The holidays are just around the corner, and if you run an e-commerce website, you had better be prepared. Though it is best to have your game plan in place a lot sooner than a few days before Halloween, it doesn’t mean that you can’t find some creative ways to get the most out of your holiday e-commerce marketing efforts. Here are a few things to remember to check off your holiday e-commerce list (maybe even check it twice for good measure)…

1) Prepare Your Site for Search
a) Search Engines
b) Devices
c) Social Networks
2. Organize Your Discounts and Promotions
a) Types of Holiday Season Promotions
b) Ways to Promote Your Products During the Holiday Season
3. Make Your Site User Friendly
a) Improving Your Site’s Architecture
b) Make the Sales Process Intuitive and Convenient for Users
c) Provide User-Generated Reviews or Ratings
d) Make Your Shipping Schedule Clear
e) Remove any Bugs and Improve Site Speed/Performance
f) Augment Your Support Department for Potential Traffic
g) Wrap Up and Loose Ends in Your Return Policy

Prepare Your Site for Search

Unless you can depend solely upon loyal customers and their references, you will likely need to optimize your e-commerce site for search engines. If you haven’t jumped on the SEO wagon, then surely you’ll understand the value of doing it for the busy holiday season. However, even though search engines have been the go-to for online shoppers, social media channels like Facebook and Twitter are also popular referrals for new visitors.

Search Engines

Google

The Big G makes up the majority of online searches, which is why so many people focus on this search engine above all else. Though you have to pay to be included in Google Shopping (Google’s shopping engine), you could see more exposure (and purchases) of your products by listing them in Google Shopping.

Bing

Coming in second among search engine volume, Bing has recently gained more support with efforts like Bing It On that aim to take search traffic away from Google. Bing also has their own shopping engine which, fortunately, is free. You do need to create a Microsoft AdCenter account in the process but you don’t have to pay for the products to be included in Bing Shopping’s index (for now at least).

Yahoo!

Though Yahoo! has become a lesser used search engine than the aforementioned two, it still could be providing your site with valuable traffic, so don’t discount Yahoo! just yet.

Amazon

The Amazon product searches have been growing in the past year and has become one of Google’s newest rivals, for good reason too. As a shopper, Amazon is a great place to go to find a wide assortment of products from one central location and since all of the products follow the same or similar format, it makes it easier for users to find the information they’re looking for instead of having to orient themselves to the layout of various websites while shopping around.

Devices

Desktop Computers

Many people still use the ol’ desktop computer for their online purchases, and you may find that the majority of your site’s visitors are using desktop computers. However, depending on your website’s design and development, it may look different depending on different browsers (e.g. Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc.) which can affect the user’s experience. Make sure that your website design is universal for all browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer.

Mobile Devices

Not surprisingly, mobile shopping has become increasingly popular thanks to advances in smartphone technology. Just as universal design is important for different desktop Internet browsers, having a responsive design for the mobile version of your site is not only more user friendly, but Google also recommends using responsive design (which applies to other devices) as well.

Tablets

Often falling under the “mobile” category, tablets are increasingly being used for online purchases and they are a lot easier to use for mobile shopping as they give a larger display of product images and descriptions than many (if not most) smartphones. According to a Nielsen report from earlier this year, tablet users are more likely to make a purchase from an online ad through their device than smartphone users, so why wouldn’t you try to target your tablet-using customers?

Social Networks

There are so many reasons to get involved with social media if you’re running an e-commerce business through the holidays. There are many benefits of using social media marketing for e-commerce sites. For one, many of your customers are already spending time online to engage through their social media network of choice. This not only represents a great opportunity for exposure, but also an added convenience for your potential customers who may be using those same social channels to share information about your company.

Another reason to get involved in social media is the benefit it has on your search engine optimization efforts. Though several SEOers have agreed that correlation between social signals and traffic and/or search engine rankings exists, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the cause of increased traffic and/or search engine rankings. It still doesn’t mean you should be ignoring the opportunity to reach out to your current or potential customers. Some social networks you might be interested in joining include:

Organize Your Discounts and Promotions

Now that you know what your potential promotion landscape looks like, you can now begin to go down the list of discounts and promotions you want to advertise.

