Even though it’s barely October, it’s time to start preparing your website for the holidays. Just because you do not have an eCommerce website, does not mean that you do not have to optimize for the holidays. Nowadays, shoppers research products online before making purchases at retail stores. This is so common that it is known as “research online, purchase offline” or ROPO. If you sell anything, chances are you sell way more of it between Halloween and Christmas. The holidays account for 20-40% of annual sales for retailers. You still have a few weeks to make some last minute website tweaks to cash in on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and the entire month before Christmas.

Reduce Loading Time

Did you know that an average of 70% of shoppers abandon their carts before checking out? One in five of those shoppers does so because of slow checkout. If your website takes longer than two seconds to load, you are missing out on a lot of online sales. At Google, they aim for a half second loading time. Test your website with Pingdom and Google Page Speed Insights. Google considers and desktop scores should above 80/100 to be acceptable. To speed up your website, you can install a WordPress caching plugin, optimizing images for the web, minifying JavaScript and CSS files and using a dedicated server with a fast response time.

Speedy Checkout

According to Baymard Institute, the average cart abandonment rate is 69% so it is crucial that you make your checkout process as easy and quick as possible. Do not ask questions unless they are absolutely necessary for the purchase to take place. Give customers the option of a guest checkout if they are not registered. You can always prompt them to register after the purchase is complete. There is definitely something to be learned from Amazon’s one-click ordering process which allows you to checkout with just one click as long as you have been a user previously.

Update your Content

This may seem like common sense but there is nothing worse than an outdated website. Invest the time to update your website content, especially your product descriptions, pay-per-click landing pages, return policy and contact information. If you have not posted in your blog for a while, now is the time to ramp up your content marketing. Don’t have time to maintain your website? Check out our post on Powerful Reasons to Outsource your Web Maintenance.

Go Mobile

Now that Google is penalizing websites that are not mobile-friendly and with mobile traffic having exceeded traditional laptop and desktop traffic, ignoring mobile users is not an option. If you do not have a responsive website, it is best to redesign it will mobile in mind because adjusting it creates a less than optimal user experience. However, adjusting a traditional website for mobile devices is better and nothing and can be a quick fix if you lack the marketing budget.

Exit Popups & Cart Abandonment Emails

To reduce cart abandonment, you might want to display a popup with a promo code when users attempt to exit your site as a last-ditch effort to get them to checkout. We hate popups too but if they are leaving anyways, you do not have much more to lose. If they have registered, you can send them a cart abandonment email after 24 hours with an additional offer.

Secure your Website

If you have an eCommerce website, implementing an SSL certificate is a must to instill trust. If you are unsure if your website is secure, check the URL to see if it begins with “https”. There are many levels of validation. The lowest level of validation, Domain Validation (DV) only validates the ownership of the domain. Most savvy online shoppers look for Extended Validation (EV), which validates the legitimacy of the business. You can tell if your website has an EV certificate if the address bar is green.

Ensure Visitors Can Contact You

To increase your conversion rate and reduce cart abandonment, you could install an online chat so customers can more easily ask questions on the spot without calling you. Olark offers many affordable online chat options for sales and support.

Develop an Email Marketing Plan

If you have a sizable email list, now is the time to exploit it. Write, design and deploy email newsletters that highlight your deals and promo codes around each holiday. Ensure that your email subscription forms are working so you can take advantage of the increased holiday traffic to build your email list. With three times more people having email accounts than Facebook and Twitter users combined, email marketing can reach more of your target market and has higher conversion rates and ROI than social media marketing. Check out our post on Best Email Marketing Strategies Guaranteed to Get More Sales.

Review Google Analytics & Google Webmaster Tools Data

If your website is having SEO issues or not showing up in search results, you can use Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools to investigate your drop-offs in traffic. Compare your traffic to the previous year to see what has changed recently. Check your organic search terms to see how your visitors are finding your website so you can customize your content accordingly. Check your exit pages to see where your visitors are leaving and see if there is anything you can do to further engage your visitors.

Schedule Social Media Posts

Social media is a great way to humanize your brand by sharing childhood photos, holiday recipes and last minute gift ideas. Think about how your brand ties into the holidays and ask how your company can be more helpful. Write and schedule your posts with Hootsuite in advance so you can focus on interacting with your followers during the holidays. Engage your customers with daily prizes, offers, incentives, competitions and fun stuff so that they will be more likely to recommend your brand. Research shows that recommendations from friends are ten times more effective than marketing messages. Check out our post on Awesome Social Media Tips that Make You More Money.

A/B Testing

A/B Testing is comparing two versions of a web page to determine which one converts more users. Visitors are served either the control or variation and their engagement is measured to determine if the changed web page had any impact on their behavior. A/B testing can be continually used to improve user experience and thus conversion rate. A/B testing powered by Optimizely take time to setup, run and analyze so if you wait until November it will be too late.

Spring for Dedicated Hosting

We have seen tons of million dollar companies who still pay $5 per month for shared hosting. Sure, dedicated hosting could run you about $100 per month but if downtime means losing thousands of dollars, then you might want to spring for it. Dedicated hosting protects you against malicious scripts running on another website or spikes in bandwidth usage that can negatively impact your loading time or website rankings. A dedicated server is more reliable and stable than shared hosting especially if you have high traffic.

That’s a Wrap!

If you need help optimizing your website for the holidays, contact our web design and development team. Make it a profitable holiday season!