Tips for Maximizing E-commerce Holiday Sales

By Diane Buzzeo, DianeBuzzeo@abilitycommerce.com

Smart retailers already know the time to prepare for the holiday season is now. As online shopping continues to grow both through computers and smartphones, your e-commerce strategy needs to be the first item on your to-do list. Whether you are planning sales, giveaways or special offers, now is the time to not only start spreading the word, but also to make sure your customers will have a positive user experience when they begin interacting with your company.

With that in mind, here are the some tips to maximizing sales over the pivotal holiday shopping season:

1. Go Mobile
With such a drastic increase in the popularity and capabilities of smartphones, having a mobile friendly website is a must this holiday season. Get started by measuring your mobile audience and determining what types of phones they are using; then, make sure those users experience your site to the fullest. First ensure your server is recognizing mobile devices at the server level and then create a mobile friendly CSS. That CSS should include a slimming down -- eliminating unneeded graphics and Flash -- narrowing the overall format, putting the most important information on the left and making sure your call to action buttons, like “Click to Call” and “Add to Cart,” are prominent.

2. Show up in Search Engines
Customers can’t buy from you if they can’t find you. Make sure both your company and your products are being picked up in the major search engines. Optimize with prominent and popular keywords throughout your site’s searchable content and include many HTML links. Also ensure that your page titles are relevant to the content on that page and take advantage of the “description” meta tag. Finally, use words instead of numbers in the URL and be sure to leave a “breadcrumb” trail (i.e. Home>Products>Item1) to make the site easy to navigate. 

3. Include a Wish List
If a customer wants somebody else to buy them a product, it’s a good idea to help them announce this. Wish lists allow shoppers to easily email their friends or family a link to what they want. Giving them the ability to add comments can also help get their point across and drive sales for your business. And don’t forget to include a “Find a Friend’s Wish List” and “E-mail Wish List” button on the website so others can view their family or friend’s list and the users have an easy way to share it.

4. Facilitate the Check-Out Process
If customers feel a check out process is either confusing or too long, they’ll be quick to abandon their cart. Include the least amount of pages as possible and eliminate any scenarios requiring users to re-enter the same data multiple times. For example, a “ship order to billing address” often eliminates the need to enter the same address twice. Give shoppers options as well. While some people might be able to navigate your checkout process, others might be more comfortable paying with Google checkout or PayPal. Finally, users don’t like having to register or create a profile just to buy something. Allow shoppers to checkout as a guest in order to speed the process up. Don’t forget about your mobile space as well. One click checkout is a must for converting mobile shoppers into buyers.

5. Communicate With PPCs and Web Banners
Pay per click and web banners campaigns are a great way to get the word out about holiday sales. Start by measuring keyword performance from last year and use it as a baseline for this season. Focus on which keywords provided the best click-though and conversion rates and most efficient cost per click. After you find the best performing keywords, add “holiday”, “Christmas” or “seasonal” to the group and make sure to optimize your landing pages for these phrases as well. Finally, don’t forget to check on your competitor’s ads. You’ll want to have equal, if not better, promotions than what they are offering.

6. Offer Gift Options
Even the smallest offerings can help push a shopper to hit the buy button. Especially during the holiday season, offering gift cards, gift certificates or gift wrapping services can make the shoppers life much easier. Take it a step further and allow users to choose their own gift card design and personalized message. With most people in a rush during the holiday season, these gift options give last minute shoppers a quick alternative to having a present mailed to their house, wrapping it themselves and then sending it to the intended recipient. Easing these holiday pains can be the difference between a sale or an abandoned cart.

7. Help Shoppers Find that Perfect Gift
One of the most common reasons people leave an ecommerce website without making a purchase is they just didn’t find a perfect fit. So in order to help them do just that, give them a personal shopping assistant. A gift finder is essentially that, offering the best gifts for different categories of people. Laying out the “Best gifts for families, couples, chefs, dessert lovers, etc.” will help give the buyer confidence they are purchasing an item their friends or family will love. Additional categories like “gifts under $20, $50, etc.” make shopping on a budget quicker and easier. Based on which item they purchase, you can then recommend related items that might also be a perfect fit.

8. Be Clear about Shipping Information
During the holidays, shipping times are of the utmost importance. Having a product delivered late, even if it is the shipping company’s fault, reflects poorly on your business. Keep your customers aware of the key date’s each holiday season. Update your shipping policy and website copy to reflect Holiday deadlines. If they need to get an order by Christmas, make sure they know what day they need to purchase by. Not only will this keep shoppers happy, it will create a sense of urgency as that date nears.

Diane Buzzeo is CEO and founder of Ability Commerce, which offers a variety of other software solutions that address the ever-growing needs of e-commerce retailers to drive sales. She has more than 25 years of experience boosting sales for retailers. For more information to abilitycommerce.com or email DianeBuzzeo@abilitycommerce.com.