10 tips to help prepare your web store for the upcoming 2022 holiday shopping season.
Contrary to the changes in retail and consumer behavior which occurred during the pandemic, retailers still rely on the holiday shopping season for a healthy portion of their annual revenue. According to the National Retail Federation, the period between mid-November and the end of December accounts for nearly a quarter of most business’ annual revenue on average, with some industries earning 30% or more. It’s easy to understand why businesses get so aggressive with their advertising and marketing efforts and discounting during that time of year and for those companies that operate on the Internet, it’s absolutely crucial that their websites are in order.
It’s never too early to start preparing your website for the holidays but with (as of this writing) only 10 weeks left until the end of the year, you should probably get a move on it as soon as possible. Use our checklist of 10 ways to prepare your website for the holidays so that you’ll be ready to take on the mass influx of holiday traffic and make the most of the season.
10 Ways to Prepare Your Website for the Holiday Shopping Season
- Evaluate Your Website
- Assess Your Available Inventory
- Schedule Holiday Sales, Promos, and Discounts
- Create Holiday-centric Web Content and Target Relevant SEO
- Tweak and Adjust Website Design
- Optimize Product Pages
- Update Your Software and Security
- Prepare for Increased Web Traffic
- Test Website Speed and Performance
- Market and Advertise
Evaluate Your Website
Do a complete and detailed runthrough of your website. Be sure to take note of and correct any issues that you may encounter. This needs to encompass the visual aspects, the business aspects, and the technical aspects.
- Correct any spelling errors for all displayed text.
- Check if your images are correct, reupload any that are incorrect or fail to load.
- If applicable, check to ensure any embedded media is loading and displaying properly.
- Make sure your website displays properly on mobile devices.
- Verify that your current pricing is correct.
- Correct any outdated information such as EMail and phone contacts.
- Are your products in their correct categories? Are the categories themselves correct?
- Test your shopping cart.
- Rectify any dead links, set up 301 redirects.
- Is your website navigation working as it should?
- Check for bugs in page loading, page display, etc.
- Test the checkout.
A smoothly operating website that loads quickly and displays seamlessly on both mobile and desktop platforms will help cut down your bounce rate, as well as increase your odds of converting the random site visitor into a paying customer.
Asses Your Available Inventory
Do a stock check on all of your available inventory and make sure it’s able to be sold online. Replenish low stock items immediately, but be mindful of shipping and delivery times as not all vendors are operating at pre-COVID capacities. If you have sales data from previous holiday seasons, use those figures to estimate the amount of sales and customer demand you will have this year. Make sure you have enough stock to cover the few remaining weeks leading up to the holiday shopping season and the holiday shopping season itself and be sure to keep in mind that holiday sales can continue well into January. Take advantage of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day to stretch your holiday sales promos.
Schedule Holiday Sales, Promos, and Discounts
Starting now until the end of December, map out your holiday promotions plan. What products are going on sale? When are they going on sale? Are you using coupon codes or an automatic discount? Schedule your sales/promos/discounts around the major shopping days of the holiday season such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, National Free Shipping Day.
10 Key Dates for the 2022 Holiday Shopping Season
- 24 – Thanksgiving
- 25 – Black Friday
- 26 – Small Business Saturday
- 28 – Cyber Monday
- 12 – Green Monday
- 14 – National Free Shipping Day
- 17 – Super Saturday
- 24 – Christmas Eve
- 25 – Christmas
- 31 – New Year’s Eve
Black Friday is the most important shopping day for both brick-and-mortar and online retailers, but brick-and-mortar stores are even starting to pay attention and run their own promotions during typical ‘eCommerce Only’ days such as Cyber Monday. To increase your chances of netting the most web traffic and potential sales during this year’s holiday season, it’s a good idea to not only pay attention to what your direct competitors are doing in regards to holiday sales, but also watch the large general retailers and big-box stores and stay on top of their every move. Not only are you competing within your chosen industry, you also have to deal with retail juggernauts such as Amazon and Walmart whose ‘sell-everything-under-the-sun’ business models will, most likely, include the very same field and industry in which you choose to operate.
