How to Prepare Your Store for the Holiday Season: Best Tips and Practices

It’s beginning to look a lot like holidays. 42% of customers plan on shopping for presents early due to inflation and potential price rising. Hence, you need to prepare for the holiday season and all that it entails in advance.

The holiday season can be both a blessing and a curse for eCommerce business owners. In order to nail the holiday season with its increased traffic and order numbers, you need to get ready!

In this article, we’ll discuss the main things on the to-do list for preparing for the holiday season. Keep reading to find out what page speed has to do with increased sales and how to gain more customers with the updated return policy.

Decorate your online store with holiday design

When Halloween is over, all the malls and stores turn into Santa Claus factories with all the decorations. It creates a festive atmosphere and pushes people to buy more stuff. No one wants to feel left out and miss the Christmas sales, so people buy things even if they didn’t plan to do it in the first place.

Now, you need to ensure that your online store has the same festive vibe. Don’t worry; you don’t have to redo the whole website; changing the homepage is sufficient. Choose a user-friendly holiday theme and customize it according to the specifics of your store.

For example, you can add banners promoting holiday sales or holiday-related products. Or else, you can add a counting-down clock showing when the holiday sales are starting. Those simple steps will affect customers’ psychology and create the urge to buy products immediately.

Make sure that your website is working properly

The holiday season means a heavier traffic load and an increased volume of orders. Your website needs to be all ready to face it. Just imagine a website crash on the busiest day of the year! Orders would be displaced, customers wouldn’t be contacted, and the customer support team would be stressed. Nobody needs that.

Even if your website works perfectly, it won’t hurt to double-check everything. Here are a few suggestions on how to ensure that your website won’t let you down in terms of speed and reliability.

Compress & optimize pictures

While images are an essential part of the content on your website, they can also significantly delay loading times. As such, one of the easiest ways to increase the website loading speed is to compress and optimize the pictures.

By compressing & optimizing images, we mean changing the file formats, enabling lazy loading options, etc. When you reduce the image’s file sizes, you reduce their weight, leading to faster loading. Nowadays, there are plenty of tools you can use in order not to do it manually, such as image optimization plugins.

Change the redirects

If you have way too many redirects on your website, it can affect your page loading speed. You need to check the website pages and see how many redirects there are, whether it’s an internal link building or links to other resources. If you can cut some redirects and place links to the holiday sales or specific products you hope to sell more, it’ll make your website navigation and structure more efficient.

Remove unnecessary plugins

Not every plugin that you’ve initially installed is needed for your website. With too many plugins, you can create unnecessary bloat that slows the website down. Besides, some plugins that aren’t sufficiently maintained or outdated can be a severe problem or even a security threat. Otherwise, they can cause compatibility issues that affect performance.

To avoid such situations, it’s smart to cut the number of plugins as much as possible. Review the list of plugins and disable or delete those you haven’t used for quite some time.

Besides, it’s also important to review the plugins you use to see whether they are actually necessary. Some of them may have overlapping functionalities, while others are no longer relevant to your store’s needs.

Finally, not every plugin functions in the same way. Some may slow down the site more than others. Test each plugin individually to see how they are affecting your website.

Use a content delivery network (CDN)

Last but not least, consider using a content delivery network. A content delivery network, CDN for short, is a system of servers located worldwide that contain a copy of your content. Many businesses use CDNs because it allows for reducing bandwidth and increasing audience reach. While it can’t substitute traditional web hosting, it provides you with resources to take the load off the core server. If you want to learn more about CDNs, check out this article:

Content Delivery Network: A Must-Have For eCommerce Businesses

Use gift cards marketing during holiday season

Gift card marketing means that you promote gift cards as a way to access your products and services. If you don’t have a gift card system in place, it’s high time to implement it. According to stats, the e-gift card market is expected to reach US$ 101,979.2 million by 2024. More and more eCommerce businesses are going for gift cards because it’s a quick, easy, and effortless way to boost sales and income.

Being a relatively passive form of marketing, gift cards lead to:

  • Increased customer conversion
  • Larger audience outreach
  • Increased number of customer referrals
  • Taking advantage of seasonal shopping habits

Talking about the last one, with the spikes of online shopping during Black Friday, Christmas, and other holidays, you can promote your gift cards and gifting systems around that time. 55% of consumers’ yearly gifting budget is spent on gift cards, and 33% of consumers spend more on gift cards than actual gifts.

