The holiday season is the final slog of the year for eCommerce businesses (or anybody, really). Customers are needing all sorts of services and getting gifts for friends, family and themselves. For eCommerce stores, it means web traffic will be spiking exponentially and it’s up to you to ensure your business is prepared for the incoming wave.

Business owners will likely be wondering the following questions:

  1. Is preparing even worth it?
  2. What do I need to do to prepare?

Below we’ll answer both of these questions and explain why or how.

Should You Prepare for the Holiday Season?

The short answer is yes! It’s well worth the time; the holiday season is hugely profitable. You don’t necessarily need to prepare for all of it, maybe you want to pinpoint a couple of holidays and aim to profit big on those. It might not make sense, be appropriate, or be viable for all eCommerce businesses to be present during the entire holiday season, but you should look to play the game where you can.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become massive shopping events over the past 40 years and have now become national events globally.

Other than just varying Christmas sales The US currently celebrates the following seasons:

  • Black Friday
  • Small Business Saturday
  • Cyber Monday
  • Cyber Week
  • Free Shipping Day – The date varies, but usually around mid-December.
  • Super Saturday

The UK doesn’t have a free shipping day but they do have the hugely popular Boxing Day.

There’s plenty of opportunity for users to purchase, and each year the amount of eCommerce sales increases. In 2018 we saw Cyber Monday sales reach a record-breaking 7.9 billion in online sales—2.83 billion of those sales were generated from mobile devices. This is reflective of the general trend of mobile eCommerce and digital shopping becoming more popular than physical shopping. It’s also reflective of eCommerce providing an escape from the chaos that ensues during the holiday season. There’s no need to get up early in the morning, race against other customers to get hold of a product or wait in long queues.

The stats are there, it’s up to you if you want to get a slice of the holiday pie, even a sliver represents a lot of conversions.

Preparing for Holiday Shoppers: 4 Tips

Of course, preparation goes well beyond purchasing more inventory and gift wrap. Frontend and backend development plays a massive role in preparation. Time is extremely valuable during the holiday season, if your website goes down, you’re losing a lot of money. If there was any time for your development team to do overtime, it’s now. Or perhaps just ask them to keep a laptop with them just in case of an unexpected crash.

Here’s everything you need to do when preparing for holiday shoppers.

1.    Website and Shopping Cart Functionality

Go through all of your pages, checking every possible function and navigation path. Ensure everything is working. Your website needs to be ready to handle a larger amount of traffic than usual. If expecting a massive increase in traffic, you’ll probably want to contact your website hosting platform and upgrade your plan temporarily, you may have to do this a month in advance.

If you’re using an eCommerce platform like WordPress or Shopify, there are a couple of other things you can do to prepare for extra web traffic.

  • Install a caching plugin. This can significantly reduce the amount of “loading” that needs to be done by your server and decrease bounce rates.
  • Install a content delivery network (CDN). This is most necessary if you’re expecting customers from all over the globe. A CDN creates copies of your website at different servers all over the world. This decreases the loading burden on your main server and will speed up loading time for global users.

Don’t make big changes to your website during the holiday period. Make large site updates well in advance.

Many businesses will rely on an offshore development team to alleviate any technical problems during the holiday season. Ideally this will be a development team you’ve been working with the entire year or would like to work with the following year. The success of these development teams is dependent on creating functional eCommerce stores that either don’t crash or are restored very quickly. If looking abroad, limit your search to certain countries and cities. India is one of the most affordable countries for hiring, and web development companies in Kolkata are known for their excellent princes. Offshore hiring will allow you to sleep easy during the holiday period—our recommendation would be offshore development company CodeClouds.

2.    Ensure Your Site is Responsive

Being mobile responsive is incredibly important. As you read earlier, mobile devices accounted for about a third of online sales on Cyber Monday. Assume that your store will receive the same treatment. The holiday season is lively, people are travelling and they need to be able to access your store on the go. Your website needs to be easily readable on smaller screens, especially during checkout!

3.    Return and Refund Policy Clarity

Although buying online is becoming more immersive or interactive than ever, users still never know if those shoes fit until they have them. More than at any point in the year, your return policy becomes a big influence on whether someone converts or not. Your return policy needs to be clearly viewable and is easily understandable.

Your policy should clearly explain the following:

  • What a user needs to do to adhere to the policy
  • What specific circumstances you offer a return or refund
  • The timeframe in which returns or refunds are possible
  • How long it takes for a return or refund to process

4.    Clearly Show Shipping Cutoff Dates

Shipping is insane during the holiday period, and orders can take significantly longer to clear and arrive at their destination. During checkout, these dates should appear as an easily viewable message when a user is choosing their shipping options. It’s a good idea to make a separate holiday landing page with these dates front and centre. You should also include these dates and a link to that page in any sales reminders you send out.

Remember

The main thing is to prepare well in advance! Outsourcing development will eliminate any technical stress you may encounter and allow business owners to focus on their products and services. Stores that are functional, mobile responsive, and provide customers everything they need can expect success. All the best!

We hope you enjoyed this article. The holiday season means many things for eCommerce businesses. For many freelancers, entrepreneurs and small businesses, the critical time of year means you often don’t get to enjoy the nice chunk of paid annual leave that others enjoy around that time. If you don’t already work from a coworking space, read about how coworking through the Monday blues makes your week easier.