It’s that time of year again and merchants around the world are gearing up for the holiday sales. Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM), as well as Thanksgiving sales, are right around the corner and you need to prepare your eCommerce website now rather than later.
Traffic spikes during the holiday sales and this can lead to websites slowing down or crashing altogether. You don’t want to lose out on the revenue that the holiday sales bring in because you didn’t take the time to optimize your websites.
Holiday traffic in 2020 will take place largely online, so make sure your eCommerce store is optimized.
Expected sales and traffic during the holiday sales 2020
Foot-traffic is expected to drop around 25% this holiday season - and that’s assuming COVID-19 outbreaks don’t do even more economic damage with more lockdowns being imposed. Another way of reading this is: online sales are going to have their biggest year ever.
As an eCommerce merchant, you need to know how to prepare for holiday sales this year and beyond. Web traffic spikes can cause your website to slow down and even crash in extreme circumstances.
Statistics from Digitalcommerce360 show that:
- Digital traffic is expected to increase by 34%, according to SalesForce
- The software firm also projects that 30% of total retail sales will take place online
- Sales will begin early this year to take the burden off of shipping
- Digital revenue from holiday sales is expected to hit a record $221 billion
- Ecommerce is expected to grow around 25%
- Traffic to brick and mortar stores is expected to drop 25%
As you can see, online stores are going to be put to the test like never before. Merchants will have to prepare in advance to offset the peak of the holiday sales traffic, including hiring part-time help, stocking up on popular products, and optimizing the hell out of their online stores.
Common problems from traffic spikes
While having more visitors to your store might sound like a net positive, you must prepare for any problems it might cause and have solutions ready to implement quickly and efficiently in the event something does go wrong.
- Slow page loading times
- Website crashes
- Stock shortages
- Overwhelmed staff
- Reduced customer service
- Increased bounce rate and cart abandonment
That’s a long list of problems, but fear not, there are simple solutions to them all. Make sure you prepare in advance and follow our tips to ensure these problems don’t result in a knock on your sales during the upcoming holiday season.
Best practices to handle traffic spike from holiday sales
The main theme here is forward planning. You’ll save yourself some major headaches this holiday sale if you prepare in advance and consider everything that could go wrong. This takes us to our first best practice.
The simple act of writing a list can reveal situations and strategies you hadn’t yet considered.
1) List everything that could go wrong
The first thing you need to know is what might go wrong so you can have back up plans in place. You have to assume that everything that can go wrong will go wrong.
- Will your website performance suffer if hit by a sudden spike in traffic?
- What happens if a random product turns into a best-seller and you don’t have the stock?
- Can you handle 100 people accessing your customer support channels over one hour?
- What if your supplier can’t ship products to you?
- What happens if a payment gateway fails?
- Do you have an expert on hand to fix any technical issues?
- What about if your website gets hacked?
- What happens if the postal service goes on strike?
List out all the possible scenarios that could stand in the way of your holiday sales and make a backup plan for each one. If your website performs weakly, take some customers over to your social media channels. If your customer support is overwhelmed, call up that friend who agreed to help out if things got tough. If a payment gateway collapses, you’ve already given an alternative option.
It’s not easy to prepare everything, especially with stay-at-home orders in place, but it needs to be done.
2) Prepare in advance
The more you prepare for the holiday sales in 2020, the easier the season will be for your business. Make sure you know which products are likely to fly off the shelves and which ones need to be promoted.
Use Google Analytics, as well as Shopify Analytics, to track which product pages people are viewing but not buying, as well as which products people are adding to their cart and abandoning. You can then optimize these product pages or promote them with a discount to improve their sales.
You should know which products will likely sell the most and ensure you have adequate stock. The last thing you want is to sell out halfway through December and not be able to restock in time. Talk with your suppliers and get an idea of how easy restocking will be if something goes wrong.
You should be running ads for popular products, promotions, and putting out targeted content leading up to the holiday sales to ensure people are seeing your brand.
