Casey Kelly-Barton – HostGator Blog https://www.hostgator.com/blog Web Hosting and Marketing Tips for Entrepreneurs Mon, 17 Sep 2018 20:01:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.7 151369968 6 Mistakes That Trip Up Online Stores During Holiday Traffic Surges https://www.hostgator.com/blog/holiday-traffic-surges-mistakes-online-stores/ https://www.hostgator.com/blog/holiday-traffic-surges-mistakes-online-stores/#respond Fri, 14 Sep 2018 17:42:41 +0000 https://www.hostgator.com/blog/?p=20125 The post 6 Mistakes That Trip Up Online Stores During Holiday Traffic Surges appeared first on HostGator Blog.

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The holidays are the most wonderful eCommerce time of the year. They also can be the most stressful if you’re not ready to deal with extra customer traffic to your online store.

Site crashes, unhappy customers, and shipping slowdowns can wreck your holiday revenue projections and thoroughly stress you out.

For a more peaceful and productive holiday sales season no matter how many customers show up, plan now to avoid these common mistakes.

 

Mistake #1: A hosting plan that can’t handle holiday traffic spikes

Even big retailers struggle with crashes when shoppers overwhelm their sites during Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. But that doesn’t mean that crashes are inevitable, and they’re certainly not good for business.

Big companies can cope with downtime because they offer deep-discount deals that customers will check back for. But most small online sellers don’t have that kind of drawing power. If your store has an outage on a major sale day, odds are shoppers will just take their money somewhere else.

online shoppers leave ecommerce websites if they take too long to load

Even if your site doesn’t crash, heavy traffic could make it slow to a crawl. When product pages take too long to load (say, longer than five seconds), your customers will likely move on.

Avoid this mistake: Head off crashes and site slowdowns this holiday season by looking over your hosting plan now. Is there a limit to how much bandwidth you can use or the number of site visits you can have in a given month? If so, is your holiday sales traffic likely to exceed those limits?

Talk to your web host about whether you should upgrade to a hosting plan that includes flexible scalability to handle whatever site traffic your sales bring in.

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Mistake #2: No automated site backups

Traffic isn’t the only thing that can take your site offline. Malware that gets past your site’s security measures, updates that go awry, hackers, and user errors can crash your site or cause problems so severe that it’s better to take the site down until you can restore a previous, uncorrupted version.

That’s easy enough to do if a previous, uncorrupted version of your site exists.

If it doesn’t? You could lose a lot of holiday business while you figure out what’s wrong with your site, fix it, and bring it back online.

Avoid this mistake: If your hosting plan doesn’t provide automated site backups, it’s time to switch to one that does. With an auto-backup plan, you don’t have to remember to manually back up your site and you can easily restore previous versions through your hosting dashboard, so you can get your site back online for holiday shoppers.

 

Mistake #3: Not enough protection against hackers and malware

Not every holiday visitor to your site may be there to shop. Malware can come from many sources, and people try to hack all kinds of sites for all types of reasons, from data theft to boredom.

You can and should follow best practices on your end like using strong passwords, being suspicious of strange emails, and keeping your hardware secure and your software up to date and patched. Even so, extra layers of protection can reduce the risk of malicious mischief, even when your store is swarmed with visitors.

Avoid this mistake: Find out what security measures your web host takes to protect your data and keep your site online. Look for features like regular scans to detect and remove malware, free SSL certificates, updated server firewalls, and physical security of server sites. Ask your host about upgrades to make your site more secure.

 

Mistake #4: No extra fraud-screening capacity

Holiday shoppers want their orders approved fast, and there are a lot of orders to approve, especially on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That means the pace of order decisions can be overwhelming, and fraudsters count on that to slip bad orders through.

LexisNexis reported in 2017 that during holiday sales peaks, up to 43% of orders may be attempted fraud. Without advance planning, you may be forced to choose between more fraud losses due to rapid approvals or more lost sales due to slow approval times.