Types of Holiday Season Promotions

Here are just a few ways you can entice visitors to your site and incentivize online sales:

  • free shipping
  • % discounts
  • BOGO offers
  • free products with minimum purchases

Ways to Promote Your Products During the Holiday Season

There are also several ways to get the word out to your potential buyers online including (but not limited to):

  • promoting things directly onsite
  • sending out email newsletters
  • promoting products through social media (coupons, contests, etc.)
  • submitting products to popular shopping engines and/or marketplaces

Note: If you are building any content that will utilize links to your site from these types of promotions, don’t forget to use UTM codes in your URLs so you can monitor the effectiveness of these promotions in Google Analytics as well. You can use Google’s URL Builder tool to help generate these UTM codes. Justin Cutroni explains how this works for email marketing as well.

Make Your Site User Friendly

There are many things to consider when trying to improve your site’s user experience (UX) and they are by no means limited to these few bullet points. However, given the rush of the approaching holiday season, here are a few things to consider to help make the holiday purchasing process more user-friendly:

Improving Your Site’s Architecture

Having intuitive site architecture is essential to providing ease of use for first-time visitors. This can help alleviate some of the frustration that visitors may experience when navigating your site.

Make the Sales Process Intuitive and Convenient for Users

When it comes to the actual purchase of your site’s products, it’s important that you also don’t expect your visitors to jump through hoops. Though you can track where your “sales” funnels are being abandoned through goal abandonment reports, you can save yourself time by just making the purchasing steps as quick, easy, and brief as possible.

Provide User-Generated Reviews or Ratings

The same philosophy for organizing site architecture extends to organizing your site’s overall content, from “best sellers” to “recent reviews” to “previously viewed items”…these can all help to make the purchasing process easier for visitors who are ready to buy.

Make Your Shipping Schedule Clear

There are many holiday procrastinators out there (I confess to having been guilty of it too) and having a very clear shipping schedule will not only help increase the urgency of buying through your site but also helps give the buyer the information they want and need. When your customers look good for getting such awesome gifts in time for the holidays, that will make them happy and might even make them a repeat customer. After all, their shopping success is your success as well.

Remove any Bugs and Improve Site Speed/Performance

Though this can irritate visitors from any device, with mobile visitors, this is incredibly important. As consumers become more accustomed to getting things done online in a flash, it only adds more pressure as a webmaster to make sure that your site is operating at optimal speed with as few hiccups as possible. Frustration from visitors can increase bounce rates and abandoned sales so make sure to minimize this as much as possible.

Augment Your Support Department for Potential Traffic

When your site’s visitors need help (and that’s almost certain given the demand of the holiday shopping season), providing them the support they need can make or break a purchase. Whether you provide a toll-free number for people to ask questions or an email address (that you should be checking frequently of course) where people can get answers to their questions, these can help reduce customer frustration and help visitors complete the buying cycle. Don’t let poor or missing customer support rob you of potential increased revenue.

Wrap Up and Loose Ends in Your Return Policy

The quickest way to alienate future customers is to fail to deliver upon expectations. Having a clear and reasonable return policy can greatly impact your customers’ expectations and sentiment about your company and can also affect your online reputation. If you make your return policy as transparent as possible, you can save your customers (and your company) a lot of headaches later. Be upfront and be fair.

…and don’t forget to make sure you’re tracking the effectiveness of your holiday e-commerce sales. If you are not using it already, Google Analytics can help you monitor and track an assortment of valuable information regarding your holiday visitors from what devices were being used, the sources (search engines, social networks, referrers, etc.) of your traffic, browser type, geo-specific demographics, and so much more. It’s free (though you need to create a Google account) and there are a lot of online resources available that can guide you in the process of getting set up, navigating through the GA interface, and developing reports too.

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