The 2019 holiday season will see record-setting online ordering with Cyber Monday becoming Cyber Week and more customers eschewing the retail crowds for the convenience of home delivery. With this increased traffic, eCommerce site operators must maximize their site for the holidays. In this blog, we will discuss some key considerations and optimizations to ensure that your site is ready to perform during the 2019 holiday blitz.
As per the latest report from Deloitte’s annual holiday retail projections, this holiday season online sales are all set to grow to the tune of 14% to 18% compared to last year. ECommerce sales are projected to be in the range of $150 billion which would be a jump of around 19% from 2018 with a total online spend of $126 billion. Overall the retail sales during the holiday season which is typically Nov to Jan are set to exceed$1.2 trillion
While another forecast from eMarketer puts out almost the same figures. In both cases, it’s obvious that the online share of the overall sales is growing. Now that we have the data to prove it, makes sense to be prepared. The amount of revenue an eCommerce player can make during this period will depend on their preparedness for the incoming onslaught. With the holiday season only about a month away, you may ask if this is too late to strategize. Well, we are going to provide you insights and quick tactics that will help you achieve flawless execution without overwhelming you with planning.
Here we will look at 5 key, simple and easy steps you need to take to prepare your site for the mega season.
1. Differentiate & Celebrate
The holiday season will see a pitched battle for market dominance, with an ever-growing share of online sales. The battle will be high pitched on the digital platform. What is it that you are going to do differently to stand out from the clutter? The competition will be fiercer than ever and then you also have to consider new touchpoints from paid placement on Google, Amazon, and Social to emerging advertising platforms like TikTok. Although this can seem daunting to plan, the rewards are too big to ignore. Think of how you will bring differentiation in your seasonal graphics and imagery on your site and your promotions, season-specific offers, sales, or discounts. For this your planning and research effort should go into understanding who’s shopping and how much they’ll spend on what, as well as when, where, and why – this way merchants across multiple platforms can position themselves for holiday sales success.
2. Speed equals sales success
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According to a recent survey, most online shoppers leave the site if the page doesn’t load in under 3 seconds. Studies have consistently shown that a fast page load will result in better conversion rates. In other words, the quicker a webpage loads, the more likely a user is to perform the targeted action on that webpage. Especially around the cutthroat holiday shopping season website performance has a significant, measurable effect on the conversion rates as there so many more options in terms of offers/ discounts.
3. Enhance Searchability
Research has shown that shoppers who use search are 4-6 times more likely to purchase than others. More and more people are going to shop online this year looking for the best holiday season deals. Search is one important platform that you just cannot ignore. During this peak time, you should be thinking about what you are going to do to get more traffic, rankings and eventually sales. While SEO doesn’t yield quick results one of the most important things to consider here is the planning even more so for SEO as it takes time to show results. The first and most obvious steps to do a content audit and analysis to see where you stand and identify opportunities to create new content and update existing. Try building out a content calendar with different concepts and different content types that cater to multiple shopper intents. You will want to base your SEO strategy on analytics around.
- What products performed well last season?
- How people found those landing pages?
- What queries drove traffic to those landing pages?
- How was the conversion on the landing pages?
It’s always good to have a tightly co-ordinated paid search and organic search campaign. This can put your brand in front of more customers thereby improving sales and driving more traffic. While you are thinking SEO don’t forget about social media, especially social listening can throw up a lot of content ideas that you may not have even thought about.
Also when thinking about search queries try and throw up related items many times, it’s only when an item shows up does the shopper realize the need for it.
4. Capacity Planning for Traffic Surge
For any retailer wanting to taste holiday sales success online, web and application performance should be an absolute top priority. Traffic peaks along with a rise in fraud and denial of service attacks around the holiday season can put huge pressure on the digital infrastructure. An extra second of page load or any other minor performance flaw can result in lost sales and diminish the brand value. You need to plan to ensure your site is in top shape for the hectic holiday season. You will need to ensure that you have the storage, servers and call center capacity to handle the deluge of business that will head your way. This is the best time for revenue generation and you don’t want to be down during this time
Here are some ways to plan your digital infrastructure during holiday traffic.
- Ensure Servers can Scale – While you have accounted for regular normal traffic, a spike in traffic can easily stress a website which can in turn increase load times, lock pages up and hinder transactions.
- Consider CDN – A Content Delivery Network helps in diversifying your server locations ensuring shopper’s browsing for products will get the content faster and it gets cached for further easy access.
- Load Balancing Software – In addition to CDN, you could also look at Load Balancing Software. This can prevent putting too much pressure on one server which can lead to slower response times and server crash in many cases. This software ensures even flow of traffic during peak times.
- Do Stress Test – While it’s easy to predict the amount of traffic but many site operators grapple with the scenario of how will the site perform under pressure from multifold visitors. Site operators must stress-test the digital infrastructure well before the holidays to identify and address any issues with stability and capacity. Load/ stress testing mimics the real-world impact on your site or application to see how it will behave during peak periods and helps you put risk mitigation plans in place.
5. Ready the Support Team
For the customer service industry, the holiday season is the busiest time of the year. Increased traffic means increased demand for support. The biggest challenge they grapple with ensuring this time is “How do we maintain service level successfully”? While you may have taken care of your digital infrastructure and offered great content there but the support to be provided is one aspect if not done right can permanently turn your customer away. A great place to start here would be to look at last year’s traffic on inbound calls/ queries. You will then need to add some temp staff based on that. There are even outsourcing partners and temp staffing services that can help. Another way to handle this can also be via technology, more and more eCommerce companies are using AI and bots to do triage work thereby reducing the actual voice support.
Now that you have some great tips to get your website all done up for the holiday season. You should be able to plan well in advance and not leave anything to chance. Just go out there and dazzle a ton of new shoppers with great holiday deals. The sky is the limit when it comes to generating excitement for the holiday sales. Here’s wishing you the most successful season with a holiday-ready website.