Avoid this mistake: Talk to your fraud prevention team or third-party service now to make a plan. Will you need to hire seasonal analysts and customer service reps? Do you need to update your internal negative and positive files for faster decisions? What will it cost to scale up your fraud screening capacity during the holidays? Find out now.

 

Mistake #5: Not enough customer service options

Online shoppers already expect immediate customer service via live chat, chatbots, social media messaging, or a real person on the phone.

Responsive customer service is important year-round and especially during the holiday shopping season, because customers are often looking for specific items and are in a hurry to move on to the next sale or item on their gift list. Answer their questions in real time and you’re likely to make more sales.

If all you offer is an email address, you may not be able to keep up with inquiries or answer them fast enough, which means you could lose sales to competitors with better support.

Avoid this mistake: Now’s the time to audit your customer service offerings and plan for an increase in demand during holiday sales. If you only have email support, consider adding Facebook Customer Chat (in beta, but there’s already a WordPress plugin) or a chatbot extension tailored to your eCommerce platform to handle common questions.

 

Mistake #6: No plan for handling all those extra orders

Making lots of sales is one of the highlights of the holiday eCommerce season. Getting those purchases out the door can be one of the headaches.

When the orders are pouring in—especially when customers are paying for rush shipping—packing and shipping can become a bottleneck that leads to delayed shipments and unhappy customers. If you want those customers to come back after the holidays, make sure you have a plan to supercharge your normal shipping routine.

Avoid this mistake: Order extra shipping supplies now. Running out of labels, boxes, tape, or ink in the middle of a peak sales period can slow you down and cost you extra if you have to place a rush order of your own so you can get back to work.

 

Fired Up for the Holiday Sales Season?

Use these tips to improve your store before Black Friday shoppers arrive, and get some holiday marketing campaign inspiration.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.

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Choosing the Best eCommerce Loyalty Program for Your Online Store https://www.hostgator.com/blog/ecommerce-loyalty-programs-online-store/ https://www.hostgator.com/blog/ecommerce-loyalty-programs-online-store/#respond Wed, 05 Sep 2018 20:48:21 +0000 https://www.hostgator.com/blog/?p=19895 The post Choosing the Best eCommerce Loyalty Program for Your Online Store appeared first on HostGator Blog.

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eCommerce Loyalty Programs: Why Your Online Store Needs One

E-commerce is an easy way for small businesses to reach more customers, as long as you don’t lose them to big players like Amazon and Walmart. Amazon alone took in 44% of the e-commerce in the US in 2017.

To compete with major retailers’ selection and price, you probably already know that your online business needs to stand out by offering unique items, expertise in product selection, and excellent service.

Another way to appeal to new customers and keep current ones coming back is with an e-commerce loyalty program.  

 

What Can an E-commerce Loyalty Program Do for Your Online Store?

We often think of loyalty programs as tools to get customers to come back, but that’s not all a loyalty plan can do. Here are five more benefits to e-commerce loyalty programs.

1. Get new customers on board.

Don’t make your customers wait until they’ve spent a certain dollar amount or placed several orders to start getting the benefits of loyalty program membership. Offer your customers an immediate discount or bonus item for joining your loyalty program and they’re more likely to sign on and make a purchase.

2. Collect marketing data.

A good loyalty program will provide analytics on your members so you can see which products they prefer, when they buy, how much they spend, and other information you can use to refine your marketing efforts. Smarter offers can lead to more sales and higher order values.

3. Increase the lifetime value of your current customers.

With your loyalty program marketing data and targeted offers, your business should be able to not only retain customers but earn more from them. Exclusive product offers, previews, and upsells of related items are easier when you have accurate information and your customers’ trust.

That trust is valuable—Invesp found that established customers are 50% more likely to buy a new product from a business than new customers are, and those existing customers spend about 30% more when they buy.

ecommerce loyalty program can boost sales with existing customers

4. Keep your customer acquisition costs in check.

By using your digital loyalty program to target offers to your existing customers, you can boost revenue from those shoppers and reduce the amount you need to spend on new-customer acquisition to keep your revenue stream flowing. And when you do look for new customers, your loyalty program data can help you identify target audiences similar to your most loyal and lucrative customers.

