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Prepare Your Ecommerce Store for the Holiday Season

According to eMarketer, ecommerce is a $2.290 trillion market and it is estimated that it will grow up to $4.479 trillion by 2021. Since online shopping does not show any signs of slowing down, it is fair to assume that the Holiday Season of 2017 can be a great year for ecommerce stores because of days such as Cyber November and Black Friday.

If you want to sell your products over the Internet, then your ecommerce website absolutely must offer an advantage over your competitors. This advantage could as trivial as a unique layout or a special season-appropriate comic on the storefront. As an ecommerce owner, you should take into consideration your niche, your target clientele, and your products before you start creating the design for your holiday storefront.

Launching and managing an ecommerce store is no simple task! In the rush of taking the store online, ecommerce store owners miss small details that usually have a far-reaching impact on the revenue and performance of the store during the Holiday Season. Just like traditional stores, customers have certain expectations from an online store. If these expectations are not met, your customers might never return, or worse, might share their bad experience on the social media.

To help you out, here are a few tips to prepare your online ecommerce store for the Holiday Season.

Choose Your Platform Wisely

Your online store is as good as the platform that powers it. While there are a lot of options in the market, I would recommend WooCommerce for your online store. There is a solid community around WooCommerce and you will find a vast array of extensions that extend and fit the capabilities of the online store to your specifications. That’s the advantage of being an open source platform and the big player with 28% market share of all online stores.

Choose Managed Hosting

Managing online stores is a full-time job and the challenges quadruple during the Holiday Season. On top of this, not many store owners have the required expertise for managing the servers and take care of security and related issues.

This is why experts recommend managed cloud hosting for your online store. These hosting providers take care of all server and hosting related issues, leaving you free to focus on your business. In addition, they ensure that regular backups are in place for disaster mitigation.

Fast Speed to Ensure Maximum Sales

The speed of the store is the baseline factor that directly affects the revenues because — every second count. Slow ecommerce stores with high page load time sour up the user experience. A one second delay can cause your conversion rate to drop like a stone. A bad experience scares off visitors, directly impacting the store’s reputation.

Visitors don’t like to waste time on a store that never stops loading. In fact, about 40% of visitors prefer to give up if it takes more than 2-3 seconds to load a page. To ensure fast load time for your online store, I recommend a WordPress cache plugin and a CDN to cater to the global customers.

Responsive Design

The bulk of the sales this Holiday Season will originate from smartphones. This is why your store should have a responsive design that ensures that the store is easy to navigate, regardless of the device that the visitor is using to browse the store.

A “Mobile First” design strategy should be central to your store renovation plans. If it is already not in place, consider replacing the existing design with a fully responsive design so that visitors could experience your store to the fullest.

Change Your Showcase

It is normal for an online store to change storefront and the display frequently. The ambient images of your store’s homepage and the selection of featured products are virtual showcase elements and should reflect the theme of the Holiday Season.

Modify your banners and sale tags according to themes and promotions. Your ecommerce store should appear to be visually alive and express the joy and enthusiasm for the Holiday Season sales.

Impressive (read, usable) Design and Layout

No one likes to go shop at a messy store because it ruins the customer experience. Customers want to shop at an attractive website where they can easily find what they are looking for. Investing time and money in a well-designed store theme pays off since customers would come back for more.

Create a Page with Gift Ideas

Shoppers need gift ideas during the Holiday Season because they need to buy a lot of gifts in limited time. This is why a page with gift ideas is a great addition to your online store. Even when they do not buy the gifts from your store, they will remember your store and might come back.

Create a “Gift Ideas” page and display a Thanksgiving or Christmas theme banner that redirects to a landing page. To sweeten the deal, offer discounts and exclusive deals.

Offer Free Shipping

Shoppers dislike paying for shipping their purchases. If your finances allow it, plan for offering free shipping during the Holiday Season. If that is not possible, consider offering shipping discounts on a certain volume of purchase. Since delivery costs are one of the main deal-breakers during the Holiday Season, your holiday promotion can offer free delivery rather than a discount on the products.

