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2021 Holiday eCommerce Website Checklist to Boost Sales

  • Lalit Singla
  • By  Lalit Singla
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  • 87D32530-FD6E-468E-BB24-045278513D21 Created with sketchtool. 11 MIN READ
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  • 6BCC25D0-42B3-420B-8C28-C5D7EF3F6856 Created with sketchtool. Updated: September 14, 2021

The holiday season will get busy for everyone, especially for digital commerce.

Online retailers should ensure they take full advantage of holiday spending, which grows every year. 2020 alone saw holiday spending reaching $789 billion. Since the National Retail Foundation started reporting it, the numbers have kept evolving, and 2021 is likely to witness the same.

According to a study conducted by Accenture, e-commerce revenues from new and existing users are projected to grow at a rate of 169% this year. As consumers are not willing to change their shopping habits from 2019, fortifying and ironing out the kinks of your digital retail experience is the need of the hour. Some stats to consider:

  • Consumers spent $215 billion with US online retailers in 2021
  • Online spending in 2021 increased by 7.7% from Q4 2020

These figures give a sneak peek to what the 2021 holiday season can have in store for online retailers, provided they can provide a seamless and frustration-free experience.

historical holiday season sales

Even the Big Brands Make Mistakes

Use the code TGIF and get 50% off on all the online orders.

Such generous offers will be a common sight in most of the eCommerce stores. However, a broken website on any of these upcoming shopping days will be any retailer’s worst nightmare.

A couple of years back, a well-known fashion retailer website offered a TGIF 50% off deal on Black Friday. However, it was not a ‘TGIF’ for their tech team. Instead, it turned out to be ‘God, Why it’s Friday (GWIT)’ when their online shoppers got hit with a “Hang on a Sec” screen. They were unable to shop anything as the site experienced significantly more traffic than the business anticipated.

This technical glitch stretched on for a major part of the day on Black Friday, leaving customers frustrated, costing the company as much as $775,000 in sales!

It was one of the worst nightmares of J.Crew, and they released a statement through social media apologizing for the delays.

This festive season is standing right at the door, And if retailers do not wish to lose sales nor their online reputation, like J.Crew, two words of advice for this: Be Prepared. The revenue an eCommerce player can make during this period largely depends on their readiness for the incoming onslaught.

To strike it rich this holiday season, aim to boost conversions and reduce friction in the buyer’s journey. To help retailers achieve their holiday retail goals, our experts have compiled a 15 point holiday eCommerce site checklist:

holiday ecommerce guide to boost sales

1. Do Your Homework Intime

A stitch in time saves nine; this old saying fits right when it comes to organizing the holiday sale on eCommerce websites. As we have year-round sales going on and almost all our sales-boosting strategies are somewhat used up, it is crucial to adopt and implement some innovative approaches for the festive season.

However, the most crucial part of the holiday eCommerce website checklist story is the preparations to carry out before beginning the celebratory sale. Here’s what to do:

a. Prepare for Enough Backend Support

Retailers can expect 63% more visits to their website during the holiday season, implying an extra 63% chance to make a sale. However, with increased traffic comes increased demand for back-end support. The biggest eCommerce challenge that businesses face during this time is: How do we maintain service levels successfully?

They may have taken good care of their user interface infrastructure by beautifying the front-end with attractive offers. Still, the support to be provided from the back end is one aspect that can permanently turn off the customer if not done right. Hiring outsourcing partners for this job could be a great help.

b. Improve Your Website Loading Speed

Businesses can’t risk losing a potential customer on their site over the holidays because of a slow landing page.

The ideal situation would be to get the website to load in the blink of an eye. In 2012, Amazon lost 16 billion in sales by just having one-second lag-time in their website.

If the webpage loading speed lies anywhere between 500 milliseconds and 2 seconds, the user is more likely to perform the desired action on that web page. Website loading speed is something that can be tested and fixed by taking basic page speed optimization measures.