Create Holiday-centric Web Content and Target Relevant SEO
If your retail website includes a blogging feature, you should take full advantage of it by creating as much holiday-centric content in the way of written articles and blogs to promote your website, your products, and your sales during the holidays. These pieces don’t need to be full manuscripts (in fact, shorter is better) but they do need to reflect on your current offerings during the holiday season. Do keyword and keyphrase research that’s relevant to your brand, your products, and the holidays and be sure to include them all in your content. When you publish your content, be sure that it can be shared across the Internet. Shared content generates public interest which, in turn, attracts robots and web crawlers that will boost your rankings within the Google search results. Creating a special holiday-themed landing page is also a good way to capitalize on keywords and keyphrases to shift SEO in your favor.
Tweak and Adjust Web Design
Any main images, headers, footers, banners on your website that can be easily changed out should be displaying holiday shopping promotional material. Like the written content, they don’t need to be overtly plentiful or loud and garish, but visually distinctive enough to let your website’s visitors and repeat shoppers know that your store will be offering special deals during the holiday rush. Some web design critics may even suggest that you incorporate some visual gimmickry into your website, such as .CSS falling snowflakes but we don’t 100% endorse that idea entirely. You need to consider your current website’s loading speed, performance, and stability as all will be stretched to their absolute limits during the holidays. Any additional unnecessary coding, such as a .CSS animation, increases load times and overall website performance–even if they aren’t noticeable to the naked eye. Slowing down your web page loading speed, even a humanly-imperceptible reduction in speed, will be picked up by Google, which does factor in load times and website performance into its SEO algorithms. We’re not saying to NOT do it at all (it is YOUR website, afterall) but know and weigh the risks.
Optimize Product Pages
It’s not uncommon for Google to pick up on and display one of your product pages higher in their search ranks rather than your website’s homepage. This is particularly true if you happen to sell a hot item and you’ve had excellent success with regular traffic and conversions. Actually, if you have a product page or product pages that rank high in Google Search, it means you did something right with how your page is laid out, the information available, etc. However, don’t be expecting to hold onto that prime real estate forever. During the holidays especially, other retailers will start trying to muscle in on that optimal top spot in the search rank and if you let it sit as-is, they will boot you down the list.
In our earlier article, How to Optimize Your Product Page for Higher Conversions, we go over the importance of content and the availability of product upsells and cross-sells.
For content, be mindful of the following:
- Product Titles
- Don’t stretch your product titles with seemingly relevant keywords, this has the opposite effect which is known as ‘keyword stuffing’ and will actually work against you.
- Keep the character count under 75 so that the complete title displays for both desktop and mobile users.
- For the same products that are sold by both you and a major retailer(s), try to use the major retailer’s exact wording. You may be able to piggyback off of their search ranks. Also, some manufacturers/vendors require that their resellers use pre-chosen brand-specific wording.
- Product Descriptions
- Summarize all of the product’s features without blatantly overembellising or telling inaccuracies that can be disproven.
- Bullet-list product descriptions are easier for humans to process but descriptive paragraphs can help you hone in on keywords and keyphrases, which will help boost SEO.
- Product descriptions themselves can also be shareable content.
- Product Photos
- You don’t need a professional photo studio and high-end equipment in order to take good product photos, but your photography area should be well-lit and clear of clutter. Any modern smartphone’s camera is adequate enough to take product photos; many have become far more advanced since the date of our original posting in 2017.
- Camera tripods, mounts, and equipment are not necessary, but you should have a steady-enough hand or make use of any available anti-shake or stability feature in your camera. This will help you get the clearest shot and reduce the amount of correction you’ll need to do with digital photo editing software.
- Alternatively, you can try obtaining product photos directly from your vendors. Some manufacturers actually prefer if retailers use their official photos as they will display the product as intended and in the absolute best and most appealing fashion.
For product upsells and cross-sells, remember:
- Upsells and cross-sells are additional product suggestions that carry the potential of increasing a shopper’s ticket or average order value.
- Upsells are typically items of a higher quality, higher pricepoint that are sold within the same category. A shopper may be attracted to one item at first, but choose the flashier and fancier version you have available instead. It also works the other way around; a shopper may be drawn to the more expensive item but will settle for the lower-cost option. Whichever way, you’ve managed to keep the shopper’s interest long enough that they made a purchase with you instead of your competitor.