Use Secure Payment Gateways

Given the recent rise in information security incidents, shoppers are rightfully concerned about the security of their credit card data. Shoppers now prefer stores with secure payment gateways that ensure the protection of credit card data.

On WooCommerce stores, you could set up secure payment options through Stripe Payment Gateway or hundreds of free and paid extension available in WordPress plugins directory.

Simplify Purchase Processes

Nothing is more annoying than filling out several forms at the checkout. There are still stores that force customers through multi-page forms. These are the stores that usually go down because of unpleasant UX.

This Holiday Season, plan on replacing the antiquated checkout process of your store with a simple one-page checkout. This page should clearly highlight all additional charges such as taxes and delivery charges. If your WooCommerce store receives visitors from multiple countries, remember to display your prices in foreign currencies.

Clear Return Policies

In many cases, stores have unclear Product Return Policies that leave out essential details. In many cases, the customer has no idea who will pay for the return of the product.

A good practice in this regard is to plan your return policy and present it in two stages, the first stage should be at the checkout page. This version should be concise (ideally in bullet points). The more detailed version should be located on a separate page that is then linked to all customer focused places.

Plan Your Promotions Wisely

Understand that not all promotions work during the Holiday Season. Planning store promotions requires careful thought about what works during the Holiday Season.

Remember that promotions are not static ideas that couldn’t be changed. Rather, closely monitor the performance of the promotions. If a promotional offer is not doing well, replace it with another idea immediately. Delays in this regard mean a loss in revenues.

Choose the Right Keywords

If you are doing PPC, choose your keywords well! Often, when launching an AdWords campaign for Holiday Season, you might be tempted to choose a lot of keywords without thinking about the inefficiency of the process. Always opt for targeted keywords that already focus on specific user choice.

Generic keywords bring in visitors that are not really interested or ready to buy your products. In addition, these keywords inflate the costs of the PPC campaigns and skew the numbers badly.

Perfect Your Sales Pitch

These days, every buyer wants the details of the products. A good use of visual elements such as photos and videos helps in attracting and retaining visitors’ attention. It is important to see your product pages as part of your sales pitch. You only have a short time to get the attention of your potential customers and make them click the buy button.

Think about a flexible structure that has the potential to evolve over time. Harness the power of images and videos to convince the visitors that they need to buy the products.

Product Presentation Videos

For a few years — notably thanks to platforms like YouTube and Wistia — the videos are probably the most consumed content format today. In the context of ecommerce, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then the video is worth a lot more than that.

Videos allow you to better present your products and showcase the perceived benefits. Videos allow the visitors to see and evaluate the products so that they could make the best decision.

Call to Action Is Important

A call to action is essential for converting visitors into customers. Remember to change the CTA on your store to match the holiday theme. Buttons like “Buy Now” or “Shop Now!” are too mundane to work during the Holiday Season. An interesting CTA is the set of buttons such as “Complementary Products” and “Products Viewed or Purchased by Other Visitors”. These CTA leverage the power of collective opinion to help visitor convert into customers.

Involve Your Customers

Use social media to make customers part of the sales process. Plan and launch small campaigns to involve your audience in the Holiday Season sales campaign. Contests and polls are two staples of the social media campaigns.

Remember that customers also use social media as an alternative customer service channel. This is another way you could engage and involve customers into the sales promotion process. Make sure that all the promotional activities on your store are supported by social media activities.

Keep in Touch via Email

Email is still a very effective method for bringing customers back to your ecommerce store. Stores have numerous opportunities for building email lists. However, stores owners fail to take advantage of the subscribers list while social media remains the primary channel for user engagement. Newsletters now function as product catalogs that offer targeted offers to the customers.

Finally….Your Own Experience Matters!

Everything comes back to you. Over time, you need to develop your own practices and find out what works with your audience. Do not hesitate to do experiments and monitor the results, so that you can adjust your strategies accordingly.

That’s all I could offer you in the context of preparing your store for the upcoming Holiday Season. Do not hesitate to ask questions, suggest your best practices and share this article with your friends on your favorite social networks.

Mansoor Ahmed Khan :Mansoor Ahmed Khan is a WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways.