The holidays are quickly approaching, and retailers should already be pushing promos geared to these dates. Keeping everything in check and making sure you leave no stone unturned can be a difficult task. To help in that effort, here is a checklist of items you should consider while moving toward the holidays.
1. Ensure your checkout process is stable and the shopping cart is streamlined.
You should be aware of this part of your site all the time, but take one good look and make sure it is working (and across multiple browsers. before the holiday shopping season hits big) It does you no good to get a customer who is interested in your products and puts items into their cart, only to abandon it due to circumstances that could have been avoided.
2. If it's not broken don't fix it.
If your website is working and runs smoothly, now is not the time to try new programming alterations or updates. You risk introducing a bug or problem into the current process, and if it can wait, you should put off all your major changes and sit tight until the holiday season passes. Instead, focus on sales efforts. Sales are more important than new innovations during the fourth quarter.
3. Ensure your search marketing and ads reflect what people are looking for.
Free shipping, big discounts, "Buy one, Get one free," etc., are all significant factors people consider during the holidays especially. Also consider running ads during the holiday season, which reflect products people are actively seeking. With the major engines you can easily schedule your ads to run during a given period. I recommend creating a new campaign and calling it "Holiday" or something similar. You can break this new campaign into various ad groups that all target different holiday products.
Schedule it to run during the holiday season only, and end it when the holidays are over. This is something that can really help boost sales. I recently worked with a retailer that had some holiday products (limited time) which just arrived. A quick search of Google Trends told me the exact points in time each of these products was in heaviest demand on the Internet, and we set up a number of ads targeting those keywords and products. The results were immediate, with new sales coming in within a few hours.
4. Utilize Social Media channels to spread the word.
Viral marketing during this time of the year is something you simply cannot overlook. Good news and offers spread fast!
5. Tweak navigational elements to cater to holiday shoppers.
Consider adding the following temporary categories to your navigation during the holidays:
Gifts by Price.
Organize and suggest gifts by price range. For example, highlight gifts under $10, $25, $50, $100, or other price points that are appropriate for your business. Perhaps try a Gifts Under $10 category.
Gifts by Person.
Organize gifts intended for different groups such as kids, teens, parents, and grandparents. Consider a "Gifts for Him" or "Gifts for Her" category, as well as "Gifts for Boys" and/or "Gifts for Girls."
6. Showcase stocking stuffers.
Be sure to highlight low cost products that would make good stocking stuffers. You may even want to utilize these types of items for cross promotional selling, as a way to increase your average order value.
7. Make sure shipping and return info is clearly marked on your product pages.
Again, this is something that should be there all the time anyway, but during the holidays you must have it. Shipping and return issues will be top of mind for your customers at this time, and one of the first places they begin to seek answers to these questions is on the product page. Be sure you display or link to your shipping and returns pages from your product pages. A great way of accomplishing this is to provide a "tabbed" experience on the product page, as is the case with many big online retailers. Providing tabs for the product description, shipping information, returns information, etc., is a super way to keep the user on the product page and still provide the information they seek.
8. Consider offering gift wrapping.
If your business can do it, consider offering gift wrapping services to your customers. You can add this as an upsell on the product page. Remember to cross sell it on the shopping cart page in case they missed it, but be sure to add enough additional charge to cover any labor and materials associated with this.
9. Create product bundles.
Product bundles are a great way of increasing average order value and sales across the board. Consider taking several related products and grouping them into a gift package at a discounted rate, compared to purchasing separately. Gift selection is much easier when related items are grouped together in some sort of gift basket or bundle.
10. Consider gift messages.
If your cart enables you to do so, let your customers add a personal message to their gift. For simplicity, you can have the message appear on the packing list, which will already be included in the box. If your cart doesn't enable that, consider using the "Additional Comments" box, which many carts have by default, as an opportunity for them to add their gift message. Just ensure this message appears on the packing slip as well.
11. Determine shipping cutoff dates.
This is probably one of the most important pieces of information to communicate to customers during the holidays. Check with your shipping carriers to determine what the cutoff days are for the various methods of shipping. Add a "Guaranteed arrival in time for (name your holiday here) if ordered before (name your date here.)"
12. Prominently display your return policy.
As mentioned above, your return policy should be easy to find. Consider rewording it as a "No hassle policy," in order to calm the fears of first time buyers.
If your current policy is stiff, consider loosening it up during the holiday season. While a 30-day return policy is commonplace for the rest of the year, it may scare off early shoppers during the holidays. Make it clear to your visitors that you will accept returns and exchanges on all holiday gift purchases. This ensures them that they can expect total satisfaction. QVC always does a super job of wording their return policy during the holidays, because it works.
13. Show holiday spirit in your graphics.
Go ahead, decorate for the holidays, but don't go overboard. Consider redesigning some of the artwork on your site with a holiday theme. If you do any shopping or searching on the Internet, you'll see all the big players do this. Even Google decorates for the holidays by reworking their logo to get you in the buying mood.
14. Ensure your server can handle any increased capacity.
If you don't host in-house, talk with your web host about how you can increase your server performance during the holiday rush. The quickest way to lose sales is to have a website that is not online or is very slow. This will not only cost you holiday sales, but will likely cost you many future customers as well, so the effect can be long term.
15. Enable customers to ship to alternate locations.
If customers are buying a gift for someone who does not live near them, they may want to have it simply shipped to the recipient's address as a holiday gift surprise.
16. Communicate with fulfillment and customer service.
Make everyone involved in the order fulfillment process aware of any promotions you plan on running. Don't surprise your customer service and fulfillment staff with an unplanned 24-hour blowout sale. Taking 10,000 orders in a day is great, but if your warehouse can only ship 5,000, you are asking for real trouble.
17. Ensure your email campaigns promote holiday offers and that your website backs them up.
If you are running any email campaigns, you need to ensure that offers presented in the emails are easily found and similarly presented on your website. Consider using similar graphics and pushing the traffic to specific landing pages on your website that are setup to convert that traffic. It's all about relevancy. The more relevant the site is in comparison to the email offer, the more success you'll have generating sales.
18. Consider offering gift certificates.
Even if you do not offer gift certificates any other time of the year, consider offering them during the holiday season. These often provide an added option for shoppers who may not have wish lists, but know someone they are buying for who likes to shop at your store. These might also be a way to get last minute shoppers to buy, providing your cart offers the ability to generate digital gift certificates that are sent and redeemed online, rather than printed or sent by traditional snail mail.
Eric Leuenberger is an ecommerce conversion marketing expert and author of a leading Ecommerce blog at www.TheEcommerceExpert.com. He coaches store owners using his online coaching system, www.EcommerceAmplifier.com, teaching them how to increase website sales using his proven six step process. He can be contacted at 1-866-602-2673.
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