We know it’s only September. But believe it or not, now is exactly the right time to be prepping your ecommerce site for the big holiday rush. Because before you know it, Halloween will be here, and then Thanksgiving and then it’s…
Black Friday. Cyber Monday. And then just 4-ish weeks to Christmas. Wowza.
So that’s why you need to do this now, before orders hit full-throttle in November and December. And that’s also why we’ve put together this helpful checklist. It’s for busy store owners like you to help make sure you’ve dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s before the most important time of the year.
So without further ado…
What you can do to get your ecommerce site holiday ready
1. Make sure your backend can handle the increase in web traffic
If your site is down for any reason, you’re not making sales. It’s as simple as that, really. And one of the main reasons sites go down—especially smaller ones—is that they can’t handle the traffic spikes.
If you’re running promotions or boosting your ad spend for the holidays (and you should — see point #7 below) you may end up with more traffic than you bargained for.
Note: Some platforms, like Shopify do not charge bandwidth fees. But if you’ve set up your own hosting, take a look at your plan and consider if you’ll need more for the holiday season.
2. Make sure your store can handle the number of SKUs you need
If you’re rolling out new items for the holidays, you may accidentally hit your SKU limit. A SKU limit is the maximum number of items you can display and sell—before you upgrade plans of course.
So if you’re going to be adding new products or even variants of the products (color, size, etc.), you may need to boost the number of SKU limits. Don’t get caught out in the middle of the busiest season—plan ahead!
3. Add ‘related items’ (cross-sell)
Even if you don’t care about the holiday season, this is something you should be doing anyway. What is it?
Cross-selling is when you offer a customer something based on what they’re currently interested in buying. It’s when salons sell fancy shampoo and gel. It’s why grocery stores keep the chips and the dips next to each other.
And it’s why, when you’re ordering a drill on Amazon, you go to this page when you click “Add to Cart”:
Cross-selling is used by pros and small stores alike for the same reason: it works. According to Forrester Research, related product recommendations like the one above can account for as much as 30% of an ecommerce store’s revenue.
Note: If you’re using major platforms like WooCommerce or Shopify, there are apps and plugins that help you set up your related products areas. Here is one for WooCommerce, and here is a popular Shopify cross-selling app.
4. Step up your security (and let customers know about it)
In light of this week’s stunning news that up to 500 million Yahoo accounts were compromised two years ago, people are rightfully concerned about their security online.
That’s why it’s more important now than ever before to keep your customers as safe as you can.
That means getting yourself an SSL certificate with the strongest protection on the market.
And it also means letting customers know that your site takes their security seriously. How do you do that? By having your site certified by a trusted third-party (like McAfee, for example) and displaying their security seal on your site.
While you may not think this matters, it does to customers: sites that display the McAfee SECURE trustmark see 10% more sales, on average, because of customers feeling safer!
5. Offer free shipping and returns
The holidays are when nearly everyone is out in force, looking for the best deals, the best products, and the best perks. It’s when you’ve got the most customers, but everyone knows that—so it’s also when you’ve got the most competition.
To stand out, you’ve got to distinguish yourself, and a really good way to do that is through free shipping and returns. This makes a purchase feel less “final” and removes that psychological obstacle in their minds. But don’t just take our word for it.
According to a survey on compete.com, free shipping and free returns are most likely by far to encourage consumers to shop more online. Take a look:
6. Invest in SEO
SEO can seem challenging—half the time it sounds like black magic and the other half the time it’s just plain confusing. But it doesn’t have to be, and it’s well worth taking some time now, in the Fall to try and boost your organic search ranking around certain keywords heading into the Holiday season.
If you’re new to SEO, it’s vital to check out this post—SEO Basics for Your Online Business.
7. Ramp up your PPC campaigns
SEO is fantastic, but sometimes—especially when November and December bring in 30% more ecommerce revenue than non-holiday months—you’ll want the help.
That’s why you should consider ramping up your online advertising budget proportionally. It doesn’t make sense to spend the same amount for ads in November and December as you do in February, does it. So consider reducing your spend in January and February, and instead focus that money on more profitable months.
This calendar from RJ Metrics is eye-popping (and useful for planning your ad spend):
8. Test your site on mobile
Last holiday season, mobile shopping accounted for 18% of holiday ecommerce shopping, and if trends continue, that number is going nowhere but up. So unless you want to miss out on 1 in 5 shoppers because your site isn’t mobile-optimized from homepage to checkout, test it.
By that we mean do it yourself. Take out your phone, your tablet, open your favorite browser and try buying from your own site. If something is tricky for you, you can bet it’ll be hard for you customers.
Like a pro athlete in the playoffs, the holidays are your time. It’s what you’ve been working towards all year, so don’t just treat it like you do any other 4 week period. You’ve got to be on it, and on it early—and if you follow the steps in this guide, you shouldn’t have too much trouble!