Optimizing Your E-Commerce Website for the Holiday Season
How to Increase Engagement, User Experience, and Conversions
While many businesses gear up for what may be their busiest time of the year, there’s a lot that goes into planning your promotions and choosing which products you want to sell. Especially this year, amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s essential to appeal to online shoppers via your business’s website.
Optimizing your e-commerce website this holiday season can boost sales and customer satisfaction. E-commerce optimization involves improving your online store to increase engagement, user experience, and conversions.
When optimizing your e-commerce store, make sure you maintain good SEO practices to increase your reach. Optimizing your website for mobile responsiveness is especially crucial today. More consumers are shopping from their phones and other mobile devices.
This holiday season, a crucial part of your digital marketing strategy needs to be optimizing your e-commerce website for search engines and consumers. Read on for our tips on how to do so.
What is E-Commerce Optimization?
Before you can dive into optimizing your e-commerce website, it’s helpful to understand precisely what e-commerce optimization is. E-commerce optimization means the steps you take to try and improve your online store to generate more and faster sales.
If your website is not optimized correctly, it causes issues that ultimately lead to a drop in revenue. A few of those issues include
- Abandoned shopping carts
- Poor user experience
- Negative reviews and complaints from frustrated customers and prospects
To ensure you’re noticed by the search engines while also providing a smooth shopping experience for consumers, optimizing your e-commerce website should be ongoing. But optimizing your online store becomes more crucial before and during the busy holiday shopping season.
Key takeaway: E-commerce optimization involves improving your website’s online store. Consumers have a more seamless experience and feel more comfortable shopping with you.
24 Ways to Optimize Your E-Commerce Site for the Holiday Season
Looking to optimize your business’s e-commerce shop this holiday season? Here are 24 ways to do it.
1. Analyze and learn
Your number one task is to analyze last year’s statistics and learn from them. Understanding the success or failure of your campaigns can help you create better campaigns this year. Analyzing data can also show you more ways to meet your customers’ needs.
Here are some examples of questions you should ask when reviewing last year’s data:
- What were your most successful campaigns?
- What was your most popular product?
- Which days had the best traffic?
- Which traffic source was the most popular and most profitable?
- How much total revenue did you earn during this period?
- What was the average order value?
- Which keywords worked well?
- What did your competitors do?
2. Prepare for mobile shoppers
Optimizing your e-commerce website for mobile users is a big part of preparing your website for the holiday season. In addition, online store owners must adjust to customer shopping habits to sell more.
According to Marketing Dive, in 2020, mobile holiday sales reached $3.6 billion, making up 40% of total online spending on Black Friday. Additionally, according to Adobe, 37% of digital sales on Cyber Monday were made on mobile devices.
Mobile commerce sales are projected to reach $3.56 trillion in 2021—22.3 percent more than the $2.91 trillion it registered in 2020.Oberlo
With more than half of all internet traffic shopping from a mobile device, increasing your e-commerce site’s mobile responsiveness is crucial. Today, consumers value convenience; and if you don’t provide a seamless customer experience, prospective buyers will look elsewhere for similar products.
Additionally, consumers often come from social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, which they access on their mobile devices. Therefore, if you’re advertising products on social media, you have to have a mobile-friendly website/e-commerce shop to accommodate the influx of customers you’ll be recruiting. Otherwise, you might as well not even utilize social media marketing.
Start by making sure your website is mobile-friendly (you can test it with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test). Mobile users need to see more compacted information presented in an easy-to-read format. After that, you can improve mobile customer experience by doing the following:
- Use responsive website design
- Optimize page load time
- Adjust font and button sizes
- Enable mobile payments
- Adjust mobile pop-up sizes
Designing your website’s mobile version ensures that you provide the best possible user experience on any device. The desktop version of your website is where you can add a little more content and decorations.
3. Make sure your website can handle increased traffic
You don’t want your website to crash during the peak Holiday Season. But, unfortunately, too many visits at the same time, especially on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, can make this happen.
Suppose you haven’t experienced traffic spikes before. In that case, you should check with your website host directly and ensure your site can handle that traffic. Here are a few tips to help you better understand different hosting options.
4. Find a reliable hosting provider
Reviewing your hosting provider is one of the website optimization techniques you shouldn’t gloss over. Your website’s host influences your e-commerce site performance—especially when website traffic increases during the holidays.
