17 Essential Tips for Preparing Your Website for Holiday Shoppers

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Is your website ready for eager consumers this holiday season? Here are 17 essential tips that will help you meet the expectations of holiday shoppers.

Preparing Your Website for the 2019 Holiday Season

If you are like most business owners, you started planning for the holiday season a while ago. You probably have your advertising campaign set, your holiday email campaign figured out and set a date for decorating your store windows. But are you forgetting your online presence? Use our tips for preparing your website for holiday shoppers.

Since many small businesses depend on the holiday season to make it through the year, procrastinating is not an option. Even if you are a brick-and-mortar business and don’t do e-commerce, your potential consumers most likely conduct research online before they ever walk into your store. By preparing your website for holiday shoppers you will be ahead of your competition.

Of the $1,048 the average person will spend during the 2019 holiday shopping season, $659 of that will be spent on gifts for family, friends or co-workers. National Retail Federation

The holiday season is crucial for small businesses. Most SMBs generate around 20% of their annual sales in November and December. With shoppers finalizing their lists and checking their available credit card balances now is the time to get the ball rolling for your holidays. Here is what you need to start preparing your website for holiday shoppers.

Preparing your Website for Holiday Shoppers

1. Focus on Mobile-First Web Design

Even if they are planning to visit your brick-and-mortar store or location the vast majority of holiday shoppers will first look for you online. And in 2019 they will be using a mobile device to do so. If your business website is not based on mobile-first best practices, you have a problem!

Sales from Mobile Will Account for More Than Half in 2019 PracticalEcommerce

Take time to understand how content behaves on different devices, like tablets, smartphones, all the way to HD TVs. If you do not have a website that looks and functions awesome on all of the above, you really need to do better.

2. Determine What Worked in the Past

Dig into your reports from Google Analytics or whatever other analytics tools you use. What worked well last year? Which strategies didn’t work? What has changed during the past several months that might impact how you interpret the data and apply it to this year’s activities?

Also, analyze the current data, and not just for your website but for those of your competitors. What are your competitors saying about the holiday season? If you pay attention to what they are saying, you can adjust your own strategy to better compete with them.

3. Test Your Website

Before traffic to your website ramps up with holiday shoppers, there are a variety of volumetric tests that can help you understand your website’s capacity and vulnerabilities. Load tests, for instance, will help you understand your website’s capacity under normal conditions, while spike tests will assess how the system handles sudden traffic spikes.

The increased volume of traffic during the holiday season typically impacts availability, response time, and errors. When running readiness tests, pay particular attention to these metrics since these are factors that frustrate consumers and could cause them to abandon your site.

Good news for the nation’s retailers: 2019 holiday retail sales will grow between 3.8% and 4.2% over last year, landing between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion. NRF

4. Tune Up Your Website

In order to prepare your website for holiday shoppers, you must provide an awesome user experience! Nobody likes a slow or broken website, especially during the holidays! Here are some simple website tune-ups you should consider before the holiday rush starts in earnest:

Improve Page Speed

Page load speed is not only a Google Ranking Signal, but it also affects the user experience visitors will have on your website. Load time and page speed have a big impact on your sales every day of the year, but never more so than during the crazy holiday rush.

Did you know that a single second delay could trigger a 7% drop in conversions? Depending on your total sales volume this could be a big part of your yearly revenue. Fortunately increasing page speed is a relatively quick and easy fix.

Update Your Plugins

Many, if not most, business websites and online stores use plugins to provide additional flair or functionality. But there is more to a plugin than functionality. Security plays a crucial role in the process. Developers are always on the lookout for exploits that make it easier for hackers to break through their software, and potentially make it to your website.

Plugin creators know that security is an issue, so their updates are usually designed to fix bugs and exploits that scammers can use to their advantage. Additionally, security plugins tend to update more frequently because their primary goal is to keep your website secure. If you’re not regularly updating your plugins, you could put your business at risk this holiday season.

Fix Broken Links

Preparing your website for holiday shoppers includes fixing any broken links on your site. Google really hates them, and broken links provide a bad experience for your website visitors as well. It makes your website seem less trustworthy or credible, which can be a deciding factor.

Our favorite tool for identifying and fixing broken links is Screaming Frog. You may also want to check and make sure any permanent (301) or temporary (302) redirects are pointing to the right pages by using Redirect Check or the Redirect SEO Tool from RagePank.

