Updated: Jan 15
The holiday shopping season is upon us! If you own an ecommerce website, this is the time of year when you can really start raking in the profits. But before you can start counting your money, you need to make sure your website is ready for the influx of Christmas shoppers. This Guide helps you prepare your ecommerce website ready for the Christmas rush.
EXPLORE THE GUIDE
Make sure your website can handle the traffic
If your website isn't prepared for an influx of traffic, it could crash or run slowly, driving potential customers away. Be sure to test your website before the holiday rush begins to ensure that it can handle the increased traffic. You may also want to consider investing in additional server space or upgrading your hosting package to handle the increase in traffic.
After all, your website is the foundation of your entire online operation, and if it's not working great, you could lose business. This is especially true during the holiday season when millions of shoppers are looking for gifts online. If your website can't handle the increased traffic and demand, you'll lose out on sales and end up disappointing your customers.
It's important to make sure that your web hosting package has all the features you need to thrive this Christmas. We've pulled together our top features for any ecommerce web hosting package this holiday season.
Read all the eCommerce Digital Marketing Christmas Guides
What to look for in your web hosting
One of the most important features your ecommerce web hosting package must have been reliable uptime. This means that your website will be up and running 99.9% of the time, even during peak traffic periods. Anything less than that is simply unacceptable.
Fast Loading Speeds
Another crucial feature is fast loading speeds. Visitors won't tolerate a slow website, and if your site takes more than a few seconds to load, they'll quickly click away and find a better option. Make sure that your web hosting package includes caching and other speed-boosting features to ensure fast loading times this Christmas.
As your business grows, so will your website traffic. That's why it's important to make sure that your web hosting package is scalable so that it can grow with you. Look for a package that offers unlimited storage space and bandwidth as well as the ability to add more users as needed. This way, you'll never have to worry about going over your limits and incurring additional charges.
When something goes wrong with your website, you need to be able to get help fast. That's why 24/7 support is a must-have for any ecommerce web hosting package this holiday season (or any time of year, for that matter). Look for a company that offers live chat support so that you can get the help you need when you need it most.
With all the cyber threats out there these days, security is more important than ever before. Make sure that your web hosting package includes features like SSL encryption and daily backups to protect your website (and your customers' information) from hackers and other cyber criminals this holiday season.
You shouldn't need a degree in computer science to manage your website or web hosting account. Look for a package with an easy-to-use interface that even someone with no technical experience can understand and use with ease. The last thing you want is to waste time trying to figure out how to do something when you could be spending that time running (and growing) your business instead.
Optimise your website for speed
Christmas is the busiest time of year for ecommerce websites. To ensure that your website can handle the influx of traffic, it's important to optimise your site for speed.
Use a Content Delivery Network
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a network of servers that deliver content to users based on their geographic location. By using a CDN, you can improve the loading speed of your website by delivering content from a server that is closer to the user's location.
Optimise Your Images
Images are one of the biggest factors that can impact the loading speed of a website. Make sure that all the images on your website are optimised for web use and compression
Minimise HTTP Requests
Every time a user visits your website, their browser sends an HTTP request to your server to fetch the files that are needed to load the page. The more files that are needed to load the page, the longer it will take for the page to load. To minimise HTTP requests, you can combine multiple files into one and use CSS sprites .
Caching is a technique that stores frequently accessed data in memory so that it can be retrieved quickly when needed. By utilising caching, you can reduce the amount of time it takes to load pages on your website.
Tip: To test the speed of your website and generate a free report, go to Google’s Page Speed Insights
Optimise your website for mobile and tablets
If your ecommerce website isn't optimised for mobile, you're missing out on a lot of potential sales.
Make sure your site is responsive
The first step to making sure your ecommerce site is mobile-friendly is to ensure that it is responsive. A responsive design means that your site will automatically adjust to fit whatever screen size it is being viewed on, whether that's a mobile phone, tablet, or desktop computer. If your site isn't responsive, you run the risk of potential customers becoming frustrated with trying to view it on their mobile devices and giving up altogether.
Use large, easy-to-read font sizes
Another important consideration for mobile optimisation is font size. You want to make sure that the font size on your site is large enough to be easily readable on a small mobile screen. Avoid using tiny fonts that are hard to read; instead, use large fonts or font sizes that will be easy for your mobile visitors to read.
Simplify your navigation menu
Your navigation menu should be easy to use and understand, both on desktop and mobile. On mobile, you may want to consider simplifying your navigation menu even further so that it's easy for users to find what they're looking for without getting lost in a sea of options. Stick to the essentials and don't try to cram too much into your mobile navigation menu.
Make sure your buttons are big enough to be tapped easily
One of the biggest challenges of shopping on a mobile device is trying to tap small buttons with your fingers. Make sure your buttons are large enough to be tapped easily, especially if you're expecting a lot of mobile traffic during the holidays.