5. Win back customers.

Sometimes an existing customer just stops shopping with you, and you don’t know why. Rather than write off that customer, you can use your e-commerce loyalty program to craft a custom email offer to bring them back to your store.

Think about which of these goals is most important to your business, and take stock of the channels that you use most often to reach current customers and new customers. Depending on your goals and customer habits, you may be able to do well with a straightforward points-for-purchase loyalty program, or you may need a program that includes social media reward options, tiered reward levels, and other advanced features.

Setting Up Your E-commerce Loyalty Program

There are several tools you can use to add an e-commerce loyalty program to your online store. Your options will depend on the e-commerce hosting platform you use and your budget as well as your goals and customer habits.

Here are a few options to show you what’s available and what you can expect to spend.

WordPress E-commerce Loyalty Program Plugins

If you have a WordPress-based store that uses the WooCommerce e-commerce plugin, there are several loyalty program extensions you can choose from.

1. WooCommerce Points and Rewards

woocommerce-points-and-rewards-cart-550x262

WooCommerce Points and Rewards lets you set up a points-per-purchase loyalty program with customizable settings for point values and maximum discount amounts. You can make points retroactive for past purchases, use points as incentives for sign-ups and reviews, and more.

One one-year subscription for a single site is $129.

2. SUMO

sumo reward points ecommerce loyalty program

SUMO is another option for WordPress/WooCommerce stores. In addition to points for purchases and reviews, SUMO gives you the option to award points for referring new customers, sharing on social media, blogging, commenting, using coupons, and making charitable donations. You can also set points to expire after a certain amount of time.

A regular license for a single store costs $49.

3. Beans

beans woocommerce digital loyalty program plugin for wordpress

Beans is a WooCommerce extension that offers more than twenty reward options, including rewards on customer birthdays, social media likes and shares, referrals, and reviews in addition to shopping. Beans also makes it easy to set up time-limited offers for loyalty program members, create custom rewards, and set automatic point balance reminders to encourage customers to visit your store.

Unlike SUMO and WooCommerce Points and Rewards, Beans has a tiered pricing structure with five levels ranging from free to customized enterprise plans. The free plan offers rewards for purchases and signups, point redemption for discounts, a welcome email to new members, and a rewards widget and program page. Prices for the other plans range from $348 to $4,788 per year, and each comes with an increased number of reward options and a higher monthly transaction limit.

 

Magento E-commerce Loyalty Program Extensions

Magento has several extensions that work with it, including Loyalty Program by Amasty and programs for Magento 1 and Magento 2 by Aheadworks.

1. Amasty

amasty magento-loyalty-program-individual-promotions_1_1

Amasty‘s program for stores on Magento 1’s Community platform makes it easy to create multiple levels of benefits for your loyalty program members based on their purchase histories, to award free shipping to VIP members, and to create customized promotions.

The Community edition is $129.

2. Aheadworks

magento extensions aheadworks ecommerce loyalty points program

Aheadworks’ Points & Rewards for Magento 1 lets you adjust the rate at which customers earn points for certain actions. It also offers options to award points for uploading user-created videos, answering product questions from other shoppers, and answering polls, along with other reward features for shopping and referrals.

Auto-reminders are part of this extension, too. The price for this version is $299.

Reward Points for Magento 2 includes pre- and post-sales tax point settings and analytics on spend rates by segment and individual customer. This edition integrates with ConnectPOS to sync customer rewards across your online and in-store channels.

The price tag for this Aheadworks extension is $349.

 

Choosing Your E-commerce Loyalty Program

Before you invest in an extension or a loyalty platform subscription, take the time to read the reviews, and double-check that it offers the features you want for your marketing program. Decide if you’ll want to purchase extended customer support as you set up and refine your loyalty program.