- For products that have separately-sold accessories, these make perfect cross-sells. If the accessories are not so much optional as they are more consumable items or items that will need to be replaced over time, shoppers tend to purchase them along with the main item.
Update Your Software and Security
SaaS eCommerce platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce offer software and security updates that can be installed manually, automatically, or through automation. This is a major advantage that these two platforms and other self-hosted solutions have over other eCommerce service providers as the responsibility is somewhat lifted from the store owner. However, if your store uses open source software as a foundation or another software provider that requires its users to update the base software and SSL certificates on their own, it is ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE that you make sure that these are addressed and, if needed, rectified. Continuing to use an older version of software that has since gone through a revision (or revisions) will increase the likelihood of a failure; the failure could be as small as an image or image block failing to load or as major as a glitch that disables the website’s functionality and, essentially, breaks the website itself. For security-related concerns, remember that in 2018, Google requires all online businesses to have an up-to-date SSL certificate. SSL certificates provide peace of mind to shoppers and Google considers SSL certificates when ranking websites. Be sure to keep an eye on the expiration dates of your SSL Certificate(s). If they are out-of-date or about to expire soon, you will need to take immediate action.
Prepare for Increased Web Traffic
Regardless of whether your web store has the best selection of merchandise and the best sales promos of the season, slow loading times and unstable performance will turn shoppers away and send them to your competition. As reported by Medium, loading speed and performance is cited by 52% of online shoppers as a determining factor for their loyalty to a website. A page must load in less than two seconds for 47% of shoppers, and it must load in less than three seconds for 40% of shoppers. Similarly, a 2018 Pingdom report showed that pages that loaded within two seconds had a 9% bounce rate whereas a bounce rate of 38% was recorded for pages that loaded in an average of five seconds. Website speed and performance are always important–and even more so during the holiday season, when web traffic tends to surge the most.
Here are 5 do-it-yourself tips to help boost your website’s loading speed and stabilize its performance:
- Optimize Your Images – .JPG is the best image format that balances image quality and file size, but pay attention to the compression technique. Large images don’t need to be set to maximum quality. Avoid the use of .GIF and .PNG formats as these can result in weighty files that take longer to load.
- Limit Your Apps/Plug-Ins and Integrations – Too many apps, plug-ins, and integrations–especially, too many of them from different developers–can slow load speeds and jeopardize performance. Use only what is absolutely necessary for your business.
- Limit Your Redirects – 301 redirects are necessary so that any dead links or legacy content doesn’t result in a 404 error that can harm SEO and lead website visitors to think that something’s wrong with your website. Any redundant redirects should be eliminated outright.
BONUS TIP: Check if your payment gateways are secured and do test orders to make sure that your payment processors can handle increased transactions.
For more details, read our article, Top 5 Tips for a Faster Website.
Test Website Speed and Performance
Once you’ve addressed and corrected any and all detriments to your website’s overall speed and performance, now’s the time to stress test it. A basic Google search for free website speed tests are available. Additionally, you and your team can test the website’s most used operations yourselves and search for any leftover bugs. Be aggressive. Don’t be afraid to intentionally try and cause a glitch or hangup; it’s better that these problems are found and dealt with now than have them pop up during the holiday rush. Remember: the majority of web traffic coming to you will be from first-time shoppers and first impressions matter.
Market and Advertise
In addition to running a solid SEO campaign, you need to market and advertise your store for the holidays because this is when the competition will be at its most ferocious. For free, word-of-mouth advertising, take advantage of the popular social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Facebook and Instagram also have options for paid or sponsored posts, but most content that goes viral happens by simple user-to-user sharing. If your budget allows, put some money towards paid Google Ads to really hone in on keywords and keyphrases. This will also help boost your SEO in ways that organic SEO cannot. For your most loyal customers or those who have subscribed to a mailing list (if you have such available), get them ready to start shopping your store with special coupons and promo codes. A caveat to the latter is that even so-called “exclusive” codes will end up on bargain hunter websites such as Retail Me Not. Depending on your eCommerce platform, there are ways to fully restrict usage but, on the other hand, you can consider someone leaking your special exclusive deals onto a public website as free marketing and advertising. Just be sure your product stock levels are sufficient to handle a sudden mass spike in orders if this should happen.
Good Luck this holiday season!