A website hosting service allows you to publish your website files onto the internet. It also provides all the tools to set up and run an e-commerce website, such as server space, plugins, and security.
A great e-commerce hosting service will provide you with necessities such as shopping cart software, payment processing services, transport layer security, database support, and more. If you think your website might perform better with a new hosting provider, it’s best to choose based on your most critical factors.
5. Improve your website’s security
It’s not just shoppers who ramp up their online activity during the holidays. Hackers are waiting in the wings, ready to take advantage of the increased number of transactions. So first, educate yourself and your team to recognize the signs of cyberattacks, such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Then, invest in security solutions so you can handle any potential situations.
6. Make page load speed a priority
Many online retailers focus on the design of their website, such as how pretty the page looks, how big the graphics are, how easy the buy buttons are to access, etc. The problem, however, is that large photos and interactive elements slow your site down significantly.
Although a well-designed homepage is important, businesses should also find web solutions and hosts that give them the necessary bandwidth and speed to support higher holiday traffic.
According to Radware research, if your site slows down, you have a lot to lose ‒ 57% of consumers abandon a site that fails to load after three seconds.
If the site doesn’t respond, consumers think it’s not worth it and go to another website to do their shopping. So it’s not just the site outage you have to worry about but also the degradation of performance and delivery to retain customers.
7. Focus on search engine optimization
We briefly mentioned search engine optimization (SEO) is critically important for all websites, especially e-commerce sites. In short, SEO evaluates where users go on the web and the queries they make to get there. When you properly optimize your website for SEO, you:
- Help targeted prospects find your products and services
- Get a higher return on investment (ROI)
- Increase the exposure of your business on the web
8. Keep your website’s layout the same
It’s good to keep things fresh, but changing up your website’s layout right before the holidays isn’t the best idea. People prefer consistency, especially in finding products and placing orders. Any drastic change in these processes may cause customer frustration or unexpected technical glitches.
Instead of redesigning your website, shift your focus on presenting your holiday deals in a familiar yet exciting way to your customers. Here are a few ideas you can use in your marketing:
- Create a holiday-specific landing page with all of your best deals in one place
- Put together gift-specific categories, like “gift ideas for dad.”
- Add holiday banners to product pages
- Use promo bars or pop-ups to showcase special deals
Give yourself time to test the fresh additions to your website. They shouldn’t just be pretty, but functional, too. Ask yourself: do the promotional images lead your customers to the products they’re looking for? If your website decorations are random and don’t add any real value (e.g., highlighting a product on sale or leading a customer to a new product offer), consider a different strategy.
9. Entice shoppers to buy your products online
Your product pages are the bread and butter of your e-commerce business. Improve your on-page and conversion rates by:
- Using ALT text and relevant tags to optimize images for search engines
- Making checkout fast and easy
- Crafting engaging and relevant product descriptions
- Using high-quality, attractive images as product photos
10. Celebrate the season on your site
Physical retail stores often set up holiday displays during the shopping season. You should take a similar approach to your website. Dress up your digital channel just like you do your brick-and-mortar store.
That doesn’t mean you add Christmas trees and flashing lights to your homepage. Instead, revise your website content, and adapt it with encouraging, upbeat content for the most important milestone dates: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and the new year. Shoppers respond best to content that celebrates the products, ties these to festivities, and gives a sense of why the recipient will be delighted with them.
As part of celebrating the season on your site, get festive with product images. When taking product photos, prop products up against a festive background, for example, to generate more attention. The images should be so good that users naturally want to share them on social media, especially Instagram and Pinterest.
11. Create holiday-focused category pages
Creating Holiday-focused category pages will increase user experience. Keep people in the “Holiday Spirit” and make it easier for them to find your discounts, deals, and gift packages.
Here are a few examples you can add:
- Black Friday offers
- Cyber Monday offers
- Christmas offers
- Gifts for men
- Gifts for women
- Gifts for mom (or dad)
- And so on.
12. Highlight your special offers and discounts
Suppose you aren’t proudly displaying special holiday offers and discounts. In that case, your customers won’t be as willing or excited to shop with you. Ensure your holiday offers are featured prominently on your homepage, so consumers don’t have to search for them. Interactive web banners spread across the top of the page are great to highlight offers and discounts.
You can also generate traffic by frequently posting special offers to your social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. That way, buyers know where to find you and why they should choose you over competitors this holiday season.