- Ensure your social media channels are up to date
- Make sure you’re responsive to messages and comments on social media
- Optimize your ad campaigns on Google Shopping, Facebook, and so on
- Make sure you’re putting out content to grow organic traffic
- Optimize everything for SEO
- Have a proper marketing plan in place
- Schedule ads and posts
- Track the effectiveness of your campaigns with analytics tools
Have a Plan B for everything
You’ve already listed out everything that could go wrong, so make sure you have a plan B for each scenario. I think we can all agree that planning ahead has been shown to be futile in 2020, so make sure you’re prepared for anything.
Retail giant GAP offers large discounts and promote seasonal collections on their homepage.
3) Optimize your eCommerce store
Now is the time to be making optimizations to your page load speed, website navigation, landing pages, and anything else that will affect your website’s UX.
Speed up page load times
Use Google Analytics to identify slow loading pages, then find what’s slowing the process down and optimize it. It’ll most likely be bulky images, videos, and other visual content.
People begin bouncing from your store very quickly once a page takes more than three seconds to load. Yes, you read that right, people are impatient.
Optimize landing pages
Removing internal site navigation, such as the menu bar, from your landing pages can result in a 100% conversion rate increase.
You should have a separate landing page for each campaign you run, as well as each promotion you’re offering. Research shows that companies with more than 40 landing pages get up to 15 times more leads than those with only five landing pages.
Show them what they want to see
Show visitors exactly what’s on sale. Don’t give them more information than they need and make sure your CTA buttons are simple and stand out from the rest of the page.
Optimize site navigation
If your visitors can’t find the products they want, they’ll leave. There are plenty of other stores out there (cough, Amazon) that sell similar products to you, so people aren’t going to stick around if your site has weak navigation.
Most people use the search function when they visit a website. Amazingly, most eCommerce stores completely ignore this crucial widget and suffer reduced conversions as a result.
PRO TIP: Use a smart search app
The Product Filter & Search app from Boost Commerce lets visitors see pictures and prices in the search bar as they type. It also comes with:
- Merchandising tools in the search widget
- Auto-correct and typo tolerance
- Synonym bank to show results for related products
- Site search analytics
Boost Analytics also lets you see what terms people are searching for, which, in turn, lets you know which products you should be promoting and discounting. You can also see which terms yield no results, giving you insight into what new products you might want to stock in the future.
Holiday sales can become too much to handle alone. Expanding your team to deal with the rush will help.
4) Consider hiring part-time support
The holiday sales are the busiest time of the year for most businesses. Your customer service can get strained during these times, which is why you should consider hiring part-time staff on a temporary basis. This could mean family and friends, people from the community, or outsourcing to a company for help.
The last thing you want is to not be able to keep up with orders, fulfillment, and customer service during the most important sales season of the year. You can hire people to help you with:
- Monitoring your social media channels
- Helping shoppers via a live chatbox
- Processing orders
- Packaging and shipping
- Producing marketing content
Make sure anyone you hire is briefed on customer service expectations. You should always put the customer first and have a warm and polite staff to address customers, after all, these people are the human face of your brand.
5) Reach out to customers first
Don’t wait for people to reach out to you. Instead, send out emails, messages, texts, and say hi with the chatbox when someone visits your site. You can build trust by reaching out and addressing customer doubts or pain points head-on.
Make your ads inviting, your content engaging, and your website welcoming to draw customers into your brand. A crucial step is to have a live chatbox on your site and respond promptly to messages sent through it. You could also:
- Send emails to subscribers informing them about promotions and hot products
- Send a text or email to anyone who abandons their cart
- Address frequent questions and doubts in your landing pages
- Make video content showing your products in action
- Address customer feedback and post answers on social media
- Target warm prospects with promotions
It’s important to know who is in which stage of the sales funnel to properly target them. Use analytics to find people who have bounced or abandoned their cart and retarget them.
Bonus tip: Offer gift wrapping!
Remember what time of year it is. People are buying presents for loved ones, so it’s a no-brainer to offer gift wrapping and this shows the extra attention and services your brand is willing to offer. Have you ever sat down and tried to wrap 20 gifts? It takes ages, so save your customers some time and offer gift wrapping.
The holiday sales are a stressful time of year for many merchants, especially when you factor in that many of you also have your own families to think about during the holidays. The key to success is to prepare in advance.
Make sure your website is optimized for ease-of-use, that you know which products to push and discount, and that you have a backup plan for everything that could go wrong.
Seasons greetings, and the best to you and your family.