15 tips & ideas for optimizing your website for the Holidays

$43 Billion.

That’s how many dollars passed through e-commerce in Q4 of 2010 (comScore). And the prediction is that consumers will spend more than that during the holiday season in 2011.

Are you ready?

1. Review Q4 metrics from 2010

Take a look at your analytics data from last year. What were your top referring sites and keywords? Which were the best converting? Which pages performed well (bounce rate, conversions, etc.)? Which performed poorly? Use this knowledge to target marketing messages and/or prioritize what parts of your site to tackle first.

If you have voice of customer (VOC) data, take a look at that as well. Where did customers succeed in 2010? Where did they struggle?

2. Fix the obvious

Do a crawl of your site or use webmaster tools to check for 404 errors and broken links. Fix them.

Make sure that you’re ready for 404 errors to happen anyway by having a good 404 page.

3. Tailor your value proposition to the Holidays

Shopping online lets your customers:

  • Save time
  • Save gas
  • Avoid the parking lot
  • Avoid lines
  • Find hard-to-find items
  • Use gift finders, wish lists, and guided selling

Incorporate this type of messaging into your site, and make it prominent.

4. Promote desire paths

Most people want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Help get them there by using promotional areas devoted to holiday features and/or develop a special holiday navigation menu.

5. Personalization

If you have personalization capabilities, use them! Target customers based on whether they’re new or returning, what they’ve purchased previously, where they live, and anything else you know about them.

6. Service messaging

Online shoppers are naturally risk averse – they want to make sure they’re making the right decision. Help them answer their service questions by including easy and obvious content about or links to payment options, return policies, shipping policies, and inventory updates.

More importantly, make sure that they can get help if they need it. Live chat and/or obvious contact phone numbers should be available on every single page of your site.

7. Clicks to bricks

If you have bricks-and-mortar locations, make your store finder obvious. And if you have ship-to-store capabilities, make sure that customers know that’s an option.

8. Product badging

Help customers identify new items, sale items, great gift ideas (“Great for Mom!”), popular items, free shipping items, and top rated items by using product badging.

9. The clock is ticking

Include time-based messaging so that customers know when the cut-off date is for shipping and when specific deals or promos expire.

10. Promote gift cards

Pricegrabber reports that 52% of consumers plan to purchase gift cards this year. Use a promotional area to make it obvious to customers that they can easily purchase and send gift cards.

11. Add Holiday messaging to your meta data

Update your title tags and meta descriptions to include holiday messaging. This can help you stand out in search results and potentially rank better for holiday-related search terms.

12. Take advantage of all sales channels

If you’re not using Google Product Search, Bing Shopping, Amazon Marketplace, Nextag, and so on, now might be a good time to check out those shopping feeds.

If you are using them already, make sure that your feeds are updated daily with the latest product information.

13. Optimize your checkout process

This warrants a post all of its own: Optimizing Your E-Commerce Checkout for the Holidays.

14. Check your mobile experience

NRF reports that 52.6% of people who own a smartphone said they will use their phone to research products, redeem coupons, use apps to assist their purchase, and purchase holiday gifts and items. Is your mobile experience ready for that?

Retailers are also reporting that 21% of traffic is coming from tablets (Forrester). How does your site respond to touch-based interactions?

15. Test!

Run some A/B tests. You can try holiday vs. regular messaging, specific promos on different pages/site sections, time-based messaging, geotargeting, specific customer segments, and so much more to see what gets you the best ROI.

What’s your plan?

What are you doing to optimize your website for the holidays? How is it working for you? Leave a comment and let’s have a discussion!