Top Tip: Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool
Just enter your URL and Google will let you know if your site passes or fails their test. If your site fails, don’t worry – there are plenty of resources available to help you make the necessary changes.
Minimise form fields
If you're collecting information from your customers (such as shipping address, billing information, etc.), make sure you're only asking for the essentials. The fewer form fields there are, the easier it will be for your customers to fill out on their mobile devices.
Enable autocomplete features
If possible, enable autocomplete features on your forms so that your customers' information can be pre-filled based on previous submissions. This will save them time and make it more likely that they'll complete the form.
Use high-quality images
Images are an important part of any ecommerce website, but they're especially important when it comes to mobile optimisation. That's because images can help give visitors a better idea of what your products look like without having to click through multiple pages. Use high-quality images that are properly sized for mobiles devices; avoid using images that are too small or too large, as they will take longer to load and could cause frustration for your visitors.
Top Tip: The optimal image resolution for websites is 72 dots per inch (dpi) - the resolution of a .jpg.
MAKE YOUR WEBSITE EASY TO SHOP
Create gift guides on your website
Gift guides are a helpful way to showcase your products and help people find the perfect gift for their loved ones. You can create gift guides based on price point, recipient, or popular items on your site.
Group products by price, or by recipient
If you're running an ecommerce store, then it's important to group your products in a way that maximises sales. You can do this by grouping products by price, or by recipient (for example, gifts under £25 or gifts for her, gifts for him). By grouping your products in this way, you'll make it easier for customers to find what they're looking for and increase the likelihood of them making a purchase.
Why Grouping Products is Important
Grouping your products is important because it makes it easier for customers to find what they're looking for. If you have a lot of products on your website, then prospective customers may get overwhelmed and leave without making a purchase. However, if you group your products in an easily navigable way, then customers are more likely to stick around and find something that they want to buy.
How to Group Your Products
There are a few different ways that you can group your products. The most common way is by price, but you could also group them by recipient (for example, gifts for her, gifts for him), or by type (for example, clothing, cosmetics, electronic devices). Figure out which method makes the most sense for your business and group your products accordingly.
By making it easier for customers to find what they're looking for, you'll be more likely to make a sale.
BASKETS, CARTS AND CHECKOUTS
Make sure your payment gateway is up and running smoothly
Your payment gateway is one of the most important components of your ecommerce website. Make sure it's up and running smoothly before the holiday rush begins. Test out your payment gateway with a few small transactions to make sure everything is working properly. You don't want to lose out on sales because your payment gateway is down!
What is a Payment Gateway?
A payment gateway is a piece of software that allows businesses to accept online payments. When a customer makes a purchase on your website, the payment gateway processes the transaction and transfers the funds to your business account. Payment gateways are an essential part of running an online business, as they provide a safe and secure way for customers to make payments.
How Do Payment Gateways Work?
Payment gateways work by encrypting sensitive information like credit card numbers and other personal data so that it can be safely transmitted over the internet. This encryption ensures that only the intended recipient (in this case, your business) can decrypt and access the information. Once the information has been safely received, the payment gateway then processes the transaction and transfers the funds to your account.
There are dozens of payment gateways to choose from, but not all of them are created equal. To make sure you're using the best payment gateway for your ecommerce business, look for one that offers the following features:
This is an industry-standard set of security requirements that all businesses that process, store, or transmit credit card data must meet. PCI compliance helps protect your customers' data from hackers and fraudsters.
A wide range of supported currencies
If you sell products or services to customers in other countries, you'll need a payment gateway that supports multiple currencies. This way, your customers can pay you in their local currency.
Multiple payment options
In addition to credit cards, some customers may want to pay with PayPal or other online methods. Make sure your payment gateway supports multiple payment options so you can cater to as many customers as possible.
Flexible pricing plans
Your payment gateway should offer flexible pricing plans so you can choose the one that best suits your business's needs. Some providers charge a flat fee per transaction while others take a percentage of each sale.
Optimise your checkout process
A long, complicated checkout process is one of the biggest turnoffs for online shoppers. During the holiday rush, you don't want potential customers abandoning their carts because they got frustrated with your checkout process.
Take some time to streamline and simplify your checkout process so it's as easy and frictionless as possible. Every little bit helps when it comes to converting holiday shoppers into paying customers.
How to Streamline Your Checkout Process
During the holidays, people are looking to buy gifts quickly and efficiently. This means that your checkout process needs to be as streamlined as possible. A few things you can do to streamline your checkout process include:
Offer guest checkout so that people don't have to create an account in order to complete their purchase.
Make sure that all your payment methods are working properly and that you're not experiencing any downtime.