Importance of webpage load speed in holiday eCommerce website checklist

An important tool that can be a part of the holiday eCommerce website checklist is Google’s Page Speed Tool. It checks the performance of the website and highlights where the website needs improvement.

amazon's webpage speed using google page speed tool

How Net Solutions Helped Legend Footwear Optimize Performance for Magento 2 eCommerce Store

Legend Footwear, a high-quality footwear brand established in the heart of London in 1992, approached us with a website, which was already built on the Magento 2 platform. However, their website suffered from the following issues that affected the user experience:

  • The loading speed of the website was slow on both desktop and mobile.
  • Lack of mobile responsive design
  • Indexing issue with search engines
  • The home page was ailing with the white screen of death (WSOD)
  • Slow checkout process

legend footwear uk

Net Solutions dealt with this eCommerce development challenge by upgrading the Magento 2 platform from version 2.1.6 to 2.1.8 by customizing themes, plugins, and resolving the existing bug issue.

  • Varnish cache was configured to increase the website speed.
  • Reduced the number of HTTP requests on the server with efficient programming techniques and the required configurations to improve the loading speed.
  • Optimized the images and compressed them for less data usage and easy page loads to make it mobile-friendly.
  • JS files optimization was done to make the front-end of the eCommerce website look appealing without affecting the website speed and resolve the errors on the checkout page by adding an instant checkout process and integrated payment gateways to enhance the shopping experience.

This aided Legend Footwear in improving conversions and in reducing the bounce rate of their website.

c. Monitor Website’s Analytics

Even if website analytics are ensured regularly, it is crucial to monitor, observe, and draw inferences from Google Analytics reports.

To get a clearer picture of the effectiveness of the web design and the effectiveness of the content, carrying out thorough surveillance of the analytics is vital.

Moreover, historical data generated from analytics can help in tracking sales trends. Nowadays, retailers can also do predictive analytics for sales and stay ahead of the trends. The discounts are determined by using machine learning for predicted sales and how much volume purchased on the product would produce a good ROI.

A well-built dashboard integrated with predictive modeling can help in achieving this easily; thus, add it to the holiday eCommerce website checklist.

Google stats on predictive analytics and how it can be used in holiday eCommerce website checklist

2. Attract Traffic by Promoting Holiday Specific Offers

Holiday season 2021 is going to be all about careful, consistent, and customized marketing.

ecommerce will account for maximum holiday commerce sales

The more targeted approach, the better impact will be on the customers. Retailers need to be very selective when deciding the methodology they want to take up this holiday season for boosting the sale at their eCommerce store.

Keep a very calculative attitude while considering this parameter of the holiday eCommerce website checklist so that it doesn’t end up overdoing or underplaying the promotion schemes.

a. Prepare Email Marketing Campaigns

Email Marketing campaigns are one of the best ways to improve sales and customer loyalty. It should be a vital part of the holiday eCommerce website checklist. Emails are considered to be one of the highest converting promotion channels during the holiday season.

During 2019’s, Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) event, Shopify witnessed its highest conversion rates from email marketing.

email marketing is best platform to boost conversions, thus should be a part of your holiday eCommerce website checklist

While sending an email to target customers, make sure that it offers relevant value- whether emotional or financial. Emails should be attractive, fascinating, informative, and, most importantly, personalized for the buyer. Remember, email marketing should start two months before the holiday sales season.

b. Promote and Advertise on Social Media

Social media is the best source for magnifying sales and reaching out to a larger crowd with a localized appeal. However, using social media strategy is crucial. For instance, businesses should start promoting their holiday deals, Black Friday deals, at least a week before the day itself.

Note that the week around Thanksgiving instills a holiday spirit in a lot of people. Social media usage, as a result, drops off during this period. Therefore, they should make sure to start promoting the offers through social media before people start traveling to see their loved ones.

Make sure that you start promoting your offers through social media before people start traveling

Additionally, incorporating video into the social media marketing strategy to get more eyeballs on their holiday offer is also a good option. A report by AMA mentions that video content accounts for 65% of all ad impressions on Instagram.

c. Optimize for Mobile Devices and Platforms

In 2018, Shopify stores saw more mobile purchases than desktop purchases across all of BFCM for the second year in a row, thereby making mobile phone sales the holy grail. Techcrunch report too shows that $2.2B was spent via smartphones, in 2018.

Mobile vs desktop, thus going mobile first is important factor of holiday eCommerce website checklist

Thus, it has become critical to go mobile with the eCommerce store and add optimization for mobile devices to the holiday eCommerce website checklist. Thus, capitalize on this trend by optimizing webshop for mobile devices.

