You may not plan to celebrate Christmas in July, but it's never too early for holiday readiness in ecommerce.
The sooner you start planning your online business's holiday sales and promotions, the more seamless and successful they're likely to be — for you and your customers. Here are some tips for ecommerce holiday readiness in various aspects of your business.
How Ecommerce Holiday Readiness Impacts User Experience
Online shoppers want and expect the personalized retail experience of a store without leaving their homes. Ways you can prepare to provide that experience include:
Holiday shopping should mean a surge in traffic and purchases. You don't want your site to bog down or crash because of these increases, ruining the user experience and your sales numbers. Test your site to make sure it can handle holiday traffic increases before they happen.
Check Site Speed
Customers want to shop... now! Page load times should be under three seconds to avoid visitors leaving your site. Check your page load time regularly and resolve any issues, including removing plugins your site no longer uses and compressing images and gifs. Check out our WooCommerce image size hacks to learn more.
Make sure all of your third-party integrations are updated. Test them to make sure they can handle the holiday visitor load. Don't add others before the holidays to avoid any last-minute issues.
Address Cart Abandonment
Prepare exit-intent pop-ups and emails to remind customers of the items they left in their carts and encourage them to make the purchase. This will help reduce shopping cart abandonment.
Use plugins and email messages to provide shoppers with product recommendations as they shop, based on their shopping behavior. This is just like when a salesperson in the store recommends another product.
Make the checkout process as fast as possible for customers. The less information they have to enter, the more likely they are to complete the checkout process. Think five steps at most. Three steps are better.
Consider showing them a progress bar or steps to completing checkout so they know when it's almost done. Give customers the option of checking out as a guest or creating an account. Sometimes just the act of filling in a bit of information to create an account sends them away.
Ecommerce Holiday Readiness for Selling, Shipping, and Fulfillment Automation
You've probably ordered a gift during the holidays and not received it in time. It's a frustrating experience that leads to a return and a dissatisfied customer. They aren’t likely to shop with you again.
Don't let this happen to your customers.
A big part of ecommerce holiday readiness is preparing to get your products to your customers. This preparedness includes:
You want to make sure you have enough products, especially the most popular ones you sell, to get you through the holidays. Don't risk running out of items customers want and missing sales. Check out our WooCommerce inventory management blog to learn more.
Expand Sales Channels
Your website isn't the only place you should plan on having holiday sales. Don't forget to plan for online marketplaces (Amazon and Etsy, for example), social channels, and, of course, brick-and-mortar stores.
If you have a traditional storefront, offer customers the option to buy online and pick up in the store. This is the best of both worlds because it allows you to offer them the in-store experience with the convenience of online shopping. It also means they get the product immediately and you don't have to ship it.
Launch International Sales
Not being tied to a certain location for sales is one of the best things about ecommerce. If you've considered international sales, a holiday may be a great time for that expansion. Before launching your product globally, research the international market, including online payment methods and taxing, as well as test your site for international use.
Plan Shipping and Fulfillment
Decide in advance how you will handle increased holiday shipping. You can do your shipping in-house if you have the staff to manage it. Otherwise, you can outsource shipping to a Third-Party Logistics Provider (3PL) that will handle all of your shipping and returns. You could also use a dropshipper, which will send products from your wholesaler to your customers.
Related reading: A Beginner’s Guide to Dropshipping with WooCommerce
Think about the experience you want customers to have when they receive their delivery from your business. What do you want the unboxing to be like? Should it be different during the holidays? Unboxing may be the customer's first experience with your company. You want the experience to reflect how you want them to think about your brand.
Not every online purchase is a perfect win for you or the customer. If you want to turn customers into fans, make returns painless, especially during the holidays. To do so, consider adding return packaging and labels to each shipment.
Free returns are expected these days. Don't forget to include directions on how exactly to return an item and any related policies, like extended return or exchange windows during the holidays. If you need help getting started, use our return policy template examples.
Ecommerce Holiday Readiness in Marketing and Promotions
Marketing and promotions are expected and desired during the holidays and preparing them in advance is a huge part of holiday readiness.
Your marketing and promotions likely will be directly tied to your holiday sales. Here are some things to consider when preparing them.
Engage with Strategies
You want your holiday promotions to engage your customers even more than usual and give them the seasonal feeling. Consider strategies like free shipping, gift wrapping, holiday-themed contests, and giveaways, and how your regular rewards program could provide extra holiday-related incentives.
Plan all of your holiday promotions — including visuals, copy, discount codes, and when they will launch — before the holiday season hits. You don't want to scramble to do this at the last minute. Start planning holiday promotions three or more months ahead of the celebration date.
Use Content Marketing and Social Media
You'll want to be consistently out there during the holidays to stay top-of-mind for potential customers. Plan your content marketing (blogs, videos, etc.) and approach to social media (including promoting deals, discounts, and special holiday products/features) on content and social media calendars before the holidays. Also consider whether you want to do traditional or paid advertising to strengthen attention during the holidays.
Personalize Email Marketing
You'll want to send emails about holiday sales, discounts, or special offers in enough time to get your customers' attention and help them participate in your holiday offerings. Optimize email for mobile and include a button that lets the shopper buy a product directly from the email. Also, don't forget exit-intent emails to remind customers of the items they left in their carts and encourage them to make the purchase.
Related reading: Why You Need an Email Marketing Strategy
Get ahead on your holiday SEO traffic building by optimizing all of the pages you can on your site with the keywords that bring you the most traffic and associated words. Also, make sure your landing pages reflect your company and create strong user experiences since those are the pages people will most likely see first.
Service and Support Holiday Readiness
The holidays are busy and stressful for everyone, so you want to ensure that your service and support programs help your clients feel engaged with your brand in the most positive possible way.
Positive customer support leads to loyal customers.
The opposite also is true. When planning for service and support, it’s best to:
- Make Contacts Easy to Find. Make sure shoppers can easily find how to contact you with questions or concerns about their shopping experience or your products. This means putting contact information on all pages and promotions, not just some of them.
- Have a FAQ Page. Have a frequently asked questions page on your site to help shoppers find immediate answers to common questions. Use our FAQ template if you need to make one.
- Launch 24/7 Support. Provide 24/7 customer support through email, phone, or chat, if possible.
- Respond Quickly. If it's not feasible to provide a 24/7 response, have an email form that shoppers can complete to ask you a question. Respond within 24 to 48 hours. The sooner the better.
- Consider Extra Help. The impression you make on customers during the holidays lasts all year. Consider hiring additional customer service help during busy holiday seasons.
It's difficult to do just one more thing when you're tired and busy celebrating your successful holiday sales. That's why it's important to think in advance about how you'll measure the success of your holiday campaign.
Consider what your key performance indicators (KPIs) are for ecommerce and marketing. What does success look like to you? Set those ecommerce KPI goals in advance, then don't forget to measure them, analyze them, and document how you want to adjust for the future.
Do this right after the holidays while it's all fresh in your mind and you won't forget anything you can to adjust in the future.
Better is Built In with Nexcess
Preparing for holiday ecommerce helps you, as a business owner, to be able to enjoy the holidays too. You aren't running around responding to what seems like a myriad of emergencies.
Instead, you know that you've done what you need to do to prepare your business for the most holiday success and that your customers will come away from every experience with your brand feeling jolly.
Set yourself up for holiday success with an optimized ecommerce store — thanks to fully managed WooCommerce hosting by Nexcess. Nexcess has plans designed specifically for hosting high-performance fast optimized WooCommerce stores. Nexcess also:
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