13. Optimize your checkout process
Your holiday marketing campaigns are up and running, your products are ready, and you have customers visiting your store. But can they buy your products without a hitch?
28% of online customers say that their main reason for leaving is the confusing checkout process.
The checkout process in your store should be intuitive and straightforward. The best way to check it is to go through it yourself. Look out for anything that slows your customer down.
If you have a single-page checkout, make sure the form isn’t cluttered, and every field you ask your customers to fill is necessary rather than “good to know.” The advice also applies to a multi-page checkout process.
Pro tip: Add a progress indicator at the top of the page to let the shopper know how far along they are. Showing the progress made can help lower the number of abandoned carts.
14. Offer free shipping
Free shipping is a great way to encourage more purchases during the holiday season and all year round.
According to David Bell, a marketing professor at Wharton, a free shipping offer that saves a customer $6.99 is more appealing than a discount that cuts the purchase price by $10.
You should consider offering free shipping for at least a few days before Christmas. You can also set free shipping at a specific price to increase the average order value and ensure the offer is profitable for you.
15. Highlight shipping
The most important question before Christmas that every customer wants to know: when will the product arrive?
Make sure the delivery time and shipping costs are transparent for all the products on your website. If there’s an option for local pickup or the product is available in stores, highlight that as well.
16. Highlight return conditions
When people are buying gifts for others, it can often happen that the size is wrong. In addition, maybe the recipient doesn’t like the product’s color or already has one, so they need to return it.
Make sure that customers can return products quickly. Highlighting your return conditions in detail increases the trust and confidence of your visitors.
17. Enable customer reviews
Customer reviews are helpful for businesses. They give you insight into which products customers love and which ones need improvements. If certain products continue to generate negative reviews, remove them from your site or make improvements before additional complaints come in.
Great reviews can turn prospects into customers and need to be part of your user-generated content strategy. If your site has the functionality to do so, enable studies with images; often, passionate consumers love to share pictures in their reviews. Just look at how many photos customers submit on Amazon reviews.
18. Ramp up your customer support
Holiday shoppers want a positive customer experience. So make your contact info easy to find on all the pages of your website if customers have questions about their orders.
If you think you will need it, you may want to consider adding temporary help to answer the additional calls. A simple answering service can ensure you don’t miss a call, and it lets customers know you plan to get back to them quickly.
Good customer service is the backbone of every successful e-commerce business. Be sure to communicate clearly with your customers, so they know what to expect from your business, like specific shipping times or discounts/deals.
Some additional ways to ramp up your efforts include:
- Live chat/chatbots: On your website, offer instant messaging options like live chat or chatbots to ensure you provide 24/7 customer support.
- FAQs: Make a list of frequently asked questions and provide detailed answers on a dedicated FAQ page on your site to reduce the need for customer service help.
- Implement customer service software. Look into customer service software options that help organize customer tickets, stay on top of complaints/feedback and address any concerns/questions.
Poorly crafted and unclear navigation will make people turn around and leave your website as fast as they can. On the other hand, clear and straightforward website navigation is essential because visitors are often constrained by time during the holiday season.
You can also improve your site’s navigation by taking a moment to configure your search function. Here are a few tips to help you optimize searching on your site:
- Put the search field in a highlighted place.
- Use the option for auto-complete.
- It should be available and work well from mobile as well.
- Add a filtering option to your search results page.
- Add a sort by price option to your search results page.
20. Optimize images
E-commerce store visitors expect to see lots of images when shopping online. As a result, shoppers have become voracious visual readers, and if they see slow loading pages, they’re packing up.
In turn, search engines will notice slow loading visuals and rank down the entire website, favoring those that offer a better experience. Therefore, one of the best practices for speeding up your website would be to optimize page images.
Examine your website’s image sizes
Any image over 500KB will affect page speed. If your image files are too big, it’s best to compress them. Online tools such as Imagify or Smush will either remove some image pixels or squeeze them together, optimizing the file size.
If you’re working on your e-commerce website, we recommend keeping your image file size below 70KB. Here are some additional tips for improving your page load speed.
Help search engines understand what your images are about
For this, you need to think about two things: your image file names and alt texts.
The filename identifies a computer file (for example, “readme.txt”). Thus, you can see an image file name when you download it. Creating keyword-rich file names is crucial for image optimization because search engines will understand the image content.