You need to have a gift card in place and promote it to the customers, making sure they are aware of such an option. Whether the person is looking for gifts in advance or it is a last-minute shopper, a gift card takes away the pain of guessing what kind of present someone’s loved ones want or need.

Another bonus of gift cards is that big companies and corporations often purchase gift cards in bulk for the whole staff. No one will be searching for personalized gifts in a company that consists of hundreds of people. In this way, you widen your target audience.

Provide mobile-first experience

Did you know that 46% of USA citizens spend between 4 and 5 hours on their phones every day? And these numbers are rising with every passing day. This is why it’s important for you as an eCommerce business owner to provide your customers with a seamless experience no matter what mobile device they use.

Some businesses opt for creating websites and mobile apps. This can be quite an expensive endeavor because it requires spending money on both website and mobile app development. Instead, you can go for a responsive website design. Responsive web design means that your website will look good on all devices. It automatically adjusts to different screen sizes and viewports. And as a plus, you won’t spend extra money on development.

Update your return policy

Yes, yes, we know, nobody wants to deal with returns. It’s often inconvenient for businesses to manage returns, but the holiday season is a high time to create one. And if you already have one in place, it’s time to update it.

47% of UK online shoppers won’t buy from a business that charges them for online returns, and 41% of US online shoppers consider the absence of free returns to be a deal breaker.

Usually, a return window varies between 14 and 20 days. We suggest expanding your return window for as long as 60 days for the holiday season. This way, your customers will have more flexibility and freedom. All kinds of mistakes happen during the holiday rush. Wrong sizes are ordered, and wrong orders arrive. Having a wide return window saves your customers some of the headaches.

Perform SEO

The holiday season is a perfect time to gain some new customers. While you have your returning customers who will come to your store shopping for presents, many other people wouldn’t visit your store otherwise. The key is to make sure that they find your website on their hunt for a perfect gift for their loved ones.

Search engine optimization, SEO for short, comes in handy to help you reach this goal. People who hunt for presents are googling specific words to find online stores. Research the trends before the holiday season, and include the relevant keywords in your content. You can use Google Trends and other tools for it.

Ensure accessible customer support throughout holiday season

The more customers and orders you get, the higher are chances of mistakes or confusion happening throughout the different stages of the customer journey. In order to handle them quickly and efficiently, you need to set up a thought-out customer support system. You can enable a live chat option or include contact information so the customer can reach you via email or a preferred communication channel.

Optimize checkout experience

Once your customer reaches the checkout step, it means they are quite determined to complete the purchase. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that they won’t change their mind if the checkout process is slow, complicated, and doesn’t include convenient payment methods.

Your goal should be to minimize distractions and reinforce trust throughout the checkout flow, driving users to the email confirmation email. With the checkout process, the phrase less is more is true. If possible, ensure a one-click checkout. The fewer steps the customer has to take, the better.

One more important thing is to provide multiple payment and shipping options. Especially if you are selling worldwide, you need to make sure that customers can have a preferred payment and shipping option no matter the location.

Plan email marketing campaigns

Did you know that as many as 98% of customers leave their shopping carts abandoned in some eCommerce industries? There are different reasons why someone doesn’t proceed with the checkout process. Sometimes, an unstable Internet connection is a reason, and other times, screaming children are.

Not everyone who leaves their carts abandoned changes their minds; sometimes, it’s only an unfortunate set of circumstances that is the reason. And here is when it’s time for you to come with a reminder about the unfinished shopping experience. Most eCommerce businesses send two emails with reminders, and some go for three emails. Usually, the first one is sent 24 hours after the cart was abandoned, and the second one two days after.

You can also go the extra mile and offer your customers special discounts or sales on the chosen products. Don’t just send them a reminder of the unfinished buying process; make them want to come back and buy even more than initially planned. Include the links to the promoted products and to the products they were reviewing.

Final thoughts

Now you are all set to handle all the upcoming traffic and orders coming your way. The main thing to remember is to ensure that your website is ready to handle all the incoming traffic. eCommerce businesses get as much as a 50% increase in traffic and orders during the holiday seasons. Make sure that your pages don’t take ages to load, checkout is optimized, and the return policy is satisfactory. Good luck and have a holly, jolly holiday season!

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