Dec
11
2017

Is Your eCommerce Site Ready for the Holidays?

Posted 43 days ago ago by Joe


Put up the decorations, clean the house, wrap the presents...these are just a few of the things circling my head when people ask that famous question “Are you ready for the holidays?” And while I usually agree with Andy Williams that this is indeed The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, it is also one of the busiest and most stressful times of the year. 

If you haven’t finished your shopping yet, you may be relieved to know that there are still 14 days left before Christmas. If you are responsible for an eCommerce site, I’m here to remind you that there are still 14 days left before Christmas, and that’s plenty of time to give your site a little a holiday cheer. 

Having just spent the past several weeks helping our clients gear up for their Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, I’d like to offer a little perspective. I present to you the Brilliance Holiday Wish List: Our top five recommendations for preparing for that additional holiday traffic.

#5 – Presence

One of the greatest gifts that you can give to your customers is your presence. Regardless of whether it fits under your tree, it is an easy and affordable gift to give. Live Chat is a tool that many online shoppers have come to expect. According to a survey by Forrester, “44% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a website can offer,” and “63% of customers said they were more likely to return to a website that offers live chat as opposed to one that doesn’t.” 

Chat services, such as Olark, offer tiered pricing plans based on the number of live chat operators. Implementation is as easy as signing up for an account and dropping in a script. You can, quite literally, have Live Chat running on your site within a half hour. 

#4 – Polishing
I’ll admit that the only time my house gets a good cleaning is when we are expecting guests. At this time of year, though, it’s more than just housekeeping that the house needs—this is the time of year for lights, decorations, and a giant tree. In the same way, it is the perfect time of year to give your eCommerce site that extra sparkle.

Let’s start with the basics: the dusting and vacuuming of site maintenance. Are you clearing old shopping carts, tuning indexes, and purging deleted records on your AspDotNetStorefront site? What about removing unrelated content assets, identifying broken links, or defragmenting your database on your Episerver site? These are just a few of the housekeeping tasks that you should be doing on a regular basis. We can help you automate much of this so that you can focus on putting up those decorations.

Looking for some simple ideas to give your site a little extra pop? Try updating your product images and refreshing your landing page sliders and banners. Want a little more sizzle? Consider adding an exit pop-up or a Featured Products section to your landing page. The ultimate Christmas swag? Create a “Recommended Products” section that displays results based on user browsing.

#3 – Pricing
Black Friday and Cyber Monday may have passed, but shoppers are still looking for a good deal. If you are putting products on sale, it is important to make sure that your customers see them. One simple and effective way to do this is by creating a separate category page for all sale and clearance products. This can then be temporarily or permanently added to your main site navigation. As an added bonus, you can use this page in your email marketing campaigns to drive customers to your site. 

Whether you have a separate category page or not, styling is important for highlighting your products on sale. Many of our customers choose to highlight sales by showing the regular price with a strikethrough and the sales price in a larger, bolder font. If you have inventory levels associated with your products, you can also show a different message for products that are nearly sold out; stating “Only 1 Left!” gives the customer an added incentive to make the purchase. You could even combine these two ideas by showing certain products “On Sale Today Only!”

#2 – Performance on the back-end
“OMG! This is better than Christmas. The entire team is bonkers with the new-found speed of the back end.” This was feedback that we recently received from one of our customers after we found and removed some inefficiencies discovered in the back-end of their site. If Santa wants to keep the elves in his workshop happy and productive, he is going to need to make sure that the tools they use are in perfect condition. It is especially important at this time of year when businesses are busier than normal prepping products for making that trip down the chimney.

Efficiencies can be created by not only removing function but by adding function. Many of our customers have asked us for customizations to various pages of the back-end that help their Customer Sales Reps use the site more efficiently. Some examples that come to mind: adding the ability to search for customers by phone number, allowing orders to be managed in a workflow, and creating different classifications for customers.

#1 – Performance on the front-end

With the holidays comes added stress, for both you and your eCommerce site. That added stress won’t be a problem, however, if you have spent some energy preparing ahead of time. In the case of your site, there are many free tools available that give you a read-out of your site’s performance. We like to use a combination of several, including WebPageTest.org, Pingdom, PageSpeed Insights, and Lighthouse. These tools will help you identify problem areas, but they are neither the end-all-be-all nor are they going to tell you how well your site will do under heavy traffic. 

To simulate holiday volume, third-party companies, such as SOASTA, can work with you to conduct load testing. We recently worked with one of our clients to do an analysis of performance under a heavy load and were able to identify “expensive” queries that took the longest to execute. Something being too expensive on your eCommerce site is rarely a good thing. Some of the ways that Inefficiencies like this can be mitigated is by changing parameters or adding caching.

Presence, Polishing, Pricing, and Performance – not just a great recipe for Pea Soup, but a practical plan for pumping up your holiday positioning. All you need now is a partridge in a pear tree.

From all of us at Brilliance Business Solutions, we hope that your holiday season is filled with the joy and the beauty that make this time of year so special.