Prepare your online store for the holiday rush
(Last Updated On: October 22, 2018)

The Holiday season is upon us. Is your online store up to the task of handling a heavy traffic flow? Have you created a plan for marketing and promotion? Do you have inventory ready for your most popular sellers? Is your site optimised to handle the influx of customers? Have you updated your sales copy and website to engage your visitors? If you’ve answered no to half of these questions then you are in need of a plan to prepare your online store for the holiday shopping frenzy.

Not convinced yet that you need to prep your store for the onslaught of holiday shoppers?

Not to worry; this article is about to break down 7 actionable steps that you can take in order to ensure that your online store is ready for the influx of holiday shoppers.

1. Create your Game Plan

The first thing you need to do is to create a plan for the holiday shopping periods for your online store. How to do this simply:

  • First, decide which holiday seasons you wish to target customers. There are a few holidays in the last quarter of the year and if you store is fairly new you may not want to target all of them. Decide which ones will be the most profitable and plan for them. For example, Christmas should definitely be a holiday you wish to target online shoppers.
  • Secondly, get out your planner or calendar and mark the dates you wish to run promotions for your online store. Be sure to queue-in dates for updating sales copy and information on your website, graphics, and banners, running email and social media campaigns (more on that later).
  • Take time to plan this out carefully. At this time, you want to schedule everything and add details later.

 

2. Take Stock of your Inventory

Now that you have a game plan in place it is best to take stock of your inventory. Before you do this, look at your analytics and revenue from the last holiday season and see which product lines were the best sellers. Make notes of what sold more than others and to go a step further perhaps take a look at trendy items in your niche that go along with your brand. Now note how many products you need to order from your suppliers and make the orders to ensure you are well stocked for the start of the shopping season.

If this is your first holiday season in your new online store then a lot of this will be guesswork. Though look at your competition and see which products are their best sellers to give you an idea. ‘Guestimate’ how much inventory you need to satisfy your customers.

Once inventory comes in be sure to catalogue them adequately and update your site accordingly.

3. Sort-out Fast Shipping Options & Returns

This step is crucial to your overall customer experience and your website’s reputation. The holidays are a hectic time and shipping companies have a high volume of parcels to ship and work orders to fulfil. Therefore, it is imperative that you ensure that your shipping options are able to deliver products on time.

Here are some questions to ask yourself about your shipping company: Are they reliable? Have customers complained about late or broken items in the past? Were deliveries made on time last holiday season? If you answered yes to all of these questions then you are indeed in the clear. However, if you answered no to any of these questions then perhaps it is time to find a shipping provider fast.

Regardless of which shipping company you use be sure to check their shipping schedules for November and December. Be sure to offer multiple shipping options such as 3-5 days, 2-day shipping or overnight shipping. Give your customers a last-minute shipping option too, just in case, they are last minute shoppers. Make sure that things are outlined on your website and that they are easy to find. Having all options present at check-out is recommended.

Update your store’s ‘Returns Policy’, again this should be well defined and easy to find on your website. Be sure to outline how long customers have to return an item and the conditions of return.

4. Must-do Updates to Prepare Your Online Store

For starters, this is not the time for you to revamp your entire website. Though, updates are needed to prepare for the holiday traffic flow of online shoppers to your site. Review your site and see where you can make improvements to your product pages. When you make updates to prepare your online store don’t forget to make it more user-friendly and use accurate navigation headings.

Visual content is key here; so be sure to update graphics and photos because people remember 80% of what they see and 20% of what they read. This is a great time to ensure that the visual content on your site is up-to-date and optimised.

While having great quality visuals is important for an online store there are other factors you may also want to update on your site as you prepare for the mad shopping dash this holiday season.

  • Product Descriptions
  • Customer Reviews and Testimonials
  • Update stock availability per product (if you don’t display them you should!)
  • Adding a Wish List or Save for Later button to all your products
  • Display shipping information and options
  • Update Return Policy

Be sure to check your e-commerce host to see if there are any plugins that can aid you in any of the above feature updates.

5. Optimise your Online Store for Mobile & Desktop

After making all your site updates it’s time to optimise your site for mobile and desktop. Most online shoppers these days shop on their mobile devices and therefore your site must be mobile friendly and load quickly.

Your mobile site has to load in less than 2 seconds to be viable and retain users that convert. If your site is slow you can lose customers or have an increase of cart abandonment.

Having a fast loading site is necessary because:

6. Create a Marketing Plan to Run Promotions

Now that you’ve done the majority of the legwork to prepare your online store for Holiday Shoppers, time to get out that promotional calendar you were working on in the beginning. You are going to flesh out the details of your marketing and promotions plan.

First, you want to consider your budget for advertising on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and utilise Google Ads. Next, you want to curate content and automate posts across your social media platforms. Don’t forget creating engaging blog posts about your star products and pinning them on boards like Pinterest with a call to action. Plan your content well. Be strategic about posting times. Use the right keywords to ensure that your SEO game is up to standard and gets your brand out there.

Theme your content to suit the season you are promoting. Most importantly use your email list to send out discounts and promotions. Engage your loyal customers through email marketing and begin a campaign that continually leads to engagement and conversions.

7. Run a Few Tests on Site

This part ensures that the work you did at number 5 has paid off. You now have a better understanding of why website speed is important, the next step is to test your current website speed since you’ve gone through optimisation.

There are many ways to do this, here are 3:

  • PageSpeed Insights, a free tool by Google, lets you to test your site fast and easy. Just enter your website’s URL and the site will analyse its content and generate a report on speed in a matter of minutes.
  • Pingdom: this lets you test your website’s speed and its general performance. Plus, it tracks your website’s performance history so you can make a better plan to continually optimise your site’s speed for users.
  • YSlow: this tool tests your site’s speed and provides advice on how to make your website faster. A Chrome extension is also available.

Once you’ve run the diagnostics you can make adjustments based on our guide and ensure that your site loads in less than 2 seconds.

A final note in your preparations is to consider having a gift-wrapping option for an extra fee. This is great to have if people want to ship presents directly to family members that live outside of their city.

Conclusion

You’ve got it! Following our tips will effectively help you prepare your online store to handle the influx of the holiday shoppers. The only thing left to do is to track your sites progress with Google Analytics. If you haven’t yet, you should definitely sign-up for Google Analytics to monitor your site traffic and see exactly how your customers are engaging with your products. This data can also be used to help you plan and strategise for next year’s holiday season.

Remember to take notes and make lists about this year’s holiday season so you can better prepare for next year.