Preparing Your E-commerce Site For the Holidays

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

e-commerceIt may seem early, but now is the perfect time to start preparing an e-commerce website for the holiday season. Estimates for US retail e-commerce holiday sales this year are for more than $60 billion. It’s going to be a competitive marketplace and small business owners need to start preparing now to make sure everything on their site is ready. Here are four things small business owners should be doing now to prepare their e-commerce site for the holidays.

Check All Product Listings
This may seem obvious but mistakes in product listings often go unnoticed by many small business websites. Often, the business owner hasn’t checked the listings since they were originally put up. Take the time to go through the main pages of a website to make sure that the links works, that images are displayed properly, and that there are no products listed that are out of date. There are several websites where users can check all of the links on their website at once. Not only do broken links and missing images annoying customers who are looking for information, but having product listings that don’t work makes a website, and vicariously the company, seem unprofessional.

While a program can find broken links, it takes a person actually reading and checking each listing to make sure that the content makes sense. If the website has a lot of listings to go through, divide the site into sections and assign a section to each member of the team. Have them go through the listings to check for spelling and grammar errors, and to ask questions like: “Does the description accurately describe the product?”; “Are any technical terms or large words defined for everyday consumers?”; “Would the image make you want to buy the product?”; “Is the image displaying the current packaging?” and similar questions. Doing this sort of product listings review now ensures that everything is ready in time for the holiday shopping season.

Add Mobile E-commerce Capabilities
As has been mentioned in previous posts, more and more people are shopping from their smartphones and tablets. According to an emarketer report, “Mobile commerce is set to grow around 40% year on year until around 2016. By 2017 most analysts predict that over a quarter of all online transactions will be mobile – around $31 billion in spending by 2016.” There’s no reason to wait until then to get in on the m-commerce action.

Adding mobile e-commerce to a site before the holiday season makes sense because it gives the business owners the best chance to see the potential that mobile sales has for their site at present. There are several mobile e-commerce solutions that are fast, easy to setup, and affordable. Shopify and BigCommerce are two good examples because they are low cost or free, and it’s easy to take an already existing e-commerce site and creating a mobile template from it. Business owners can try these kinds of applications during the holiday season when demand is at its greatest, and then, judging by the response, they can continue their mobile e-commerce efforts or scale them back until the next holiday season.

Offer Multiple Shipping and Shipping Estimates
As was discussed in a previous post about things every ecommerce site needs, shipping options are really important to customers and poor shipping options is one of the most common reasons that customers abandon their online shopping carts at checkout. Having multiple options may be enough to please early shoppers. But once December arrives, shoppers will be concerned with making sure that the order arrives at its location by Christmas Day. The fact that customers are willing to pay more to ensure their item arrives by Christmas also suggest that aren’t willing to save money if it means risking not getting the gift on time. Providing shipping estimates makes it so that customers don’t feel like they have to choose between pricing and timing.

Post Guarantees and Policies
Even though people have been shopping online for decades now, small business owners still have to clear a trust hurdle when reaching first-time shoppers to their site. Consumers need to feel assured that they aren’t going to be taken advantage of when shopping online. Posting guarantees or return policies lets people know that a business is reputable and concerned about customer service. Be sure to explain areas that have been causes for confusion in the past. It’s also a good time to consider amending any policies to make them more consumer friendly. For example, businesses could offer longer return periods, which reduces the risk that some people have about buying online.

Business owners should take the time start getting their businesses ready for the holidays now. They may even want to consider hiring a web designer to implement some necessary changes before it’s too late in the holiday season. Christmas will be here soon and while Santa is checking his list, business owners need to start checking theirs. By getting an early start and checking off these four items, small business owners can make sure that their gift to themselves this Christmas is higher profits.

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