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8 Ways to Optimize Your E-Commerce Website for Peak Shopping Season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… while it’s onlyOctober, this little jingle is playing in my head, and I bet it’s playing in your head too as you gear up for what is typically the busiest time of the year. I suspect even busier in our new era of social distancing as more and more people continue to tap into online retail for their shopping during this unprecedented time.

The National Retail Federation’s holiday retail forecast hasn’t been released yet, but there are some predictions out there on how the online holiday shopping season will take shape this year. Deloitte is predicting that holiday sales will rise between 1% to 1.5%, while Forrester estimates that it will decline by 2.5% for the full year as people cut back on spending with economic uncertainty. But despite their differing forecasts, both firms agree on one thing: this year will be an explosion year for online shopping.

No doubt you have put a lot of planning into your promotions and choosing which products you want to sell during this year’s peak holiday season. But there is another key component to your digital marketing strategy — optimizing your e-commerce website for search engines and consumers to ensure you deliver a positive customer experience across the entire customer journey.

E-commerce optimization, according to Crazy Egg, is a systemwide improvement of your e-commerce store to facilitate greater and faster sales. What online retailer doesn’t want that, right? If it’s not done properly however, it causes problems that ultimately lead to decreased revenue from issues such as cart abandonment, poor visitor experience and negative reviews and complaints from frustrated consumers. That’s something you don’t want!

Now, just because it’s the peak shopping season, doesn’t mean this is a one and done task. You should optimize your site all year round to ensure that you are noticed by search engines while also providing a seamless shopping experience for consumers.

So, let’s get to it. We’ve compiled the must-do’s when it comes to e-commerce site optimization not just for the holidays, but all year to drive better conversions and higher revenue.

1.   Ensure that your site is mobile optimized

According to a Leanplum survey last year, 80% of consumers use their mobile phone to shop online and something tells me this number has gone up amidst the pandemic. This means that it’s no longer enough to have a slick e-commerce site. It’s now a must for it to be mobile optimized. Elements to consider when optimizing your site for mobile visitors include:

  • Ensure your page loads quickly. More than 40% of shippers abandon a site that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Don’t let poor loading speeds lead to a bad user experience and drive them away. You can test your page load speed on Google’s mobile-friendly test tool.
  • Add clear “call to action” to combat all of the other competing distractions such as other apps, texts, games and phone calls.With shortened attention spans, add bold, short and sweet “call to action” to stand out from the rest of the page, like a “BUY NOW” button or “ADD TO CART.”
  • Optimize your visitor experience with mobile pages that are easier, faster and more intuitive with design elements that differ from that of desktop like a top navigation menu and a search feature. More about this below.
  • Streamline your checkout process by reducing the number of steps it takes to complete the checkout. Additional and unnecessary steps cause brands to lose 23% of customers so make sure this is simple and you offer a series of payment methods such as Apple Pay, PayPal, Visa or MasterCard checkout and other forms of mobile or digital wallets to complete their transaction.
  • If you’re using Pinterest or Instagram for social selling, integrate your site with social media to capture more sales from mobile users.

By optimizing your site for mobile visitors, you can help your SEO rankings and capture more sales from shoppers-on-the-go.  

2.   Offer a search function that’s easy to use

As mentioned in the previous must-do, offering a search feature to optimize your visitor experience is an important element to an e-commerce site. It’s not uncommon today for site visitors to go immediately to the site search box. If you offer a vast range of products and information, adding this feature will allow your site visitors to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily in turn boosting your conversion rates. Plus, with the right analytical tool, your internal site search can arm you with a wealth of information about what your customers want. You will gain better insight into products you should add to your inventory offerings or commonly used keywords you were never aware of. In turn this can assist you in optimizing your content for better customer purchase decision making on your website.

3.   Strengthen your website's security

It's not just shoppers who ramp up their online activity during the holidays. Hackers are waiting in the wings, ready to take advantage of the increased number of transactions that come with peak shopping season. Educate yourself and your team to recognize the signs of cyberattacks, such as distributed denial of service (DDoS)attacks, and investing in security solutions so you can handle any potential situations that may arise.

4.   Highlight your special offers and discounts

Make sure that your holiday offers are featured prominently on your homepage. Web banners spread across the top of the page area great place to highlight your offers and discounts. And remember, incorporate your site with social media. You can also generate traffic by frequently posting your special offers to your social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

5.   Offer a variety of shipping options

Shipping has become such a key focal point in the online shopping experience with Amazon setting the gold standard around fast and free shipping. If you’re not already doing it, consider offering free shipping. You can factor the cost into your product costs for every order and/or offer it when customers meet a specific purchase threshold (e.g. $50 or $100). With courier fees being unpredictable, it can be hard to do this so consider a regional courier with simple, transparent and flat rate pricing so there are no surprises when your monthly invoice arrives. Lastly, as consumers become more purpose-driven in their lives and the world around them, consider offering a shipping option that is more environmentally friendly to appeal to those who have a strong focus on sustainability.

6.   Enable customer reviews

Customer reviews are helpful for businesses. They offer insight into which products customers love and which ones need improvements. If certain products continue to generate negative reviews, remove them from your site or make improvements to them before additional complaints come in. On the flip side, great reviews can turn prospects into customers and need to be part of your user-generated content strategy. If your site has the functionality to do so, enable reviews with images so passionate and excited customers can share images in their reviews.

7.   Ramp up your customer support

Holiday shoppers want a positive customer experience, so make your contact info easy to find on all the pages of your website in case customers have questions about their orders. There is nothing worse than the frustration caused by not being able to get in touch with a company when you need help.  You may also consider adding temporary staff to help field inquiry volume during your peak season to ensure customers get a speedy response to their questions and that your brand cares about their experience. In return, they’ll shop with you all year round.

8.   Test, test, test!

Peak season traffic can wreak havoc on your e-commerce store if you aren’t ready for the volume that comes with it. Ensure that your store is able to handle the surge in traffic and transactions by performing a round of load testing on your servers. Also take a look at any of your third-party integrations to ensure they’re up-to-date and avoid any new last-minute add-ons that can break aspects of your flow or slowdown your site by putting a “code freeze” in place until after the holiday season. Lastly, test the complete customer journey across all of your operations once the purchase transaction has been completed from fulfillment right through to shipping to the package landing on your customer’s doorstep to their unboxing experience. You want to ensure that the entire customer journey seamless and delivers a “wow” like experience from the moment they come to your website through to product delivery.  

I think this year both business and consumers are looking forward to the holiday season more than ever. People will be looking for gifts to send loved ones they haven’t seen all year long and business owners are hoping to make up for lost revenue and start 2021 off on a positive note.

Preparing your business for the holiday shopping season is no small task. This year, more people will be ordering online, and whether they’re picking up items in-store or having them shipped, it’s important for the experience to be smooth from start to finish. So, tackle your holiday readiness with these eight tips, and before you know it, you’ll be on your way to welcoming jolly shoppers with ease.

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