Getting Your Site Ready For The Coming Holidays

Forrester Research predicts that online sales will increase 22 percent to $172 billion in 2005. Much of this increase will occur doing the upcoming holiday season.  Is your website ready?  Go through this checklist to find out:

Clean up errors: Does everything on your site work perfectly? Go to your website and become a shopper.  Actually go through the checkout process.  It everything clear and working?  Shop some of your competitors’ sites as well.  Are they doing something that you should be?

Test promotions: Create several promotions and start using them, tracking the results. 

Free shipping: Free shipping excites shoppers like few other things. Free shipping may not be possible on all items, but think about how you can make free shipping work for you while turning browsers into buyers.  Perhaps you could offer free shipping for a limited time, on Tuesdays only, or for orders over a certain amount. 

Brick and mortar and online stores: If you have both a brick and mortar location and an online store, use both.  Emphasize what your physical location can do for the shopper: free pick-up services, in store exchanges, etc.  During that last week of shopping use your website and emails to direct people to your store, ensuring holiday delivery.

Get e-mails ready to go:  Your e-mail marketing plan needs to be concise.  Think about the message or specials you will send and how often.  This is a good time to increase the number of emails you send to people.  If you normally send out an email once a month, do it twice a month.  Just make sure the emails are relevant and will help the reader in their holiday shopping.  Increasing emails to sell car insurance is only going to irritate the reader.

Gift certificates: Gift certificates are perfect for online stores and for gift givers.  For online stores - you don’t have to ship them.  For shoppers - they don’t have to figure out what the person wants, they just need to select an amount.  Be sure to promote gift certificates throughout your website.

Gift suggestion page: Help shoppers find what is most popular on your site.  Create a section and call it "Best Sellers" or "Gift Suggestions" and put your best items there.  Make sure these items represent a variety of price levels and do not offer too many options.  Remember the idea here is to make it faster for the shopper.

Announce the drop-dead-date for shipping items:  Make sure shoppers know what the last date is they can order and still have the item in time for the holiday.  Once this date passes put more emphasis on gift certificates.

Promotions: Offering a gift or discount with purchase is something retail stores have been doing for years.  You could offer a gift with purchase, or give a discount for returning shoppers, or offer a fourth item free when three are purchased.  The first item someone buys pay for the marketing to get them there... all additional items are pure profit.

Customer service:  Historically, in retail stores customer service deteriorates this time of the year.  So make your store stand out with excellent service.  Fast response time and shipping will help them to remember you next time they need a gift.  Email should always be answered within 48 hours... this time of the year it should be less than 24 hours.

Holiday Pay-Per-Clicks: As more website owners bid for the top locations on Yahoo and Google, bid amounts are going to climb.  However, because you will see an increase in sales, you should be able to pay more for listings and still make money. 

Holiday specific pages: Shoppers tend to search differently this time of year.  One difference is that they will add terms like Christmas or holiday to their searches.  To help appear in the natural listings you may want to consider creating holiday specific pages.  These pages would feature the items they were looking for with a holiday flare.  You would also optimize META tags and page text for these holiday search terms.  However, at this late date in order for this to have an effect your site must already be listed on Google, MSN and Yahoo and being visited by their bots. 

December 26th: Create special promotions for the week after Christmas.  People were given cash or have returned items and are now out looking for what they really wanted.  After Christmas sales are a great way to reduce your inventory and keep the cash flow coming in.

November 1, 2005

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