At the risk of alarming you, the end of the year is fast approaching. If you’re in retail, you know what that means: It’s crazy season, and the real craziness starts around Thanksgiving in the U.S.
“Black Friday,” as most people know, is the day after Thanksgiving, when the brick-and-mortar stores have aggressive sales and early hours in the hopes of capturing enough holiday revenue to put them “in the black” for the year. This is followed by “Cyber Monday” for online sales. Why Monday? Traditionally that’s the day that people go back to work and do their online shopping; it’s a holdover from the days when high-speed internet access was more likely to be found in a workplace than in a home. Now that many homes in the U.S. also have broadband internet access, Cyber Monday doesn’t necessarily happen on Monday.
Whenever that online shopping spike occurs, if you’re in the business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce space, you need to make sure your site is ready for the increased traffic. During this all-important retail season, you can’t afford to have problems with your site.
There are two main aspects you need to be concerned about: The front end—the part your customers interact with—and the back end, the technical part that keeps the site running.
Get the Front End Ready
Is the user side of your online store ready for the holiday crush? Ask yourself these questions:
- Is my content up to date? Stale or outdated content implies a lack of caring about your business, which will drive potential customers elsewhere.
- Are my product descriptions complete and accurate? The more product information you can provide, the more likely visits will convert to sales, and the less time you’ll have to spend answering product-related questions. Incomplete or inaccurate information, or delays in getting questions answered, will send visitors to the exits
- Are all my promo codes, gift cards, cross-sells, and up-sells squared away? Promo codes that don’t work as advertised (or at all), inability to purchase physical or virtual gift cards, inappropriate cross-sells, and unreasonable up-sells are all negatives for site visitors.
- Are my stock levels accurate? This is especially important if you indicate inventory levels on your site. You don’t want goods going unsold because your site says there are none left, and you don’t want customers angered because the site says you have stock that doesn’t exist.
Get the Back End Ready
Is everything under the hood running smoothly? Here are some items that SmashStack has helped clients with to prepare for holiday sales:
- Does my site have adequate bandwidth? Check with your hosting provider to find out how much bandwidth they are providing and how many simultaneous visitors your site can handle. If they can provide more and you think you need it, consider boosting it, at least until January. While you’re talking to them, ask them…
- What’s my service level agreement? What’s their uptime guarantee, and how quickly will they fix any problems on their end? Four hours (or even four minutes) of downtime for your site can kill your holiday sales.
- Is my site optimized for loading speed? Slow-loading pages are the kiss of death for online retailers.
- Is my catalog search capability optimized? If it takes forever for your site to return relevant search results from your product catalog, you’re asking for trouble. There are many ways to optimize your site’s search capability, from database design to search algorithm tweaks. Ask your web developer to take a look.
- Is my search engine optimization up to snuff? Make sure your potential customers find you first, not your competitors.
- Is my site mobile-ready? It’s a little late in the season to optimize your site for mobile if it isn’t already, but at least make sure people can reach your site on mobile devices and can make purchases without frustration.
The November-December period can make or break the whole year for many retailers. Don’t let it be a “break” year for you because your site isn’t ready. Your web developer can help evaluate your site from a technical standpoint in the same way an auto mechanic can check your car’s readiness for a cross-country trip. Make the effort now to ensure a joyful holiday season for your business.