Last-Minute Website Changes You Can Make to Drive Holiday Sales

Is there ever enough time to plan for the holidays? Not really, especially when you run an eCommerce store.

If you feel like you’re falling behind before the season even begins, don’t stress. Here are eleven things you can do over the next few days to get your site up to speed for more holiday sales. 

best dedicated server hosting

1. Upgrade your hosting plan.

Start the season by heading off eCommerce disaster. Traffic spikes on peak sales days can crash your site, cost you sales and damage your brand. Case in point: J. Crew’s 2018 Black Friday site crash cost the clothing retailer an estimated $700,000 in lost sales. It also generated negative press and lots of customer complaints on social media. 

jcrew black friday website crash
An online retailer’s worst-case Black Friday scenario

That’s no way to ring in the holidays. Check now to make sure your plan can accommodate your estimated peak traffic, and upgrade for more capacity if you need to.

2. Reuse what worked last holiday season.

Look over your sales and site traffic data. What were your most popular products and promotions? Feature them again. Which days were your busiest? Tease your best deals for those days. What search keywords led to the most conversions? Make sure they’re part of your holiday section.

3. Set up your holiday section now.

Build your Black Friday and Cyber Monday landing, category and product pages now. Test them for load time, display and function on desktop and mobile. Use the keywords that your holiday shoppers searched for most last year, plus any that are trending now. Make sure navigation between your store’s holiday section and the rest of your shop is seamless. Once you know it all works, put it up for your early bird shoppers.

Game, a UK-based retailer, consistently gets kudos for its well-designed Black Friday landing pages. Here’s its Black Friday preview page from 2017:

black friday preview page
Deals sorted by console, a newsletter opt-in and holiday keywords (Christmas gift ideas, Xbox deals, PS4deals). Nice!

Here’s what Game already has up for 2019, more than two months ahead of the big day:

black friday website preview by ecommerce site
Game is serious about Black Friday

4. Put your holiday gift cards front and center.

Gift cards were the most sought-after kind of present during the 2018 holiday season, and shoppers love them, too. Make sure visitors to your store can find them fast—especially once the shipping deadline passes for Dec. 25 delivery.

holiday shoppers prefer gift cards
National Retail Federation 2018 survey results

5. Don’t skimp on deals.

“Getting a great deal” was the top priority for 74% of 2018 holiday shoppers surveyed by Deloitte. Discounts are by far the most popular deal, but free shipping, bonus gifts and rewards points are popular, too. 

holiday shoppers look for promotions and discounts
Deloitte 2018 Holiday Survey of Consumers

Promote your upcoming deals early. Forty percent of shoppers have already started buying gifts by Nov. 1.

6. Show off your shipping options.

Yes, you should offer free shipping deals, because online shoppers love them—see the chart above. Also, make sure customers know about your free shipping deals, plus your other shipping options and the deadlines to ship for holiday arrival.

ecommerce site offers free shipping deals for holidays
A crystal-clear holiday shipping deadline notice

Don’t be subtle. Make a big, easy to see statement and include it on your homepage, product pages and checkout. Remember, shoppers are busy, most are on their phones, and they don’t want to dig through your site to find shipping deadlines.

7. Step up your customer service game.

More than half of online holiday purchases in 2017 were made on smartphones, Google found, as busy shoppers worked through their lists whenever they had a few spare minutes. Be ready to quickly answer customer questions about products, deliver times and deals.

You may need to scale up or outsource your human or chatbot customer service capacity during the holidays to meet demand. Facebook Messenger for Business is an easy and inexpensive always-on customer service option, too.

8. Check your social sharing capabilities.

Make it easy for customers people to share your products, deals, holiday content and promo codes on social media this holiday season. If your social share plugin doesn’t integrate with Google Analytics, you’re losing data that could help you create more effective promos and posts. AddToAny includes lots of social platforms, lets you customize more and delivers the analytics you need.

9. Serve up fun holiday content.

Now’s the time to update holiday content that did well for you last year or create something new. Stuck for ideas? Consider

  • a gift guide that features your bestsellers
  • a “customer picks” list that features the products with the best customer reviews
  • holiday recipes
  • favorite charities and nonprofits for holiday giving
  • holiday tips—for travel, entertaining or decorating
  • trend pieces that focus on what’s going to be hot in the year ahead
holiday content and gift guides
Uncommon Goods has more than two dozen niche gift guides

Include your social share buttons on this content and include links to your holiday products and landing pages.

10. Protect your holiday revenue from fraudsters.

Read up on common holiday eCommerce scams that target stores’ shipping practices to steal merch for resale. If you typically have a huge surge in orders that slows down your approval process during the holidays, talk now to third-party fraud prevention services about outsourcing your overflow during the holidays.

And consider upgrading your SSL certificate for stronger protection against man-in-the-middle attacks that can steal your customers’ payment data. 

11. Buckle down on backups.

Black Friday site traffic surges, hacker antics and unexpected problems can knock stores offline right when they should be doing peak sales. If that happens, having a recent uncorrupted version of your site backed up and ready to install can make the difference between a banner day and a big loss. Check now.

Does your web hosting service offer automated daily backups, like HostGator’s Managed WordPress hosting plans do? If not, it’s time to add that capability through a service like CodeGuard.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance B2B content marketing writer. Her specialty areas include SMB marketing and growth, data security, IoT, and fraud prevention