The better you get at rewarding your customers, the more rewarding your loyalty program will be for your business.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.

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Are HTML Email Coding Issues Killing Your Conversions? https://www.hostgator.com/blog/html-email-coding-issues/ https://www.hostgator.com/blog/html-email-coding-issues/#respond Wed, 05 Sep 2018 19:33:43 +0000 https://www.hostgator.com/blog/?p=19859 The post Are HTML Email Coding Issues Killing Your Conversions? appeared first on HostGator Blog.

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What’s the Key to More Email Conversions? It Might Be Your HTML

How’s email marketing going for your small business?

If hardly anyone on your list is opening your emails and even fewer are clicking through, you’re probably wondering if your subject lines, copy, and images need work. They might.

But there’s another possibility: You may need to improve the code that makes your emails work. Without the right code, your emails can show up in your subscribers’ inboxes as a jumbled, hard-to-read mess or a blank page, even if you’re using an email template.

Of course, most small businesses don’t have an email code expert in-house to fix their issues. So I reached out to one to learn more.

Anne Tomlin is the founder of Austin, TX-based Emails Y’all and a self-described email geek whose enthusiasm for her work is contagious. She shared her knowledge about what happens when code goes wrong, why off-the-shelf templates work until they don’t, and how small businesses can diagnose, fix, and avoid some common email coding issues.

 

Look Good or Get Deleted

The first thing to know is that email marketing is challenging because not everyone receives your emails in the same way.

Different people use different devices to read their mail, and they may be using a variety of email clients that all have different rules about things like downloading email images. Most businesses know they need to use responsive templates for proper display on mobile devices, but the range of email client rules can trip them up.

“A lot of email clients don’t download images automatically,” Tomlin said, giving Outlook as one example. “You can work around that, but a lot of businesses send emails that feature one big image. When those emails are opened with those clients, they’re just blank.”

Consumers won’t tolerate that. Tomlin said she recently heard a conference presenter say that about 30% of Millennials immediately delete emails that don’t render properly.

Those recipients won’t follow a link to “view this email in a browser,” wait to see if images load, or try to figure out how to read it on their screen. They just delete your carefully crafted message or decide they don’t want to hear from your business again.

This is high-stakes stuff in terms of conversions and subscriber retention, but Tomlin says “even major retailers make this mistake.” One clothing retailer sends her emails that are blank, because “the email content is one big image with no live or alternative text” and Outlook doesn’t show it. Another apparel chain sent an email with lots of images that didn’t display, “and the alt text for every image was ‘turn on your images.’”

What’s the workaround when you’re sending image-heavy emails? “A good coder can style alternative text to match your brand. Stitch Fix uses alternative text really well, and it’s stylized to fill the image space if the images don’t load. With proper coding, using live text or well-designed alternative text… maybe the recipients will download the images.”

 

Pros and Cons of Off-the-Shelf Email Templates

If major retailers are tripped up by email coding, you can bet smaller businesses are, too. I asked Tomlin whether pre-made HTML templates from email marketing services can help SMBs avoid these email rendering pitfalls.

“Most off-the-shelf templates work just fine” for businesses that are starting out with an email program, “but they might not work for every audience.” Tomlin mentions accessibility for customers with disabilities as an example. “Most templates were developed a while back” before accessibility for people with low vision, hearing loss, and other issues was given a lot of attention, and many “aren’t up to date yet with accessible code.”

Another potential issue with pre-fab templates is simply the pace of change in the email industry. “Things change weekly, sometimes without any notice. Say Gmail decides to change something on their end, and that may totally screw up the rendering of your emails on, say, a certain type of phone,” but senders don’t realize that’s now a problem. “

Any good developer will keep tabs on the latest changes, notify clients, and update the code” as quickly as possible.

 

Best Practices to Avoid Email Coding Issues

I asked Tomlin what steps small businesses can take to avoid code-related email issues. The first is to format your emails to look good with or without images. “Using one big image with text” in your marketing emails “is not good practice. A properly coded email will have live text that shows up whether the image loads or not.”