Alt text helps search engines to understand image content. Alt-text also helps vision-impaired technology to read out loud what’s happening in the image.
Another factor that affects your website’s speed, just as image optimization, is the software and plugins that add specific functionality and features to your website.
21. Review your plugins
Plugins are common and necessary components for every website, and they’re fantastic helpers for expanding your site with additional features. They can increase an e-commerce website’s conversion rate, reduce abandoned carts, and create an overall better customer experience.
However, the more plugins you install, the more they’ll weigh down your website. One complex action plugin can lose you half a second (or more) of loading time and even cause security issues. Check what plugins you currently have and remove those that generate many database queries, scripts, and styles.
Delete plugins that slow down your site and no longer serve you. Those you leave should be up to date for optimal performance and help your website run smoothly.
Cookies are what enable a website to recognize a computer as a return visitor. In addition, they can help store your visitor data and preferences, such as ZIP code and search info.
Cookies are the reason your visitors don’t have to log in each time they want to make a new purchase. If customers trust a website and shop there frequently, they don’t want to fill in their payment details every time they visit.
23. Create a holiday content calendar
Content marketing is a great way to boost your business. On your website, display holiday-themed content, like blog posts and graphics, to get consumers in the spirit. Be sure to integrate content from your website with other platforms like social media.
For example, share a blog post on your site, then schedule a summary to go live on Facebook or be sent as an email newsletter. By repurposing content, you’ll save time while improving consistency across all platforms. Then, map it all out in a calendar, and you are prepared for the season with timely and relevant content to share.
24. Set up an Instagram Shop
Instagram’s “Shops” is a relatively new initiative Instagram rolled out in May of 2020 to support businesses during the pandemic. IG Shops is an immersive storefront that allows businesses to secure sales without consumers ever having to leave the app.
This app is an easy and convenient way to increase the reach of items from your e-commerce shop and improve your business’s accessibility.
Tools to simplify optimizing your e-commerce website
Optimizing your e-commerce website, regardless of when you do it, can be overwhelming. Luckily, different tools help simplify the process and maximize the results. Here are some of my favorites:
- PageSpeed Insights
- Google Search Console (GSC)
- Screaming Frog
- Google Optimize
- Google AdWords
Are you ready to start?
Don’t wait until the last minute. Start optimizing your e-commerce website for holiday shoppers early. Page speed and mobile site usability are important factors for search engine optimization. To have everything run smoothly:
- Use online tools to get a test report of how each page is performing and start making minor changes to see significant improvements in your website speed
- Stock up on your inventory and launch all the essential updates promptly
- Make your website’s content is explicit, so your customers find everything that they need
- Concentrate on anything that can cause delays or website crashes in your store over the holidays
- Have multiple backup plans for anything that might go wrong
Once you’re sure your website is ready for the increased traffic, it’s time to tackle the rest of the holiday e-commerce preparations.
Takeaways for Optimizing Your E-Commerce Website
Key takeaway: There are many ways to optimize your e-commerce store, from focusing on SEO to improving mobile responsiveness.
It’s imperative to start preparing your online store in time for the Holiday season. I hope the 24 tips I’ve compiled will help you have a successful holiday shopping season.
Optimizing your e-commerce website for the holiday season is a challenge for any online store. It comes with a lot of stress and hard work, but it pays off. Remember: between November 25th and December 24th you can make more sales than you do for the rest of the year.
To take full advantage of the holiday season, you need to plan and execute with perfection. Take the time to understand what your customers are looking for and how you can meet their user expectations.
Of course, you can hire an experienced web design agency to build a top-notch e-commerce site. In that case, you have a better chance of e-commerce success this holiday season. We are here to help!
Here at PixoLabo, we offer a full range of e-commerce website optimization, consulting, and WordPress web design services, including website design and development, e-commerce solutions, search engine optimization, and WordPress optimization.
And if you are still not sure how to optimize your e-commerce site, let’s talk! We will listen to you, answer your questions, and determine the best e-commerce solutions for your company or product brand!
Did You Optimize Your E-Commerce Site for Holiday Shoppers?
What did you do to prepare your online store for the holiday rush? Do you have any other e-commerce optimization tips or recommendations? Feel free to add your comments below so our audience can benefit and grab our feed, so you don’t miss our next post! And feel free to share our post with your audience!
Thank you! We appreciate your help to end bad business websites, one pixel at a time!
By Gregor Saita
Co-Founder / CXO