Summer is in full swing, but smart retailers are already planning their inventory, marketing strategy and website updates for the 2014 holiday retail season. Good news for ecommerce retailers: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, ecommerce spending during the fourth quarter of 2013 (the holiday season) was up 15 percent compared to the same time in 2012. Since then, spending has continued to grow, with Q1 2014 ecommerce spending up 2.8 percent from the prior quarter, holiday 2014 is projected to be a banner year for ecommerce.
How can you grab your share of that spending? Here are 11 tips to get your ecommerce site ready for the holidays.
- Update your website. If your website needs a refresher, now’s the time to get it ready. Test your website to make sure it loads quickly and is easy to navigate. Plan for any special sections to highlight daily deals, holiday specials and the like.
- Prepare your website for high traffic. You work hard to get more customers to your website over the holidays, but what if it crashes while they’re there? Prevent problems by testing your site’s ability to handle a heavy load.
- Keep it secure. Ensure your site’s security is in order and prominently display seals indicating security to make consumers feel confident.
- Get your email marketing ready. According to the BizRate Insights/Forrester Holiday Flash Survey 2013, email was the second most popular way customers learned about holiday products last year. Clean up your email lists and segment them based on relevant factors such as age, location, past purchasing, gender and when they purchased last.
- Ease up on frequency. It’s a good idea to slow down on marketing emails in the month leading up to the holiday shopping season—that way, customers will be eager to hear from you again.
- Market to existing customers. Customers who bought from you last year and/or buy from you all year long are your best bets for sales this season, so plan promotional offers and marketing messages targeting them.
- Get holiday-specific. Plan your site’s SEO and your online advertising campaigns to integrate holiday specific keywords. Adding or using terms such as “gifts,” “gifts for mom,” “last minute gifts,” and the like can boost your results.
- Make sure your inventory is in place. Look at what you ordered last year and try to learn from it so you don’t order too much or too little. Confirm shipment dates with suppliers and have backup plans in place if an order falls through.
- Communicate important dates to customers. For example, shipping dates, order dates to receive product before Christmas Eve, costs of different levels of shipping are all crucial factors in customer decision making. Post them prominently on your holiday website.
- Update your help center. Customers buying gifts want info about returns, exchanges, receipts and other issues. Not to mention, you may be getting new or occasional customers who will need more help with your checkout process. Review your help information, make sure your FAQs and help info is prominently displayed, and offer lots of options for realtime help, such as toll free phone numbers and live chat.
- Make sure your website is mobile friendly. The IBM Online Retail Holiday Readiness Report estimates that 20 percent of site sales and more than 43 percent of site traffic will come from mobile devices in November 2014. It’s important your website be optimized for mobile viewing on a range of devices, from smartphones to tablets, and that features such as help and checkout are easy to access on a mobile device.
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Karen Axelton is Chief Content Officer of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her company’s blog at SmallBizDaily.com.