We’ve fired our fireworks, and the summer heat is really starting to sizzle, so it must be that time of year again.
Yes, it’s only four months until the holiday season.
The end-of-the-year holiday season is certainly a magical time of year for online businesses. With shopping days like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and now Cyber Week, there's some sort of sales event happening almost every day that drives people online to buy just about anything.
If you sell anything, odds are, you sell much more of it between Halloween and Christmas than any other part of the year. Statistics show that for most small to mid-sized retailers, this precious window of time accounts for 20 to 40 percent of their total yearly sales. What sort of dollar figure does that translate to? In 2013, Americans spent $46.55 billion during the holiday season. That same year, Amazon sold 426 items per second on Cyber Monday.
So while it may be summer here in the northern hemisphere, you should be thinking about the holiday season no matter where your small business is located. Because now's the time to start thinking about how to improve, tweak and prepare for the upcoming rush and make sure your website is ready for the holiday season. These eight tips can get you started:
1. Improve your site’s speed. The amount of time it takes for your site to load can make a huge difference to shoppers. Studies have found that page load times directly correlate to sales, so it’s time to start putting some resources into making your site load as quickly as possible. At the very least, make sure you’re caching your site. Caching is incredibly important if your site is anything more than straight HTML pages. If you don’t know what caching is, this article from Google can get you up to speed. And if it’s too tech-y for you, pass it along to whoever handles site maintenance at your company—they should know what it means.
2. Improve the checkout flow. Odds are, your shopping cart flow has a bottleneck (or five). Remarketing solutions company SaleCycle wagers that close to 74 percent of all online shopping carts were abandoned in the last quarter of 2013. This means that on average, three out of every four people who were ready to buy something on your site decided not to during the checkout process. What’s causing people to abandon ship in the middle of checkout? There are lots of potential reasons, and reading this article can help you understand why people aren’t clicking the “buy” button on your site.
3. Go mobile. If just seeing the word “mobile” makes you uneasy, then you probably don’t have a mobile-optimized website. Whether it’s a completely separate mobile site (ideal) or even just a mobile-responsive website, a mobile-friendly site is almost becoming a necessity. Consider this: In the last quarter of 2013 (aka the holiday season), 73 percent of U.S. mobile Internet users visited Amazon via their phone. Mobile devices overall accounted for 15 percent of all global e-commerce spending last year. If you're not already on the mobile train, it’s time to hop on board.
4. Create an editorial calendar. If you plan to post any sort of holiday-inspired content, now's the time to start thinking about exactly what that will be. It's a great task to do during any downtime you have now because as the holiday season gets closer, any downtime you've had will disappear in a snap and you’ll be glad you thought ahead.
5. Start planning promotional content. You’ve created an editorial calendar, so now it’s time to actually put in the work (or hire someone else to do it for you) to get that content produced. Aside from family obligations, there’s just altogether less work that gets done during the holiday season. Content writing, contest planning, Web designer wrangling … now's the time to put these things in motion.
6. Improve your SEO. Are you having any SEO issues? While this topic deserves its own article, it's still something to address here briefly. If you’re noticing a drop-off in traffic from Google, now would be the time to investigate. Dig into Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools to figure out why your site is languishing in the search results.
7. Start split testing. When the stakes are lower—and with the dog days of summer keeping people on vacation and away from your website—it's prime time to start split testing your site. Focus on the most important calls to action like buy buttons, add to cart, subscribe and other heavy sales hitters. You’ll want your sales funnels in tip-top shape when November rolls around. Waiting to test them as the holidays begin means you’ll be missing crucial sales.
8. Think about scaling. I’m not saying you have to beef up your servers tomorrow, but you should do a bit of research on how you’d scale your servers in the event that you do get a rush of shoppers to your website. It’s a great problem to have, but it’s an even better problem when you know how to fix it quickly.
This eight-point list is by no means exhaustive, but it's a good starting point to get you thinking about the impact of the holiday season on your website and how you can make the most of the increase in traffic and sales.
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