You might think it's a bit preemptive to start planning for the Holidays now, but it's almost too late already. Think about it this way: if you want to make a bunch of changes to your e-commerce website such as an upgrade, a new design, or any new features you need a significant amount of time to get it done. You'll need to define the project, gather proposals from various service providers, go through contract negotiation, and then have the work completed. A fully custom design, implementation and customization can take a couple months, so don't delay any further and start thinking about the holiday season and how you're going to prepare for it.
Also you need to plan out your MARKETING! The last thing that you want to do is stay up all night on November, 23 trying to write email copy and change your AdWords ads to holiday specific text. Start planning now, and you'll definitely have a more profitable season with much less stress.
So that's the overview about why, but let's go over the direction as well as the specific things you can do to make your holiday season more successful. We'll go over checklists, specific ideas and tactics to make your store ready for the 2010 holidays.
You might want to change some of the main site graphics to seasonal, relevant images. If you have pictures of people within the design, make sure they're wearing coats, and you can throw some snowflakes in the header to make it feel like winter.
Of course you're going to have a holiday sale. But which works better, 10% off your order over $X or Free Shipping? Start testing now! Something as simple as the wording of a deal can effect your conversion rate drastically.
You can offer gift wrapping as an upsell during checkout. If you're going to offer this option though, it's important to plan ahead and get this process worked out within your current procedures.
Delivery Schedules / Deadlines
You can create a sense of urgency if you put the proper messaging on your site. For instance, "Order before December 20th for Guaranteed Arrival before Christmas!" This short message, repeated throughout the website, could be the push that someone needs to get through the checkout.
Updated Returns Policy
When it comes to gifts, one of the main concerns that people have when buying online is possibly having to return the item. They might be afraid that the clothing won't fit properly or the item will arrive defective. Make sure that your return policy is easy to find and easy to understand.
Add Video to Product Descriptions
One of the main reasons that customers abandon product pages is because they didn't get a good enough "look" at the product. If you have a short video of someone reviewing the item or simply demonstrating it, it builds confidence with the potential customer and differentiates you from your competitors. Anything that you can do that will get someone to push "Add To Cart" is crucial.
Beef Up Customer Support
Make sure that you have enough staff to take calls, answer questions, and train them to sell! You should have multiple ways for visitors to contact you online via toll-free number, email, chat, twitter or even fax. It can't hurt to have the pathways to contact you because if someone wants to call you, they are very close to purchasing. On the other hand, you also want to have support for current/past customers because that is what sparks people to talk about their experiences. Think about how Zappos.com because so popular from having incredible customer service.
New Banner Ads
If you advertise with Banner Ads, you should start brainstorming some new designs. Also start thinking of new places to advertise, and new media buying strategies that can drive tons of traffic to your site.
New Adwords (PPC) Keywords / Ads
Don't wait until the last minute to add new keywords into your campaigns that are seasonally specific. Also, try testing out new Ad Copy that has holiday style to it. Add in a coupon code, mention a shipping deadline or another offer.
Gift Categories / Gift Guide
Organized your items into gift categories by person or price (Great Gifts for Mom, Dad, etc…). If you give visitors useful search options and filters, it lets them find what they want faster; speed is key during the holidays.
If you have an affiliate program, get them excited about promoting your products. Show them landing pages, new items and sales that they can promote before they start. This allows super-affiliates to get banners made, plan media buys, start new PPC campaigns and test them out before it's too late.
Do some research and figure out what types of products in your industry are going to be the popular items of the season. If you're going to stock these items, remember there's significant work to do each time (ordering inventory, storage, photos, description, etc…). So start the research soon so you're prepared to launch them in the Fall.
Shipping is the #1 type of sale that you can offer your visitors. Having free shipping makes the ordering process seem more realistic and it makes the price seem more feasible (since there's no addition involved). Another great tactic is to have Free Shipping on orders above $X. You'll get a higher average order and happier clients.
Start building your following now! Starting a Social Media campaign in November would be a waste of time; however if you have 5000 followers (on twitter for instance) by then you can turn it into a traffic generator, a communication/ support platform and more. Also remember, 200 happy, engaged followers is much better than 10,000 random people. Get your following organically and you'll be much better off.
Cart Abandonment Recapture
You can automate the recapturing of an abandoned cart by sending an email to the user with the previous cart contents.
Gift Receipts & Gift Messages
Have checkout options to add a note or gift receipt to the order. This way, there's proof of purchase but the price isn't in the box. It works especially well when offering gifts that are sent directly to the recipient.
Backup Server / Increased Bandwidth
If you're doing media buys and adding a huge budget to your AdWords account you might want to upgrade your web server to make sure that your site doesn't go down during periods of high traffic.
These are just a few of the things you can do to prepare your site for the holidays and increase your conversion rate.