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25 Holiday Preparation Tips for eCommerce Sites

by Justin Palmer - October 19th, 2007

Hopefully, you’ve already begun to consider any necessary improvements to your site to accommodate the influx of holiday traffic.  Below I’ve compiled holiday improvement ideas for e-commerce sites. I hope you find something here useful.

  1. Offer Bounce Back Discounts: Think about how much traffic your site will receive during the holidays. How can you harness that traffic to create year long business? Consider offering a good discount incentive for customers to come back and shop in January. You can automatically email them a coupon after each order, or send one along with the package. Make sure that this coupon is not valid until after the holidays.
  2. Loosen Up on Your Return Policy: 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 Christmas gift purchases.
  3. Use a Website Monitoring Service: Odds are, your website will go down at least once during the busy holiday season. If you’re not big enough to have a 24 hour IT department monitoring your server, signup for a website monitoring service such as Alertsite, who will email or text message you if your site goes down.
  4. Gift Receipts: Gift givers hate revealing how much they spent on a gift. Make sure you allow customers to click a Gift receipt option that will hide the prices on the packing list from the recipient.
  5. Gift Messages: 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.
  6. Determine Shipping Cut-off Dates: This is quite possibly the most important 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.
  7. Prominent “No Hassle” Return Policy: Your return policy should be easy to find. Consider re-packaging it as a ”no hassle” policy in order to calm the fears of first time buyers.
  8. Holiday Graphical Themes: Show some holiday spirit and redesign some of the artwork on your site with a holiday theme. Hopefully, this will get visitors in a buying mood.
  9. Increase Server Capacity: Talk with your web host about how you can increase your server performance during the holiday rush. You don’t want to end up like Walmart or Amazon on last year’s cyber Monday. Here’s a sad, but funny example of Macy’s servers getting overloaded.
  10. Checkup on your Domain, Web hosting, and Merchants: God forbid that your credit card or domain name expires during the Christmas rush. Double check the basics just to be safe.
  11. Audit Your Online Product Catalog: Have a detail oriented person visit each of your product pages to ensure accuracy. Check for typos, broken images, and bad hyperlinks.
  12. Seasonal SEO and PPC Landing Pages: Don’t forget to optimize your SEO and PPC campaigns for seasonal keywords. Visitors searching habits change around the holidays, so your marketing strategy should as well.
  13. Mystery Shop your Site: Either do it yourself or hire a professional service to mystery shop your site. Mystery shopping should include ordering, contacting customer service, and returning the product back to you.
  14. Learn from Your Past Mistakes: Just for fun, checkout your site at Christmas time last year on the wayback machine. You’ll likely spot issues that can be improved this year.
  15. Learn from Your Competitors: Also, checkout what your competition was doing last year. It may give you some tips on what or what not to do this year.
  16. Build up those Wish Lists: Start encouraging your visitors to build their wish lists now. Come Christmas, they’ll know exactly where to find what they want. Check out this post for Wish list improvement ideas.
  17. Offer Online Gift Certificates: If your site doesn’t offer online gift certificates, and your visitors don’t find that perfect gift, they will just leave. Gift certificates make great last minute gifts. In addition, they’re a great way to drive sales at the beginning of next year.
  18. Gifts by Price: Organize and suggest gifts by price range. For example, highlight gifts under $10, 25, 50, 100 or whatever price points are appropriate for your business.
  19. Gifts by Person: Organize gifts intended for different people groups such as kids, teens, parents, grandparents, etc.
  20. Get 404 and 500 Error Notifications: Talk with your webmaster and ask him to setup a script that notifies him every time a 404 (page not found) or 500 (internal server error) occurs on your site. You might be surprised how often errors occur. When we set this up for one of my clients, they received over 1,000 errors in one day. These errors can be costly, especially at Christmas time.
  21. Stocking Stuffers: Be sure to highlight low cost products that would make good stocking stuffers. These can be a great way to increase your average order total.
  22. Shipping and Return Info on Product Pages: Shipping and return issues will be top of mind for your customers at this time. Assure them your policies are convenient and fair by linking to your shipping and returns page from your product pages.
  23. Offer Gift Wrapping: Many don’t like the idea of sending gifts to friends or family wrapped in nothing but bubble wrap or Styrofoam popcorn. If you can, offer gift wrapping services to your online customers. Be sure to charge enough to cover the labor and material costs for this additional service.
  24. Emphasize Urgency: Let your customers know it’s not safe to wait until the last minute. To prevent shipping issues or product stock outs, encourage your customers to shop early.
  25. Bundle Products: Gift selection is much easier when related items are grouped together in some sort of gift basket or bundle.

Hopefully you’ve found something here useful for your site. Be sure to leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions. Like these 25 tips? Here’s 192 more.

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2 Responses to “25 Holiday Preparation Tips for eCommerce Sites” by Justin Palmer

  1. The Cart Blog » Blog Archive » Preparing your cart for Christmas Says:

    [...] A interesting post from Palmer Web Marketing. [...]

  2. Gab from SEO ROI Says:

    Sphunn this one too, and emailed to some contacts. Glad to have subscribed!

    Cheers, and keep up the good work!


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