Is Your Website Holiday Ready?

holiday readyAccording to the National Retail Federation, holiday retail sales are expected to top $655 billion in 2016, a full 3.6 percent increase over 2015.

As much as $117 billion of those sales are believed to be going straight to non-store sources, primarily eCommerce. With so much at stake, there’s no reason that your website should not be holiday-ready. There’s still time to get it in shape for those monumental holiday shopping sprees.

Here are some small business tips you can use to increase sales and improve holiday numbers this season and beyond:

• Optimize your inventory. No matter what you’re selling, there’s stuff that some people simply aren’t buying. Those things are taking up both physical and metaphorical space in your facilities and on your website, creating visual clutter and costing you more to store than is strictly necessary.

Instead of keeping products around that no one is buying, review your logistics data and find the waste. Optimize your inventory, introduce more products like the ones that your customers already love and increase sales to your already enthusiastic fan base.

• Offer more options. If you’re not already giving your shoppers more ways to pay and ship, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to go above and beyond. Today’s shoppers have moved beyond cash, check or charge and are using a variety of digital payment methods as well.

On the shipping front, giving more options means consumers have better control over when and how their packages are delivered and if they can reroute them on the fly. They may be more than willing to pay for the convenience, but you have to give them the opportunity to choose.

• Stress test your servers. There’s nothing as off-putting as a retail website that goes down just as you’re about to finalize your holiday purchases. The holiday season is a stressful time for everybody, including eCommerce servers, so do your shoppers a favor and perform some dry runs beforehand.

Stress test your servers, ensure that your site can handle the surge in visitors and that it won’t break just because everyone wants to come and buy at once. A little prevention ahead of the holiday season can create a huge amount of customer loyalty down the line.

• Look to mobile and omnichannel. Many retailers are still running sites that are designed to be web-only and are ignoring the growing throngs of customers who prefer shopping using a mobile app or who move between devices before finalizing their transaction. Both mobile apps and omnichannel approaches will help you reach an even wider audience, many that might be otherwise lost to competition who happen to give them a more preferred way to connect.

• Build promos and content now. Once Black Friday comes, you’re going to be swamped and there simply won’t be time for everything. You can save yourself a lot of headaches by creating as much content, as many plans and as many of your marketing pieces as you can now.

Editorial calendars can help keep you on track through the busy season, as well as simple to do lists. Putting your plan in place while the eCommerce seas as calm means that when things get wild, you’ll still be in command.

There’s still time to get ready for the holiday shopping season, but you’d better hurry. Just remember that optimization, options and omnichannel are the keys to customer happiness and building those marketing materials in your downtime can help keep you sane when things are spinning out of control. There’s no magic behind successful eCommerce, just practical customer care and preparation for a digital world.