Other best practices include:

  • Test your emails before you hit send. Most email marketing service providers will show you how your emails will look on a variety of devices.
  • Know your audience’s email habits and clients. “Use those analytics that your email marketing service provider collects. For example, if people aren’t opening your emails in Outlook, you can code some crazy awesome stuff to reach them” or hire someone to do that for you.
  • Know when it’s time for professional coding services. Tomlin cites three scenarios.
    • “When your conversions plateau or drop” or if your email program just isn’t hitting the targets you set, it’s time to look under the hood to see if rendering issues are part of the problem.
    • “When you gain a larger, more diverse audience, say, new customers from other countries,” an email code expert can ensure your new audience sticks around and opens your emails, regardless of the many devices and clients they use.
    • “When your emails don’t look right” even when you’re using a template. For example, Tomlin sometimes sees text-heavy emails with badly aligned columns or copy that gets truncated because it’s too long for the template.

When you decide to hire a professional, Tomlin suggests careful vetting. Look for developers who ask lots of questions about your audience and who share information to help you reach your goals. Email coding isn’t just using off-the-shelf templates. “A good coder will build your emails from the ground up and tailor them to your needs.”

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.

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How to Write Your Small Business Case Study https://www.hostgator.com/blog/write-first-small-business-case-study-website/ https://www.hostgator.com/blog/write-first-small-business-case-study-website/#respond Wed, 05 Sep 2018 19:30:47 +0000 https://www.hostgator.com/blog/?p=19230 The post How to Write Your Small Business Case Study appeared first on HostGator Blog.

How to Write Your First Case Study for Your Small Business Website Case studies—business students analyze them, successful businesses feature...

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How to Write Your First Case Study for Your Small Business Website

Case studies—business students analyze them, successful businesses feature them, and marketing experts say most businesses should have them. But how do you write them?

The case study creation process is sometimes a big roadblock for small business owners, especially those who don’t have an MBA or marketing experience.

In this post, we’ll walk you step by step down the road from deciding whether you need a case study to promoting your finished case study.

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What Is a Case Study?

A case study is a story about how a business helped a customer solve a problem or achieve a goal. Case studies offer more detail than a bite-size testimonial. They also frame the story so readers who are similar to the customer see why that business is the one to solve their issue.

People like stories, and marketers like case studies because they offer social proof, help businesses show their expertise, and help prospective customers understand complex or unusual products and services.

 

Does My Business Need Case Studies?

Almost certainly. If your business sells something expensive, highly technical, or so innovative that most prospects won’t be familiar with it, case studies can overcome cost objections, educate prospects, and demonstrate value.

For example, international smart home company Loxone sells its equipment and services to homeowners and builders. Loxone has a slew of case studies featuring smart houses from tiny modern to large Victorian, to show how individual homeowners use their products to make their home lives easier:

case study examples

Case studies can help you if your business offers simpler products and services, too. A well-written case study can anchor a marketing program that helps you compete on value rather than price. Dog groomers and cleaning companies can and sometimes do use case studies to show off their results and benefits to clients.

 

How Do I Write a Case Study?

Follow these 7 steps to write your first small business case study. We followed these steps ourselves when writing this HostGator small business case study.

 

1. Find your story.

Every good story starts with a challenge that the main character has to overcome, right? Think about the biggest challenges your customers expect your business to solve for them. Pick the most common one to build your first case study.

Let’s say you’re a residential remodeling contractor who specializes in retrofitting homes to be accessible for people with mobility issues, so most of your customers come to you looking to redo their entrances, room transitions, bathrooms, and kitchens.

 

2. Next, find your keywords.

Study the way your customers and would-be customers search for information on the problem you want to talk about in your case study.

  • What do your customers ask about when they first call or email you?
  • When you look at Google Analytics, which search terms are visitors using to find you?
  • Which social media posts generate the most likes and shares?

