sure-fire to attract visitors to your site, then what do you think people would do if they received a free gift?
Consumer expert Andrea Woroch informed Businessweek that, “Last year, Target did a great promotion that attracted lots of shoppers where they gave away a $5 gift card for select purchases.” She went on to state that “This not only helped boost overall sales, but it helped boost sales of certain goods.”
Believe it or not, something as small as gift card can even benefit small and mid-sized businesses. Besides being a $118 billion business in 2013, studies have found that 61% of gift card holders spend more than the amount of their gift card.
Not only do customers get a reward for shopping at your business, they’ll likely become a repeat customer who will spend even more money.
10. Provide Free Shipping
What’s even more appealing than discounts? Free shipping.
Wharton marketing professor David Bell discovered that “ a free shipping offer that saves a customer $6.99 is more appealing to many than a discount that cuts the purchase price by $10.” In fact, around 60% of online retailers have stated that “free shipping with conditions” is their most successful marketing tool.
If you want to compete – both online and offline – you need to offer free shipping. Just remember that you can experiment with different price levels to find the one that’s most profitable for you.
11. Have Top-Notch Customer Support
Customer service is one of the most important considerations for customers – and an excellent way to grow your business. Just ask Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. This is a company that has become successful because it has gone above and beyond for its clients.
If you want to deliver the best customer support possible for your customers during the most stressful time of the year, then you’ll want to do the following.
For starters, make sure that team members ready. Make sure your team member are prepped for questions like:
- “What’s the status of my order?”
- “I can’t check out.”
- “I’m looking for something but can’t find it”
- “Tracking numbers say that my order should be arriving today but it hasn’t come yet.”
Customers will be looking for this type of information during the holidays and they’ll want you and your team to provide this information ASAP.
You can also have live chat support. Again, people are stressed and looking for information as quickly as possible. Make their lives easier by providing live support for any questions or concerns that they may.
Remember, your customer service should be patient, professional, and understanding with customers during the holidays. It’s hectic for everyone, but if you want people to return or speak highly of your company, make sure that your customer service is stellar.
12. Take Advantage of Email Marketing
According to research from Monetate, 46% of consumers heard about the best deals on Cyber Monday through email. So, if you want capture the attention of potential consumers this holiday season, make sure that you have an effective email marketing campaign.
Jennifer Lonoff Schiff suggests on Cio that your emails should contain the most important information in the first two sentences, a creative headline, a call-to-action and a sense of urgency. She also suggests you send out your holiday-related emails on the weekends.
Just remember to keep your email marketing up following the holidays. You have a list and know how to get them to open your messages, so use that to your advantage when planning for the next year.
While you should have been planning your holiday marketing strategy for sometime now, there’s still time to make the right adjustments so you’re visible during this extremely busy time of year.
How are you preparing your site for the holiday season?
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