Google study on abandoned visits

Once it’s evident whether the website is optimized for mobile phones, can reach out to existing customers by sending them special offers that can be availed if they use their mobile app. Or instigate them with notifications of the ‘Happy Hours’ sale on their apps.

3. Make the Shopping Process Easier for Your Customer

Imagine Kevin going to a physical store. He picks up the desired products and goes to the counter. There’s a board hanging there, saying ‘Counter Closed for the Day.’ How disheartening is that!

Note that shoppers frequently jump ship even in-store locations when it takes a long time to make a purchase.

Retailers wouldn’t certainly want their customers to face a similar situation since they have numerous options to pick from; thus, customers will hardly think of returning to a store that caused such a big disappointment to them.
Retailers should keep such a situation at bay by being a little cautious during the sale season and adding a task to make the shopping process more accessible in their holiday eCommerce website checklist.

Our Holiday eCommerce Success Checklist 2021 is a detailed study for boosting sales and making a difference in taking advantage of holiday spending.

Click the button below to get our checklist to make the 2021 holiday season the most successful yet!

holiday ecommerce guide to boost sales

a. Easy Checkout Process

If letting the visitors experience a smooth selection, comparison, and finalization is the intention here,then why not keep it going by making the checkout process less pestering.

Sourcify stat on complicated checkout process

Thus, give customers ample options to make their payments through; however, do not compromise on the security settings. Putting all the processes, terms, and conditions in black and white will let the customer comply with the standards.

Saving credit/debit card details can help in making future transactions faster and easier. Allow the customers to choose from different payment options. It decreases shopping cart abandonment. Make sure the website is able to accept all major credit cards and popular digital payment systems such as PayPal.

b. Clear Shipping & Delivery Expectations

Clearly state if the free shipping offer is available. If extra charges are applied, make sure the costs are reasonable and competitive. In a digitized era, where Amazon is planning for anticipatory shipping, it is advised to at least provide a free shipping offer to customers during the holiday sale.

David Bell quote on free shipping vs discount

However, there is another angle to the same story. During the holidays, people are excited to make purchases online and often feel rushed by the limited purchase time. This feeling of urgency can be utilized properly and by making the visitors pay a little extra to get faster delivery.

The price sensitivity graph from Kissmetrics reveals that shoppers aren’t as price-sensitive during holiday shopping seasons as shown at the beginning of the bell curve. Thus, the price insensitivity opens the door for retailers to charge some extra from their customers if they are eager to get their product early.

Price sensitivity graph from Kissmetrics reveals that shoppers aren’t as price-sensitive during holiday shopping seasons

c. Create Macros for the Most Common Pre & Post-Purchase Questions

When it’s time for holiday sales, expect a flood of queries from the target customers. They can raise questions about promotions such as Can I combine two discount codes? What are the exact terms of the promotion? or questions about their order status once they place their order from the website.

Popular holiday questions by customers

The number of tickets rises during the Holiday Season by roughly 67%. Thus, ensure the support team is armed with the proper canned responses, or macros, to address these common questions.

Remember that ‘Support’ is entirely the game of numbers: respond to the customers’ queries quickly, thereby lowering the overall response time, which eventually increases customer satisfaction.

4. Bring Improvement in Your Customer Service

Today’s customers are used to living in an online world where they do not have to wait in line or hold their questions until a more convenient time for the company in question. Instead, they are accustomed to receiving instant gratification.

Anything less is going to pale in comparison, and if there is one area where businesses want to impress rather than annoy, it is customer service. Following are the ways to improve the customer service with the holiday sales season knocking on the door.

Customer service should be an integral part of your holiday eCommerce website checklist

a. Integrate Live Chat

A survey conducted by Software Advice mentions that millennials expect a quicker response time to their queries. During the holiday season, when all eCommerce websites are flooded with offers, integrating live chat can be an ally in delivering excellent customer service.

Moreover, it is said that a typical conversion rate on the checkout pages is about 10%. Customers usually get stuck at the checkout page because of confusion in the billing address, doubts about the product, etc.

This is the reason that you should consider and get a live chat integrated on your website before the holiday season starts.

Chatbots are revolutionizing customer relationship management (CRM). With AI making such immense advances that benefit many aspects of a business, including CRM, chatbots are the most close-at-hand application of AI that companies can use to their advantage.

b. Highlight Return Conditions

It is a natural thing to occur that when people buy gifts for others, there can be issues in size or the recipient does not like the product’s color. Eventually, they would like to return the product in any of these cases. Retailers should make sure their customers can make the return of products easily.

