The 4 things you need to do to get your site ready for the holidays

If you’re 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 ecommerce owner, you’ve got to take steps to ensure you get your piece.

With that in mind, here are our 4 steps to getting ready for this year’s holiday bloodbath season.

1. Make sure your security game is A1

Security is one of those issues that may seem like a pain to deal with — until you suffer a breach, and then 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!

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 ecommerce site.

On top of that, show visitors that your site is safe to engage with by displaying a security certification seal, like the McAfee SECURE trustmark, which is available free on platforms like Shopify, Weebly, and WordPress.

2. 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.

And each second you make them wait, your conversion rate drops 7%! 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 — if something is slow, make sure you fix that well before Cyber Monday.

3. Old flames = better customers

Now that your network is secure and site is running as fast as it can be, it’s time to bring people to your store. But with every store, online and not, making special offers for the holidays, you’ve got to figure out what will bring people in.

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

4. Spend some green on ads

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.

Image Source: Think With Google

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 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 ticking the right boxes so you give your business the best chance to succeed.