This is how you pick out the keywords and phrases that people use to connect to your business. Include them in your case study so prospects can find it, too.

 

3. Pick your case-study subject.

Ideally, you’ve got customers who love your work and send you referrals. These are the folks who are most likely to agree to talk with you about their experience. Ask them if they have the time and interest. When you get a yes, set up an interview.

Besides the time and date that works best for your interviewee, find these things out in advance:

  • How much time they have to talk. An hour is more than enough time for most small business case study interviews.
  • Whether they want to do the interview in person, by phone, via email, or another way.
  • How much personal info they’re willing to share. First name only? Family name only? Full name? Ideally, you’ll get a first and last name and a city, but people have different privacy preferences.
  • What photos will appear in the case study? In this example, before and after photos are the obvious choice, but photos of the client can add credibility, too.

 

4. Do the interview.

Record audio or video and take basic notes. Keep the tone conversational so they’ll feel comfortable talking. Ask about their challenge, why they chose your company to help them, how you solved their problem, and what the result was for them.

Focus on details that prospective customers can relate to: Were you able to widen a hallway that was too narrow to accommodate a wheelchair? Does your client enjoy cooking for friends now that the kitchen counter height has been changed?

If your customer’s results include facts and figures, use them (with the customer’s permission). If your home remodel saved a customer the cost of moving to a new home, or if you did a remodel for a landlord that allowed her to expand her market and fill more units, the numbers can impress prospective clients.

 

5. Write the first draft of your case study.

After the interview, use quotes from your customer, your chosen keywords, and any numbers that support your customer’s story. The simplest story structure is

  1. Your customer had a problem.
  2. Your customer chose your business because…
  3. You worked with your customer to deliver…
  4. You solved their problem by…
  5. You saved your customers X amount of time or money.
  6. Your customers’ lives are now better because of your product or service.

Let that first draft sit for a couple of days, revise it, and then ask someone else to read the revised version and offer feedback. Add your photos and graphics. When you’re happy with it, ask the customer to look it over in case there are any errors.

 

6. Publish your case study.

You can add it to your website’s About Us or Testimonials page or create a separate page for case studies.

Thank your customer for working with you on a marketing tool to help your business grow.

 

7. Promote your case study.

Share your case study with your email list and on social media. You can also blog about it, create a print version for in-person meetings and events, and even turn it into a video or podcast.

 

Congratulations! You’ve got your first case study.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.

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The #1 Way to Prepare Your Website for Holiday Traffic: Upgrade Your Hosting https://www.hostgator.com/blog/prepare-website-holiday-traffic-upgrade-hosting/ https://www.hostgator.com/blog/prepare-website-holiday-traffic-upgrade-hosting/#respond Tue, 04 Sep 2018 14:27:59 +0000 https://www.hostgator.com/blog/?p=20093 The post The #1 Way to Prepare Your Website for Holiday Traffic: Upgrade Your Hosting appeared first on HostGator Blog.

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Is Your Site Prepared For Holiday Traffic? Time To Upgrade Your Hosting

When you’re getting your online store ready for the holiday shopping season, there’s a lot to plan, like Black Friday deals, seasonal products, and marketing campaigns. Remember to include the store itself in your holiday prep, too.

For customers to find and buy your holiday deals, your site has to stay up and running—no matter how many shoppers show up. It also has to stand up to hackers who try to sneak in with the holiday crowd.

Here’s how to prepare your site to handle heavier than normal traffic, give your shoppers a great experience, and keep your store secure.

 

Can Your Site Handle the Traffic Numbers You Expect?

Black Friday isn’t just crowded in brick-and-mortar stores. More than half of US shoppers made at least one purchase on Black Friday in 2017, and the total haul for online Black Friday sales last year was more than $5 billion.

That’s a lot of people going online. If your hosting plan includes monthly limits on how many visits your site can have, you could find your site hitting its traffic limit on the biggest shopping weekend of the year.

