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9 Ways to Prepare Your Ecommerce Site for the Holidays

With the record-breaking heat wave currently scorching much of the country, it's hard to think about the winter holiday season. But if you're an ecommerce business, you need to be planning for it now. Last year was the first time that online sales beat out in-store on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and this year is expected to be even larger. So grab a fizzy soda water, crank up the AC and saddle up to your computer for some good ol' fashioned strategic planning for the holiday shopping season. Following are the top 9 things you should be doing now.

1. Ensure Tracking is Accurate

Optimize and enhance your analytics instance to ensure you're able to gather cleaner and more insightful data. Make sure ecommerce tracking is turned on and properly recording data. Add event tracking and goals for on-page events, such newsletter sign ups, wishlist additions, review submissions, social sharing, etc. Create audience and content segments so you can evaluate on-site behavior and engagement with various types of users and site elements. Check out our blog "Not Your Basic Google Analytics Implementation" for more tips.

2. Consult Last Year's Performance

Use last year's data (hopefully you already took care of the previous item last year so you can be sure you're working with legitimate numbers) to guide your strategy for 2016. What channel(s) drove the most traffic? Which landing pages had the highest conversion rate? Which deals or promotions performed the best? What points in the conversion path had high drop offs?  

3. Make Your Site is Mobile Friendly

With $1.5 billion in sales, mobile overtook desktop for the first time during last year's holiday shopping season. We can expect similarly record-breaking numbers again this year. Make sure you site is easy to view and navigate, that key product information is prominently displayed and, most importantly, that customers can simply and securely complete their purchases on mobile devices. 

4. Optimize Your Email Campaigns

There's no better time to polish your email campaigns. Create your campaign triggers and nurturing flow to ensure you're reaching customers at the right time and staying top of mind. Additionally, you should segment your email lists now, allowing you to better target customers with the most relevant and actionable messaging during the holidays.

5. Create Holiday Content

Increase organic visibility and drive social awareness with holiday-themed content, such as gift guides or gift categories (e.g,. "Gifts Under $50," "Gifts for Tech Nerds" or "Gifts for the DIYer"). 

6. Make Your PPC Campaigns More Festive

Add holiday-themed keywords and messaging to your paid search campaigns. Include keywords such as "holiday deals," "Black Friday," and "Cyber Monday." Update ad copy to address any promotions, special offers or shipping-related messages (e.g., "Last Day for Guaranteed Shipping" or "Get it By December 20").

7. Make It Easy to Share Products

Customers share products as a sort of gift wishlist or bookmark for friends and family. Make it simple for them by adding sharing buttons to all product pages, and optimize messaging for more eye-catching posts on social channels. 

8. Add Retargeting Pixels

Even if you have no plans to run retargeting during the holidays (but you should, because users are 70% more likely to convert with retargeted ads!), placing pixels before the holidays will allow you to build lists for reaching customers after the busy shopping season.

9. Create Your Social Media Response Plan

The influx of traffic and orders typically results in an influx of customer support issues, which are more and more often playing out on social media channels. Make sure you are prepared by having enough resources on your response team, and that every person knows their role and how they should be addressing any issues. Check out our blog "7 Ways to Handle Negative Customer Feedback" for tips on responding to those dreaded complaints. 

Black Friday seems like it's light years away, but we all know these next four months will fly by in a blink. Getting started now can help reduce some of the inevitable stresses and allow you to take full advantage of this busy digital shopping season.