Ten Web Shop Prep Tips for the Holidays

It's time to spruce up your site for the holiday season, so here's a 10-task checklist to get you ready.
As autumn approaches, it's time for e-tailers to start planning for the holiday rush. If you start now, you'll have the time required to get your site in shape for maximizing fourth-quarter profits.
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To help, here are 10 tips from Demandware's Vice President of Marketing, Jamus Driscoll. Ten Holiday Prep Tips for Web Shops:

  1. Make sure your customers can find you. Eighty percent of shopping trips start with the search box, and that percentage increases during the holidays. Look through your search logs from last November forward to identify ways to improve site search effectiveness. Typical fixes include:
    • Adding to synonym/hypernym (for example, "musical instrument" is a hypernym of "guitar" because musical instruments include guitars) dictionaries;
    • Enhancing product descriptions (adding relevant keywords);
    • Expanding product assortment (consider adding product lines that customers seem to want but you don't yet carry in time for the holidays).

  2. Build out your affiliate network. Under current economic conditions, shoppers are going to be very savvy when looking for the best deal online. Now is the time to start building strong relationships with those affiliates that are likely to drive significant traffic and volume to your site during the holidays. Consider setting up automated product feeds to key shopping comparison sites like GoogleBase, Shopzilla, NexTag and other sites that your customers frequent.

  3. Set your product catalog. Pay particular attention to catalog readiness for cross-selling and up-selling opportunities, product related promotions and product categorization for easy navigation. Make sure products are easy to find by adding proper keywords for search results. Also, make sure you have the capability to cross-merchandise products in different categories — during the holidays, you'll want to present a given product in both its "home" category (e.g. men's shirts) and also theme, event or occasion-based categories such as "Gifts for Dad," "Pre-Thanksgiving Sale," "Hot Gift Ideas," etc.

  4. Prepare holiday site enhancements.
    • Add "wish list" functionality. By helping customers create the list and linking other people to that list, you not only convert a "wish" to a completed sale, you reduce returns and increase customer satisfaction.
    • Promote gift certificates and gift cards. Promote gift certificates on the homepage and other frequently visited landing pages, and add the ability to redeem them to the checkout process. Gift certificate purchases have grown by leaps and bounds over the past 10 years.
    • Offer gift wrapping. This service adds convenience and creates differentiation from other retailers. It also helps your customers save time during the busy holiday season, which will ultimately build customer loyalty.

  5. Segment your audience. The holidays are the season for gifts — most shoppers are buying for other people. For example if you're a jeweler, anticipate that men will be buying for women. Change the look and feel, products and promotions for the type of audience that is going to be buying during the holidays.

  6. Bestsellers and gift ideas. Highlight these items on your homepage to provide additional gift ideas for uncertain shoppers. Create detailed gift guides based on the recipient, the price point and other elements to lead customers to a purchase.

  7. Engage in A/B testing now. Engage in A/B testing of new site design concepts, features and functionality to get some real-world data before settling on what you'll ultimately go with during the holidays. For some merchants, the back-to-school season might be an ideal time for this type of testing.

  8. Get creative with promotions. Don't just use flat discounts to drive traffic — think about the long-term relationship with the customer. Think about loyalty-based promotions that will create repeat customers and word-of-mouth marketing. Also create a sense of urgency by making order-by dates and time-sensitive offers part of your promotions strategy.

  9. Leverage social merchandising. Beyond adding a comments and review section on product pages, consider these other social merchandising tactics:
    • Allowing customers to create desired "outfits" or bundles of multiple products, and saving/sending these to friends and family.
    • Enabling/encouraging customers to post favored products to their Facebook or MySpace profiles, or to vertical networking sites like StyleFeeder.
    • Making use of instant messaging, mobile marketing/advertising and RSS as channels for holiday marketing and promotional campaigns.

  10. Update inventory on product pages. Nothing infuriates a customer more than to find out that the product is out of stock after the completion of the checkout process. Post inventory levels on every product page to set expectations for customers and also create a sense of urgency when levels are low. Make this a year-round practice.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other e-commerce topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com E-Commerce Forum. Join the discussion today!


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