You may not be ready to think about it with the leaves barely changing colors and summer’s heat still staving off the chill of Autumn, but the holiday rush is fast approaching. It seems as soon as Halloween candy is gone from store shelves it’s replaced with Christmas decorations and tree trimmings.
What are some small tweaks you as an ecommerce site owner can do before the holiday rush to optimize site performance when the buyers come streaming in? Are there online tools to help diagnose issues with your site before they become problems?
With the holiday season representing the busiest time of year for online retailers, it’s no surprise that many retailers generate up to 40 percent of their yearly revenue just in the last quarter. As such, you need to take advantage of the last two months of the year to grab the attention of your customers and pull in some big sales. Research shows people actually begin searching for Christmas gift ideas in late summer, so early preparation is key.
Here are five things that you can do now to improve your ecommerce business to prepare for the upcoming holiday rush:
1. Narrow Your Focus
Choose which holidays you’ll focus on, as you can’t possibly focus on them all. Try to narrow it down to three. Don’t just focus on Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas, though. Sure, these are the major holidays celebrated by large swaths of the population, but there are smaller ones you can market for as well, such as Veterans Day, Remembrance Day, Free Shipping Day (usually a few days before Christmas) and even Boxing Day in Canada.
But the biggest day in online retail is still Cyber Monday (the first Monday after Thanksgiving) so that’s the one you’ll want to focus on as you ramp up your preparations for the holiday rush. This day historically brings in the most revenue. In 2013 consumers spent nearly $2 billion on that day alone (which was a 20% increase over 2012).
2. Get Organized
Come up with a promotional calendar to map out and organize your approach. You’ll need to include the dates you need to place banners on your website, when you want to send out promotional emails about your sales, as well as when you will stop. You can even get your customers in on the picture. Let them know how many days there are until a sale begins and ends, for example, or how long shipping prices will be waived.
3. Expand Your Return Policy And Payment Options
Revisit your return policy, perhaps making it more agreeable to consumers during the holiday rush so they feel more comfortable buying from you. You may also want to add in a Paypal option and a couple more credit cards to the mix of payment options. Giving your customers options means they are more likely to buy from you simply because you are giving them another way to make a purchase. If you limit them with just a couple of credit cards, potential customers may go elsewhere.
4. Focus On A Few Key Marketing Campaigns
There are numerous ways to get your business in front of your target market, but you can’t tackle them all. Focus on a few and really flesh them out (e.g., Facebook ads, blogs, email marketing). Now is the time to sort through some analytics and find out which campaigns are yielding the highest return on investment (“ROI”). When you figure out which streams of communication are generating the most leads, you’ll know which platforms to focus your marketing on.
5. Get Your Content Up To Par
Right about now, you should be prepping your emails, your blog post content, your ad copy and your website design for the holidays. Don’t wait until November to worry about this, because by then it’s too late. Things quickly get hectic at that time and the last thing you’ll have time for is quality content. Build up a comfortable backlog of evergreen content you can lean on when you’re too busy to create a new post and you’ll thank yourself when the holiday rush begins.
Bonus Tips: Tracking, Analysis & Execution
While the above described efforts are very important, being able to track the progress you’re making (or possibly not making) is essential. After all, what good is a campaign if you don’t know whether it’s working or not? This is where tracking and analysis come in. Through programs like Google Analytics you can understand if and how your promotions and campaigns are garnering results.
When it comes time to actually execute your holiday season campaign, thanks to your exhaustive research and planning you should have all you need ready to go. Then you can enjoy the ride throughout November and December and reap the benefits of your campaign. Just don’t forget to take stock of your results come January, adapting and modifying as needed to ensure next year’s holiday season goes even smoother.
Top Photo Source: By 松林 Ｌ from Toronto, Canada (IMG_2768.JPG Uploaded by Skeezix1000) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons