It’s barely the dog-days of summer, and that means retailers are in the throes of back-to-school shopping (and sales tax holidays). Is it really time to start planning for the holiday season?
At Something Digital we fully believe that it’s never too early. Here are the essentials we recommend you consider now:
Make Sure Your Site Doesn’t Go Down
This past Prime Day was a bit of a disaster for Amazon…the Prime Day landing page didn’t work, and many of the product links led to error messages. Pity, given the all the work and marketing investments that went into the shopping holiday. If it can happen to Amazon, it can happen to anyone. But possible doesn’t mean inevitable. There are things you can do now to ensure your site is working as anticipated this Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all other key shopping days.
Start planning your infrastructure and site capacity now. If you’ve been lucky enough to enjoy higher traffic volumes this year (congratulations!) but you probably need to account for additional capacity for those high volume days during the holiday season.
Button Up Your Project Planning
If you’re reading this at the beginning of August, then you only have eight to ten weeks before the start of the holiday season. A top goal should be to have a long period of site stability before the holiday season rush, which means, in our opinion, a hard code freeze at least two weeks prior to Black Friday.
If you’re planning bigger changes, such as launching a new site or implementing a new ESP, make sure they’re done well in advance of the above-mentioned code freeze. If you can’t make that deadline, postpone until after the holiday season.
And if it’s not obvious, we’ll state outright: Don’t attempt to launch a new site two weeks before Black Friday!
Don’t Consolidate Risk into a Few Days
Think twice about putting all of your holiday eggs into your Cyber Monday basket. Use your marketing emails and advertising dollars to promote pre-Cyber Monday sales events, to get your customers spending on your site prior to or after the big day.
We’ve seen many of our clients do this successfully by offering incentives to shop prior to Cyber Monday. For instance, you can offer a discount for shoppers who purchase before Cyber Monday and choose a slower shipping option, or even free shipping on items if purchased before then.
This strategy ensures that your existing customers buy their gifts from you, as well as reduce the traffic load to your site on Cyber Monday.
Plan on Tried & True Traditional Tactics
Traditional tactics, such as custom landing pages and product categorization work, as long as they’re well thought out. For instance, “gifts under $100,” “stocking stuffers,” “gifts for teens,” or “gifts for her” are helpful for shoppers, and increase product discoverability.
Best selling items are also very useful, especially for shoppers who fear they don’t know what to get people on their lists.
And if you offer live chat services, consider calling them concierges and train them to suggest gifts to people who need help selecting gifts.
Plan Your Marketplace Strategy
For many consumers, all shopping begins with Amazon or some other marketplace. While we at Something Digital believe every online retailer should have a marketplace strategy all year round, it is especially important during the holiday season, given the role these sites play in product discovery.
As we mentioned in a recent block post, Is Amazon Your Competitor?, you don’t need to offer your entire catalog on a marketplace. Many brands offer their evergreen and classic styles there in order to build brand awareness, and reserve their complete catalog and newest styles for their ecommerce site. With the right merchandising strategy, a marketplace can serve as your first point of contact, and leverage those initial sales to serve as the building block for other onsite offers.
It’s not just your website that will be taxed this holiday season; volume will ramp up for your returns and customer service departments as well, so you should begin thinking about how you’ll handle that extra work now.
In terms of process planning for your website itself, here’s our best advice: Don’t make any changes that aren’t absolutely necessary to make. We’ve seen instances where retailers have stable code in time for the holiday rush, only to decide to implement last minute changes, such as implementing a new feature. The results are rarely good. Obviously, fix the bugs that prevent customers from discovering and buying on your site, and put off everything else until the holiday season is safely behind us.
Get Your Mobile House in Order
Consumers love their mobile devices and increasingly, they buy more of their holiday gifts on their smartphones. There’s a lot you can do to increase conversions on your mobile traffic, from making mobile payment options available, supporting social sign on, deploying auto-fill technology, among other critical tactics. All of these strategies are discussed in our recent blog post, How to Increase Conversions From Mobile Traffic.
Do you have questions about prepping for the holiday season? Let us know!