Get Better Web Hosting

Not all web hosting is created equal, you know! Take a look at how different website hosting options affect the speed and performance of your website. Having a cheap, shared hosting plan is never a good idea, especially during the holiday shopping season. You will lose any savings the moment a shopper abandons their shopping cart on your site or checks out your competitors instead.

If your website host is unable to handle increased web traffic over the holidays it can result in crashes, slowdowns, and in worst-case scenarios an actual shutdown of your website. Not exactly the holiday shopping experience you want to provide, is it?

So, upgrade your website hosting before the holiday season. Here are some top-rated WordPress hosting providers that can help you improve your site performance, and often for less money than you think.

5.  Double-Up on Checkout Security

As part of its “HTTPS everywhere” promotion, Google strives to make all websites more secure with the Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS), or “green bar” URL strategy. You may have noticed the green padlock symbol on e-commerce and other websites. And seeing that Google made having an SSL Certificate an absolute requirement in July of 2018 it is recommended for all business websites.

An SSL Certificate not only make sites more secure during the busy holiday shopping season, Google considers it an important search ranking signal. And better security at checkout doesn’t only benefit your customers: It also benefits you, as a single security breach can impact your business website and traffic for many holidays to come.

6.  Protect Customer Data

Preparing your website for holiday shoppers includes protecting their data! Shopping online is always risky; some websites don’t safeguard customers’ data properly, putting these individuals at risk for identity theft and other issues. Investing in robust security software is a good way to protect your customers’ important data.

Your technical support staff should keep apprised of the latest developments in online security to help your customers stay safe. To help alleviate your customers’ concerns, you can include information on your website about the security protocols that you use and offer tips on how your customers can shop online safely.

7. Decorate Your Website for the Holidays

Another way for preparing your website for holiday shoppers is by decorating your site! A fresh and inviting storefront shows that your business is active, responsive, and ready to sell. Especially new home page designs and seasonal themes show a higher level of engagement, which enhances the user experience.

In most cases, a top to bottom redesign of an e-commerce storefront is not necessary. Some sites, especially those with lots of information displayed on the front page, can lose traffic by shifting the location of popular menu items. Nonetheless, there are some elements that always benefit from a fresh look, especially around the holidays. These can include:

  • Graphic page headers
  • In-text pictures
  • Group photographs of team members
  • Holiday-themed images of your team and location(s)
  • Personalized service messages, including the automated email text
  • Holiday-themed newsletter graphics

Shifting the color theme of a site to reflect the season is another idea to consider. This can be as simple as replacing images with holiday-themed images or replacing background colors with more seasonal combinations. But take it easy; you don’t want to scare potential shoppers away!

8. Use Humor

Sometimes the best way of preparing your website for holiday shoppers is to make them laugh. Of course, how you do this is largely up to you and what works for your brand.

JibJab allows brands to personalize hilarious videos and send them to current clients as well as potential new consumers. Each year, the site offers a series of customizable holiday cards that are bound to make your customers laugh, share, and repeat.

Retailers with a compelling online and in-store experience have the advantage Mageplaza

9. Create Your Holiday Content Now

Long before they actually start shopping consumers are turning to the Internet for gift ideas, check social media recommendations and research current trends. Preparing your website for holiday shoppers must focus on content creation. Here are a few ideas to help get you started:

  • Create content designed specifically for holiday shoppers coming to your store or business. This can include a case study of how your product made their lives better, a holiday-themed recipe that uses your ingredients, or simple holiday decorating or cooking tips.
  • Design visual content, such as infographics, that answer basic questions about your product or service. How-to instructions can be especially helpful.
  • Create a holiday version of your logo. This can be as simple as adding a pop of red color, some ornaments, or a holiday garland.

10. Focus on Popular Products and Categories

Every holiday shopping season has a must-have item or trending product category. Take a look around and see what is driving sales this holiday season. Promoting that product or category on your site can make it more appealing to customers actively looking for hot items.

Online shopping comes out on top, with 56% of consumers saying they’ll shop online in 2019. National Retail Federation

 And don’t forget to add that hot product or category to your search marketing strategy (see below.)

