If you’re working in e-commerce, it’s never too early to prepare for the holiday shopping season. This 10 Step CheckList written by Muhammad Sajjad Shahid from Cloudways will help you keep track of everything you need to have in place so you’ll be more than ready to maximize your sales in the following months. 

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The winter is coming, and so are some of the biggest shopping days. 2017 is the year of shopping, and with days such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Thanksgiving day, Green Monday, Free Shipping Day, the shopfest will only get bigger and bigger. All of these days are worth millions as a vast majority of the people have shopping lists for these days.

 

Online shopping became a global trend just a few years ago, and now it has spread like a wildfire across the world. The reason is simple – the shopping is done in a few clicks, and the parcel(s) is available on your doorstep with you still lying comfortably on your sofa.

 

Ecommerce has raked in huge revenues in 2016, and according to a survey, November and December drive 30% more sales than non-holiday months. With Amazon experimenting with pickup points, drone delivery and Alibaba emerging as the biggest online retailer, the ecommerce scene is heating up as the days grow cold.

 

But what about your online store? I researched a lot about optimizing e-commerce stores for the holiday season. Here is a perfect online store checklist that will prepare your store for the crunch time of the upcoming holiday season.

Prepare The Content

You should make all your holiday season’s content before the season arrives. The content lineup includes store’s videos, marketing material, product details, coupon codes, CTA’s, blog posts, banners, etc.

 

In addition, the content for your social media marketing for the holiday season should be ready to be fired up. If your campaign requires digital brochures or any other marketing material, make sure they are ready and good to go.

 

Tip: Product photos should be original and not photoshopped. The common complaint all online shoppers have is that they don’t get what they see in the online stores.

Scale Up With UX

User experience is one of the most important elements of your online store. Especially during the shopping season when there is unusually high traffic on the online store, the visitors should feel at ease while browsing your web store. Human brain prefers to work with visuals, and this is why your website should be visually pleasing.

High-res images slow down online stores, and this is why the store should have the latest cache technologies integrated within the website. These technologies ensure that the store does not slow down for any user. On the whole, an online store with a better user experience would eventually rake in more sales as it grabs the attention of the users and convinces them into finalizing the sale.

 

Tip: Managed ecommerce hosting is a big plus for your online store, and Cloudways fits perfectly in the requirements of almost every online store. The platform makes your web store blazing fast because of its Thunderstack that integrates the latest cache technologies.

Prepare For The Early Birds

We are entering the end of September, and this is the time when you should start preparing for the early shoppers. Already, the majority of potential online customers have started searching for holiday discounts, products, and deals.

 

Although, the audience that is hitting your website nowadays isn’t interested in buying just now but remember, they are researching for the best deals. Your store should flaunt the available online deals, and the store should look like it is ready to celebrate the whole shopping festival.

 

Tip: You must offer coupon codes before the holiday season starts. This will help shoppers in considering your store in the first place.

Optimizing Your Store

Now comes the technical part. Your web store should be optimized to face the surge in traffic and provide a low load time. Your store should be hosted on the right web host in order to avoid downtime. A store that goes down during a holiday season will be a total failure as the first bad impression will kill its credibility.

 

The product images should be compressed and optimized for mobile devices. The online store must be mobile friendly as a large part of online shoppers use mobile devices for internet usage.

 

The overall store experience should be designed to be fast. Also, the payment options should be optimized and diverse including credit/debit cards, cryptocurrency, PayPal, etc.

 

Tip: To avoid downtime and to get amazingly low load times, try to host your web store on a managed cloud hosting platform.

Is Your Store SEO Optimized?

The very first step in online shopping is Google. This means that if your web store isn’t on Google’s first page, you are most likely to lose a potential customer. Your online store should be SEO optimized, and every product description, blog post, video description and product tagline should be aligned with the Google requirements. The backlinking game should be strong in your content, and you should focus on trending keywords that have the potential to drive traffic to your web store.

 

Tip: Focusing on long tail keywords is one of the best practices for driving relevant traffic to your online store. Excluding negative keywords is also a great way of cutting out irrelevant traffic from the e-commerce store.

Keeping Up With The Inventory

The holiday season is all set for huge sales and overselling is a major issue that sour up the deal for many online stores. You need to be aware of how much stock is in your inventory and if your inventory management software is working fine with an updated record.

 

In order to handle exponential sales, you got to have excessive stock. This is only possible if you have up to 3 times stock in the inventory. You have to be optimistic while thinking of your expected sales during the holiday season.

 

Tip: If you have a small e-commerce store, you should use spreadsheets for inventory management. Additionally, your inventory spreadsheets should reflect each type of product separately so that you can identify issues immediately.

Packaging Is Important

Online stores overlook the importance of packaging. The very first thing that a customer notices about your product is its packaging. A product that is wrapped in attractive packaging creates a positive memory in your client’s mind that could translate into a repeat sale.

 

Another element to consider about packaging is stocking the packaging material on the whole. With excessive sales, your packaging material will be used excessively too, and you should have extra packaging in your warehouse.

 

Tip: Try to make an impact with your packaging. A simple scoop of ice cream looks more delicious with an extra topping of sauce over it.

Shipping Matters!

One big reason for buying online is the comfortable and rapid process of product delivery, aka shipping. Fast shipping is one of the main reasons why customers opt for online shopping in the first place. Shipping service should be reliable, and if your store can offer same day delivery, you would be amazed at the sales figures.

 

Make sure you deliver products at the deadline, and it would be really cool if the product is delivered before time. The quality of shipping service directly affects customer satisfaction.

 

Tip: Human error definitely exists, and with uncertain natural conditions, parcels could get late. In such cases, you can always offer a freebie with the package to compensate for the shipping glitch.

Prompt Customer Support

The customer is king, and you have to facilitate your clients to the best of your capabilities.  Customer support is essential particularly in the holiday season because, with the rise in orders, shoppers would need more help and assistance.

 

Update customer support hours, manuals and key points clearly on your web store as well as the social media channels associated with it. Online buying is all about building trust with your consumers by interaction and by providing prompt customer support.

 

Tip: Make use of social media platforms and apps to resolve customer queries. Use Whatsapp, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, etc., as your CS channels.

Build Trust With A Return Policy

What if the product does not fulfill customer’s expectations and they want to return it? There is no need to panic as a client has all the right to return a product. What your store needs is a clear return policy.

 

A return policy that reflects trust always leaves a good impression on visitors, and they are most likely to purchase because of the easy return policy.

 

Tip: To avoid returns, you can always use open box deliveries so that customers will only pay if they are satisfied with the quality and quantity.

 

That’s all folks. You can always comment with ideas that pop up in your mind on this topic and lastly, if you want a free credit of $15 at Cloudways (the best managed ecommerce hosting for your online store), enter the coupon code OMNICLOUD.

 

Happy Holiday Season to all of you 🙂

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Sajjad is an Ecommerce Community Expert at Cloudways. He loves helping out Ecommerce store owners, merchants, and marketers in establishing their businesses and startups. Catch him on twitter @i_sajjadshahid

 

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