Display shipping costs upfront so there are no surprises at the end of the checkout process
Use auto-fill for fields like billing address and shipping address so that people don't have to enter their information manually.
Offer multiple payment options
Another important step in optimising your checkout process is to offer multiple payment options. Credit cards are the most popular form of payment for online purchases, but not everyone has a credit card. By offering alternative forms of payment, such as PayPal or Google Pay, you'll increase your chances of capturing sales from holiday shoppers.
Provide order tracking information
Once someone has placed an order, keep them updated on its status with regular updates. This will help build customer trust and confidence in your business. And if there are any delays or issues with an order, proactively communicate that information as well so customers know what to expect.
Your abandoned cart strategy
As any ecommerce owner knows, getting people to add items to their cart is only half the battle. The other half is getting them to complete the purchase.
According to Baymard Institute, the average cart abandonment rate is 69.23%.
That means that for every 100 people who add items to their cart, only 30 of them will complete the purchase.
The good news is that there are strategies you can use to combat abandoned carts and boost your sales this holiday season. Here are a few abandoned cart strategies that you can use this holiday season:
Send an abandoned cart email series
One of the most effective ways to recover lost sales is to send a series of abandoned cart emails. These emails should be sent over the course of a few days, and each one should include a different offer or incentive for completing the purchase. For example, you could offer a discount on the items in the cart, free shipping, or a free gift with purchase.
Create a sense of urgency
You can create a sense of urgency by including countdown timers in your abandoned cart emails or on your website itself. This will prompt people to take action and complete their purchase before it's too late.
Make it easy to checkout
Another common reason why people abandon their carts is because they find the checkout process too complicated or time-consuming. Make sure that your checkout process is as streamlined and user-friendly as possible. Include clearly labelled fields, guest checkout options, and multiple payment methods so that people can choose what works best for them. You should also consider offering order tracking and customer support in case people have any questions or problems during checkout.
Get social proof in front of potential customers early on
Social proof is essential for building trust with potential customers, especially during the holidays when people are being bombarded with marketing messages from all sides. Make sure potential customers see social proof—in the form of customer reviews, testimonials, or even celebrity endorsements—early on in their journey through your ecommerce website. The sooner you can get social proof in front of them, the better chance you have of converting them into paying customers.
SECURITY AND FRAUD PREVENTION
How to make sure your checkout process is secure
This is essential—especially during the holiday season when cybercrime is at an all-time high. Make sure your website is using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption and that all sensitive data (like credit card numbers) is being stored securely. You should also have a robust fraud prevention system in place to protect both your business and your customers from fraudulent activity.
With all the increased traffic and activity, your website is more vulnerable than ever to attack. Here's our top tips to make sure your ecommerce website is as secure as possible this holiday season.
Update your software
One of the most important things you can do to secure your website is to make sure all your software is up to date. This includes your operating system, web server, CMS, plugins, and any other software you're using. Outdated software is one of the most common ways hackers gain access to websites, so it's important to stay on top of things.
Use a Web Application Firewall
Another good way to secure your website is to use a web application firewall (WAF). A WAF helps to block malicious traffic before it even reaches your site. This can be a great way to stop attacks before they even start.
Implement Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an additional layer of security that can go a long way in protecting your website. With 2FA, a user needs two different forms of identification to log in. This could be something like a password and a security question, or a password and a code sent to your phone. Adding 2FA can make it much harder for hackers to gain access to your site. Tip: Shopify already does this for you!
Use HTTPS Everywhere
HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP, and it's essential for keeping your website safe. HTTPS encrypts communications between your website and visitors' browsers, making it much harder for hackers to eavesdrop on or tamper with traffic. You can add HTTPS to your site by getting an SSL certificate from a reputable provider. Once you have an SSL certificate, you'll need to enable HTTPS on your server and then redirect all traffic from HTTP to HTTPS. Doing this will help protect both your website and its visitors.
Protect your ecommerce website against fraud
While it's important to take steps to protect your business against fraud all year round, it's especially critical to do so during peak shopping periods like Christmas.
Here are a few things you can do to protect your ecommerce business against internet fraud this holiday season:
Use AVS Filtering
An effective way to protect your ecommerce business against fraud is to use AVS filtering. AVS stands for Address Verification System, and it's a system that helps verify the billing address of a credit cardholder. When you use AVS filtering, you can compare the billing address provided by the customer with the one on file with the credit card issuer. If there's a mismatch, you can decline the transaction, which will help protect you from fraudulent charges.
Implement 3D Secure
Another effective fraud prevention measure is to implement 3D Secure (also known as Verified by Visa or Mastercard SecureCode). 3D Secure is a security protocol that adds an additional layer of protection for online credit card transactions. When a customer makes a purchase on your website, they'll be redirected to their bank's website where they'll be prompted to enter a one-time passcode before the transaction can be completed. This helps reduce fraud because even if hackers can obtain a customer's credit card number, they won't be able to complete a transaction without also having the passcode.
