The holiday season is an important time for any online retailer, yet a surprisingly large number of businesses don’t know how to handle the increased traffic during this time of year. Last year, a number of websites crashed during Black Friday, frustrating shoppers and causing a huge headache for businesses such as Walmart, Ulta, and Lululemon. It’s a great indicator of how people will be doing their holiday shopping in the 21st Century, and you need to be ready for the increased traffic to your website if you plan on making any sales online this year. Here are some tips that will help.
Roll Out Updates Early
If you plan to make any updates to your business’s website, you will want to do so as early as possible. The best time to do this for the holiday season is before late October, but it may still not be too late to make any last-minute updates. It will, however, be too late if you roll out any changes the day before Thanksgiving. Major changes to a website rarely go off without a hitch, and you will be more likely to experience crashes and other problems if you try to update things while everyone is doing their holiday shopping.
Keep Your Website’s Layout the Same
It’s perfectly okay to make changes to your website in the weeks or months before the holiday shopping season starts, but not just days before everyone starts buying gifts from you. You will want your loyal customers to feel comfortable buying from you, and there is always comfort in the familiar. It will also be easier to deal with technical issues that new shoppers might have if your website’s layout is largely the same as it has been for the last several months.
If you must make any changes to your site’s layout, add some holiday-themed advertisements or links to products that might prove to be popular this year. These won’t constitute major changes, but they will make your site more welcoming to shoppers who are coming to it specifically to buy gifts for their loved ones.
Increase Your Speed
While you’re planning to update your website and prepare it for online holiday shoppers, take some time to check its loading speed. Google has a nifty PageSpeed tool that will tell you how well your site performs and where you need improvements. Ideally, a website shouldn’t take longer than two seconds to load. That is quite a bit faster than about half the sites on the Internet, but users are still practically demanding these kinds of speeds. In fact, 75 percent of users have said that they won’t return to any website that takes longer than four seconds to load. As more people become accustomed to lightning-fast speeds and online shopping, they will expect even faster loading times.
If it turns out that your website is a little too slow, there are some things that you can do to speed it up. First of all, you can uninstall any plugins that you aren’t using. Yes, they might make the user experience a little easier in theory, but they aren’t doing anyone any favors if they aren’t in use. Next, either compress or remove any photos that are slowing down your website. You obviously want to keep at least some photos up to advertise your products and services, but loading speed should take priority during the holidays. If your site is still loading slowly, consider using a load balancer to distribute your increased traffic load to multiple servers. Finally, don’t hesitate to seek out better hosting services if that’s what it’s going to take to handle any increased traffic.
Increase Your Security
Web security should always be a high priority for your site, but it is doubly important during the holiday shopping season. Visitors to your site want to know that their personal information is safe, so update your SSL certificates and display security badges prominently to reassure your customers that they can safely make online purchases from you. You should also consider using address verification systems to make sure that shoppers are using their own cards, and never store customers’ personal information for long. Hackers cannot get access to something that isn’t there, after all.
Check Your Inventory
It is important that your website be ready for an increase in traffic during the holiday shopping season, but you also want to make sure that your physical inventory will be ready to go. Take a close look at the shopping trends over the last several months to see what has been selling not just at your store but across the country. You don’t need to go crazy and order surpluses of everything that might be popular this year, but you don’t want to run out of a hot-selling item too early either. What sells will depend on your clientele and the products that you normally have to offer, but there also might be a few things that will only sell during the holidays. Pay close attention to what you have and what your vendors can provide on short notice so you don’t run out of something that your customers will want more of than usual.
Hire a Marketing Firm
Even though you might have prepared your website for increased holiday traffic and upped your physical inventory, you will still need to put forth the effort to advertise the deals that you have for shoppers. This can be a whole new social media marketing campaign in itself, one that will present some unique challenges that only present themselves during this time of the year. If the upcoming holiday season will be too much for you to handle on your own, don’t hesitate to contact a digital marketing firm such as Studio MFP to handle the brunt of the work. We can work with you to ensure that you have the most efficient marketing campaign for your business during this busy shopping season. To learn more about our services and how we can help your business, contact us today. We will be more than happy to answer your questions.