Thus, it is always advised to highlight the return conditions in detail. It builds trust and confidence amongst visitors, thereby leading to improved customer loyalty.

Remember, 1/3rd of those ages 23-38 are quick to drop a brand that doesn’t meet expectations.

best buy returns and exchanges policy

c. Do Better with Personalization

Personalization has emerged as one of the critical placeholders among customer experience strategies for businesses across the globe. In eCommerce, for instance, the response of an average consumer towards a recommendation that is based on his browsing and past purchases on a retail site is primarily favorable.

A shopper feels special when he is addressed with a personal touch in an email or message.

Personalization boosts eCommerce customer experience

Since the holiday sales season is about to arrive, Leverage the power of digital experience platforms (DXPs) in improving eCommerce customer experience to connect to a variety of data sources to develop a 360-degree view of the target customer. It helps in tailoring experience to customers’ needs, which leads to improvement in conversions.

5. Points to Remember Before, During, and After the Holiday Season 2021

You will only fail to learn if you do not learn from failing. – Stella Adler

Learning from the mistakes is one of the critical factors in an eCommerce business. An intelligent eCommerce player will ponder upon the following points for a sure-shot success in the upcoming holiday season sale.

a. Keep an Eye on the Competition

Paying close attention to competitors’ marketing efforts can help in gathering ideas and building a competitive marketing campaign for holiday deals. The easiest way to keep a hawk-eye on the competition is through subscribing to their email list.

Study the types of emails they forward and how frequently they send them. But keep in mind: don’t get too inspired. Just understand their strengths and weaknesses and use them as an advantage.

VisualPing helps in monitoring any changes that the competitors make to their website.

visualping

b. Create Contingency Plans

Online retailers should have proper backups in place, unfortunately, if something goes awry. For instance, if the tied shipping company becomes too busy or if the products get sold out earlier than expected, how to handle those situations?

These situations are not to instill fear rather to prepare eCommerce websites to handle the worst-case scenarios. Create a contingency plan wherever possible. It is much easier to handle the planning now than finding the way out amid the biggest sales season of the year.

Thus, keeping a contingency plan as one of the vital components of the holiday eCommerce checklist is critical for the eCommerce business.

What to Learn from Amazon’s Technical Glitches in the Year 2018

If any of the Amazon visitors tried to purchase from Amazon within the first 7 hours of Amazon Prime Day, 2018, then they might have met with one of the most adorable Prime Day Dogs, saying, “Sorry, something went wrong.”

amazon prime-day 2018 site broken dogs

After going through Amazon’s internal documents, CNBC reported the reason behind Amazon’s technical glitch: they did not have enough servers to handle all of their customers.

CNBC report on Amazon prime day, 2018 website crash

Amazon had an auto-scaling feature that was meant to work when the demand got too high. However, their core system failed.

What can be learned from this?

Glitches happen; creating a contingency plan in similar situations is important if things do not go according to the plan.

c. Keep Updating Website Inventory to Avoid Disheartened Customers

One of the critical parameters required to get ready for the holiday season sales is ‘Inventory Management.’ Prepare inventory both in-store and online in advance. Make use of data analytics to prepare the list mapped according to the local market.

National Retail Federation study on shoppers abandoning retailers

Apart from helping in inventory management, real-time inventory analysis can also help retailers facilitate omnichannel purchases, thereby creating a cohesive physical and digital experience.

Conclusion

Planning, organizing, and managing a 2021 holiday season sales for an eCommerce website is not that hard, yet one step wrong, and the website can topple down from the highest cliff. And it is undoubtedly not about applying the same strategies every year.

Buyers have turned selective and love to compare available choices; after all, they have technology at their fingertips in today’s digital era. Hence, instead of being a vulnerable eCommerce player, retailers will have to perform smartly who can amaze their customers anytime and every time!

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Get Your eCommerce Store Ready for the Festive Season


Lalit Singla

About the Author

Lalit Singla is working as Project Manager at Net Solutions since the last 5 years with over 10 years of experience in LAMP Stack. His expertise lies in Enterprise eCommerce and custom database driven development. In his free time, he enjoys listening to classical music.

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