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10 Ways to Break E-Commerce Records this Holiday Season

10 Ways to Break E-Commerce Records this Holiday Season Mark Simpson
The time has come that you’ve been planning for all year: the holiday shopping season. In fact, (especially) if you’re an Internet retailer, I’d be surprised if you even have time to read this post. But if you do, following even a few of these tips can significantly increase your website potential, and keep your brand dancing in customers’ heads as they shop this season.

Year over year, online holiday spending continues to grow. In fact, comScore cited that the 2011 U.S. online holiday shopping season reached a record $37.2 billion for the November-December period. That was up a whopping 15%  from 2010. 

So here we are standing in the face of the 2012 holiday season, and you’re yearning to be a big part of that exponential growth. But enticing shoppers to visit your online store is only a small piece of the holiday pie. Closing the sale is what counts, and a lot of obstacles could trip up your visitors along the way. Ensure your site is primed and ready for the holiday shopping season by adhering to these 10 rules:

  1. Get in the holiday spirit. It may seem obvious, but decking your site out with a festive look and feel, and clearly displaying your promotions and featured products, will keep customers in the shopping mood as they decide on their purchases.

  2. Become a homepage hero. Hero imagery is huge. Clear calls-to-action (CTA) are essential. We know your page has a lot to offer, but a clearly designed homepage with a few standout crisp images and strategically placed CTAs will get your customers on the path to purchase. Don’t overwhelm and overload visitors with homepage content, but rather invite them to explore.

  3. Make navigation easy. If shoppers are bounced around a poorly designed website, they won’t fill up their shopping cart or get anywhere near the checkout line. Get the navigation basics right—include a search facility, make the checkout page prominent, and make it easy for customers to jump between pages without wiping forms clean every time.

  4. Simplify category pages. Holiday visitors are gift shoppers, which means they might be searching, scrolling, comparing and filtering a bit more than usual as they search for the perfect present. Category pages are crucial to making that process frustration free, while giving visitors an array of product images to explore further. Quick “pop-outs” when visitors mouse over products that show the product in more detail without having to click to another page can be a great way to optimize users’ browsing flow.

  5. Perfect product pages. Your featured product should be presented clearly, largely and with multiple images showing various angles. Zoom and hover functionality replicate in-store experiences, while bold, eye-catching “Add to Cart” CTAs (above the fold!) encourage desired behavior when the visitor is ready to consider buying.

  6. Embrace ratings and reviews. When you’re picking out a holiday gift, the security of knowing its quality, size, color, fit, etc. is an additional point of reassurance that can help turn a visitor into a buyer. It also keeps visitors on your site, instead of bouncing off to research elsewhere. Rankings by number or star systems quickly and clearly rate the product, allowing the user to seek out more detailed reviews to answer any questions or doubts about the product immediately.

  7. Up-sell and cross-sell. Making the right product recommendations to consumers at the right stage of the buying phase can inspire shoppers and boost Average Order Values. Recommendations such as “people who bought this, also bought this” or showing complementary add-ons is essential. Remember, consumers are buying gifts, so recommending products based on their past purchases might not be appropriate during November and December.

  8. Make it easy to buy. If the registration, login and checkout processes are difficult, most shoppers will simply give up and buy from a competitor. The shopping cart funnel should be clean and clear, with as few distractions as possible. Include a progress indicator so customers know exactly where they are in the checkout process, and make forms feel a bit less cumbersome.

  9. Be honest about shipping. Some consumers will always procrastinate when it comes to holiday shopping, but online retailers can help alleviate their stress with clear shipping messages during checkout. Make sure that visitors know when their purchase will ship and arrive, the various options for shipping (ground, next day, etc.) and gift wrap add-ons. When it comes to crunch time, visitors will choose a competitor over you—regardless of price—if they guarantee an on-time arrival and you don’t.

  10. Ensure security. Emphasizing site security at every step of the process to reassure shoppers is crucial. Visual cues, such as locks or seals, along with supporting language, is a simple but necessary item for improved checkouts. With holidays being prime time for credit card fraud, customers need to know their information is safe with you.

All of these tips should be thoroughly tested with your live audience using A/B and multivariate testing to drive higher conversion rates. Even subtle changes such as font size, color and language can have a huge impact on revenues. These data insights will inform future content and design decisions for better optimization in 2013.

Mark Simpson is Founder and President of Maxymiser, a global conversion-rate optimization company.  Since moving from the UK to launch the company in the U.S. in 2010, Mark’s focus has been on launching MaxMOBILE ™, a proprietary...

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