And if you can’t quickly scale up your site’s capacity to serve a throng of shoppers, your site could slow to a crawl or even crash.

What to do now: Look for real-time scalability that you can activate with a click to keep your site online and running smoothly even when goods are flying off your virtual shelves. Or look for an upgraded hosting plan that doesn’t cap monthly site visits so you can turn all your attention to your sales over the holidays.

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Are You Protected Against Downtime?

If your site does go offline during holiday sales, shoppers may only come back later if you have products they want and can’t get anywhere else. We’ve blogged about the importance of creating exclusive deals for Black Friday, and we just discussed why hosting scalability matters.

But there’s another thing that can lead to site crashes—hardware failure on the host’s end. It’s not common, because web hosts work hard to maintain their equipment, but it can happen. If it happens during peak shopping times, your business could suffer unless your host has a seamless Plan B.

What to do now: Find out if your hosting plan includes failover capability. Failover means your host is ready and able to switch your site to another server if there are any issues with your current one so your site doesn’t go offline due to issues on their end. Failover switches from one server to another are usually seamless, but some include a brief downtime during the transition. If your plan doesn’t include failover protection, it may be time to upgrade.

 

How Fast Do Your Store Pages Load?

Page load times are now a real factor in search results, so if you want your store to get found, it needs to get fast. When shoppers arrive, fast page loads can keep them in your store. The Financial Times found that just a one-second increase in page speed boosted engagement by 5%, showing that any improvement in load time is worth the effort.

Some page-speed improvements you can do yourself, like optimizing the images on your WordPress-powered site. When you’re planning page-speed improvements, keep in mind that your product pages will be the first place shoppers land in your store if they find you through product search results. But images and videos—the centerpieces of product pages—are often the slowest elements to load, and 40% of shoppers will simply leave if your page takes more than 3 seconds to load.

After you optimize your images, you can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to check your pages’ performance and get more suggestions for improvements. Your site may need more improvements that can only come from upgraded hosting, like proper cache configuration, top-of-the-line hardware, and optimal server density.

What to do now: Check your site’s performance on PageSpeed Insights. Use the recommendations Google generates to talk to your hosting service about upgrading for load time improvements.

 

Does You Have Site Security for Your Online Store?

Shoppers aren’t the only ones who flock to online stores during the holidays. Data thieves and other malicious actors know that during the holidays, merchants are so busy filling orders that they don’t notice or don’t have the resources to deal with data theft attempts and malware attacks.

The last thing you need during peak sales season is a data breach or denial of service attack that throws your business into chaos when it should be racking up sales.

As with page speed, some site security practices are up to you, like ensuring that you’re running the most up-to-date versions of your store platform, plugins, and related software. The devices you use to work on your store should be updated and fully secured, too. And we all know that it’s important to use secure, unique passwords.

But there are ways your hosting service can help, too.

What to look for: Does your current hosting plan include regular scans to detect and remove malware from your site? Is there an upgrade option that protects your store even further by guarding against DoS attacks that could crash your site?

 

Does Your Host Provide Website Analytics?

Maybe the only thing more important for retailers than strong holiday sales is a serious post-season analysis of holiday sales activity. Much of this will draw on your Google, email, and social media analytics, but some of it should come from your site itself.

Is it easy for you to find and monitor your site’s traffic trends, uptime, page load speed, and other performance data? You’ll need it to see what works during this year’s holidays and to plan how you can improve for next year.

What to do now: Check your dashboard to see what kind of site data is available to you. If you’re not seeing the type of performance data you’ll need to refine your site, talk to your host about upgrade options.

cloud hosting site analytics

Be Prepared with Upgraded Hosting

Make sure your hard work on holiday products and promotions pays off. Get ready now to welcome holiday season shoppers, give them what they want fast, keep your site safe, and gather valuable data.

Give yourself the gift of an upgraded hosting plan now, before the holiday rush begins. Learn more about HostGator’s cloud hosting and dedicated server plans.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.

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