11. Organize Your Website by Categories

Consider updating the main navigation of your website to match your holiday shopping categories. Many people visiting your website during November and December will likely be purchasing gifts. Make it easy for them to find your top recommended gifts so they will be more likely to purchase.

12. Adjust Your SEO

As part of preparing your website for holiday shoppers, you must consider your search appearance! Most holiday shoppers start with a Google search. If your content is buried somewhere on your site no one will ever see it, and it’ll be worthless. So, give shoppers what they are looking for!

Identify holiday-specific keywords and phrases that shoppers are searching for. Keep in mind that holiday shoppers are not shopping for gifts necessarily as much as they are searching for gift ideas! But don’t simply target keywords based on data from last holiday season; it may be outdated by now. Instead, we recommend using terms that would you be searching for if the roles were reversed.

13. Update Your Catalog

The holiday shopping boom is a great time to roll out new inventory and fresh product lines. Do you have a hot holiday item or items? You can begin generating buzz for these new additions in the days and weeks leading up to the start of the holiday shopping season.

14. Create Your Coupons

If you are planning to offer coupon discounts during or after the holidays it helps to prepare them ahead of time. Be sure to add them to your e-commerce site and select appropriate options such as the number of times they can be used and expiry dates. And don’t forget to actually promote your coupon codes through email marketing, social media, and on your business website and in your store!

Personalizing products is a growing trend — and is a good way for a product to be special to a customer — which can drive higher engagement and AOV, compared to a race to the bottom on price. Mercutio

15. Focus on Your Customers

Browser problems, incorrect stock levels, and missing orders are just some of the common customer issues your staff will need to work through. Having enough staff on hand is an essential ingredient to helping your website survive the holidays. If possible, offer a live chat support option to those who are currently browsing your website.

Keep an eye on your social media profiles in case a customer tries to reach you through those networks. Some customers may prefer to use email to get in touch with you; using a ticket system to handle incoming customer emails is a good way to keep track of issues. Help your staff to cultivate a customer-centric attitude and try to anticipate common problems so that you can develop solutions ahead of time.

16. Keep Your Customers Up to Date

Provide sneak previews to customers who have signed up to receive company newsletters. Send an email or two with information about upcoming seasonal sales, specials, discounts, and other perks. This is also a good time to remind people of important holiday shipping dates and other time-sensitive information that will affect purchasing decisions.

BONUS TIP: Become a hero to your frantic holiday shoppers by reminding them of the major holiday shipping deadlines for 2019!

17. Show Off Your Expertise

Prepare your website for holiday shoppers by establishing your expertise! If you are a business or product brand that has specific experience with a holiday-related topic, then the time is now to jump in and start sharing. For example, if you are a doctor, wellness coach, purveyor of health supplements, or self-styled weight-loss guru, then focus your content on how people can stay healthy during the holidays.

Are You Ready to Prepare Your Website for Holiday Shoppers?

With 20% of all business being done in a just a few frantic, critical weeks and months of the year, the holiday season is crucial for every business, even if a company does most of its business in a physical store. The holidays are right around the corner: Now is the time to plan, prepare and succeed. Our small business holiday website tips provide you with a step-by-step guide to do so.

It’s no secret that customers start looking for deals early. When shopping online, they begin their holiday preparations earlier and earlier every year. Retail Dive

Here are some additional holiday marketing ideas and tips from our blog to help get you started:

Need Help Preparing your Website for Holiday Shoppers?

Here at PixoLabo, we offer a full range of web design and related services to help you prepare your online presence for eager holiday shoppers, starting with multilingual WordPress web design and ranging from e-commerce solutions, search engine optimization and WordPress website hosting and maintenance to brand development and information design.

Feel free reach out to us and learn more about how our experts can help you improve your website or e-commerce store. Our team can help you determine any shortcomings and obstacles on your existing website. All you have to do is reach out to us. We are here to help!

Is Your Website Ready for the Holidays?

Are you preparing your website for holiday shoppers by adding new content or services? Is your online store all decked out for eager consumers? Do you have any other tips for preparing your business web site or online store for the upcoming holiday season? Feel free to add your comments below so our audience can benefit as well, and grab our feed so you don’t miss our next post! And feel free to share our holiday website tips with your audience!

Thank you! We appreciate your help to end bad business websites, one pixel at a time!

By Gregor Schmidt
Co-Founder / CXO