Be aware of phishing scams
Phishing scams are email messages that appear to be from a legitimate source (like your bank or PayPal) but are from hackers trying to get your personal information. Don't click on any links in these emails, and if you're not sure if an email is real or not, contact the company directly to check before replying with any personal information.
MAKING RETURNS PAINLESS
A robust returns policy
Nothing frustrates customers more than feeling like they're stuck with a product they don't want or can't use—especially during the holidays when they may be purchasing gifts for other people. Avoid this issue by having a clear returns policy that's easy for customers to find and understand. And make sure you stick to that policy.
While it's impossible to eliminate returns completely, there are steps you can take to minimise their impact on your business. This guide will show you the best practices for handling product returns during the holiday season so you can keep your customers happy and your business running smoothly.
Communicate your return policy upfront
The first step is to make sure your return policy is communicated clearly and prominently on your website and on all product pages. Add a link to your return policy in the header or footer of your site so it's easy to find, and make sure it's written in plain language that customers can understand. Include all relevant details such as time limits, return shipping charges, and eligible items.
Streamline the returns process
The next step is to streamline the returns process so it's as easy as possible for customers. Allow them to initiate a return from their account page on your website and provide them with a pre-paid shipping label if possible. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, make sure returns are accepted at all locations. Consider offering in-store credit or exchanges to further simplify the process.
Offer multiple return options
Customers appreciate having choices, so offer them several different options for returning items. For example, you could allow them to return items by mail, in-store, or through a third-party service like UPS or FedEx.
Provide pre-paid shipping labels
If you require customers to ship returned items back to you, make things easy on them by providing pre-paid shipping labels. This way, they won't have to worry about finding their own way to get the item back to you. Just be sure to include the cost of the shipping label in your return policy so there are no surprises.
Give store credit instead of refunds
Offering store credit instead of refunds is a great way to keep customers happy while still protecting your bottom line. That's because customers are more likely to spend store credit than they are to take the time to return an item for a refund. Just be sure to give your customers plenty of time to use their store credit; otherwise, they'll likely never bother using it at all.
BOOST SALES WITH SOCIAL COMMERCE
Encourage shoppers to share their shopping experience on social media
Word-of-mouth marketing is still one of the most powerful tools in a business owner’s arsenal. In the digital age, that word-of-mouth spreads even further and faster thanks to social media. As a business owner, you can encourage your customers to share their shopping experience on social media, which will create testimonials, reviews, and user-generated content.
The Benefits of User-Generated Content
There are many benefits of user-generated content (UGC), which is why encourage shoppers to share their shopping experiences on social media. UGC can help to:
Build Trust and Credibility
UGC can be used to build trust and credibility with potential customers. When other people are talking about your brand or product in a positive way, it can help to increase confidence in your business.
UGC can also be used to increase engagement with potential customers. When people see that others are talking about your brand on social media, they're more likely to check out your page and learn more about what you have to offer.
UGC can also help you generate leads. For example, if someone leaves a positive review of your product on Amazon, it may convince someone else who was on the fence about buying the product to go ahead and make a purchase.
How to encourage reviews, testimonials and sharing content
Make it easy for customers to leave reviews and testimonials
Business owners should encourage their customers to leave reviews and testimonials on popular platforms such as Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook. Make it as easy as possible for customers by providing links on your website and in your email signature. You can also include QR codes that customers can scan with their smartphone which will take them directly to the review page.
Get creative with user-generated content
User-generated content is an asset for any business because it is real people giving their honest opinion about your product or service. UGC can be in the form of videos, images, blog posts, or even just simple testimonials. You can use UGC across all your social media channels and even on your website. Use hashtags to collect UGC from customers who may not be following you yet but are interested in your product or service. For example, Nike encourages its customers to post photos of themselves using the hashtag #JustDoIt. This allows Nike to curate UGC from all over the internet onto their website and social media channels.
Make sharing easy
One of the best ways to encourage customers to share their shopping experience on social media is by making it easy for them. Add social sharing buttons to your website and emails so that customers can easily share your content with just a few clicks.
Refer a friend
You can also include a “refer a friend” program where customers can receive discounts or other perks for referring new customers to your business. Another great way to make sharing easy is by offering exclusive discounts and promotions through social media channels. This will encourage customers to follow you on social media so that they don’t miss out on any great deals.
Finally, don't forget to thank those who participate in your campaign or offer. This will not only show your appreciation but also encourage others to take part. You can thank participants by featuring them on your website or social media channels, giving them a shoutout in an email, or sending them a personal thank-you note.
Interested to learn more?
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