Canadian eCommerce is on the rise, with online retail sales on track for a 26 percent boost this year. Holiday spending is also up; according to Bloomberg, 65 percent of Canadians now use online stores for “some or all” of their holiday shopping.
What does this mean for your online store? That Canadian holiday competition is heating up. But don’t worry — here are seven steps you can take to help your site stand out from the seasonal crowd.
Editor’s note: Learn what the big online retailers already know — read our start-to-finish guide to building a high-performing eCommerce website.
Prepare for the holiday season
It makes sense to freshen up your online store in preparation for holiday shoppers. Here’s your checklist.
Make a seasonal plan.
Stay on trend.
Spruce up the place.
Solve performance problems.
Spread the message.
An adjustment here, an addition there and you’ll be ready in no time. Keep reading for details.
1. Make a seasonal plan
First up? Develop a seasonal strategy. While it’s tempting to lump everything from November through January together as the “holiday season,” individual holidays require their own campaigns to successfully increase sales.
Start with (Canadian) Thanksgiving in October. This is a good time to:
- Say thanks by offering promotions exclusively to loyal customers.
- Start rotating out old online stock.
While American Thanksgiving isn’t as critical to Canadians, Canucks are willing to shell out on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So you need promotions on deck to attract consumer attention during these high-volume online holidays.
Next is the runup to Christmas … but it’s even more important to account for Boxing Day, which rivals Black Friday for consumer spending in Canada.
2. Stay on trend
What’s trending this holiday season? Start with an online search for popular products in your market and plan from there. Secure enough inventory to meet predicted consumer demand and then decide on your approach:
- Some online stores prefer to sell early and often until they run out of stock.
- Others opt for limited-quantity offers and then raise prices as holidays like Christmas approach.
Whatever tactic you adopt, make sure you’re staying on trend with regular online searches for emerging hot products.
3. Spruce up the place
One common component of successful eCommerce sites is “shopability.”
Shopability is the degree to which consumers can easily find products, access pricing and place orders.
If you’re enjoying online success, chances are you’ve done your homework and created a website design that works for shoppers.
Want to boost holiday sales even more? Tweak your site — just a bit. Add some high-quality holiday-themed imagery and create gift lists using products on your site. Highlight any special discounts or offers to get customers in the holiday spirit. A few more seasonal housekeeping tips:
Check your product pages
Start with product descriptions. Go through your product pages — all of them — and make sure they’re easy-to-read, informative and highlight why your offering stands out from the crowd.
Next, check your photos. If products come in multiple colors, include one for each along with pictures from more than one angle.
Finally, make sure stock levels are accurate and regularly updated on your website. There’s no better way to lose a customer than by offering a great deal that fails at checkout because you don’t have the item in stock.
4. Simplify shipping
Want to make more sales this holiday season? Offer free shipping for customers. Ideally, tie free shipping to any purchase — instead of a minimum value — but if that’s not feasible, go with the lowest threshold possible.
No customer enjoys seeing the addition of $10, $25 or $50 worth of shipping fees onto their large holiday order. If they’re already at the upper end of their budget, high shipping fees could force them to walk away.
Is there a significant cost here for online stores? Absolutely. But the increased customer satisfaction generated by better-than-average shipping policies generates both improved revenues and post-holiday consumer loyalty.
5. Search yourself
How do consumers find your online store during the holidays if they’re not already regular customers?
Make sure your online store is easy to find by taking the time to search yourself — use words and phrases your customers would likely type in and see what comes up. Don’t like what you see? Ask the pros for help. They can help move your site up in searches related to what you sell.
6. Solve performance problems
More site visitors means more network traffic and more pressure on the web server that stores your web pages to keep up with demand. If your site goes down — or even slows down while consumers are shopping — chances are they’re not starting their cart over, they’re taking their money and heading somewhere else.
Check to see if your online store is up to the challenge of holiday shopping with a tool like Pingdom or PageSpeed Insights. If your pages are loading slowly, check with your web hosting company for possible solutions. Better more room for traffic than not enough when it comes to seasonal sales.
One other thing: make sure your online store is easy to view and use on any device — desktop, tablet or mobile phone.
Consumers simply won’t settle for mobile sites that are clunky, slow or hard to use. Online Store automatically adjusts to the user’s screen, increasing their interest instead of frustrating mobile consumers.
7. Spread the message
Considering the sheer number of websites offering holiday deals, your site needs to stand out. Email can help.
Experts recommend spreading the (email) message with tailored campaigns that highlight what makes your online store different and include product recommendations.
Socialize with strangers
Social sites like Instagram and Facebook offer huge potential to reach customers during the holiday season. Any seasonal sales plan should also include a social media strategy with regular posts designed to highlight your online store and reach the largest number of consumers possible.
Best bet? Create short-engaging posts that focus on the reader and let your followers share what they think is relevant. Just like in day-to-day social situations, trying too hard here often backfires.
Time to holidize your online store
The holidays are coming. Is your online store ready? It’s worth doing a once-over to ensure your site delivers the experience customers have come to expect.
Use our seven-step guide to boost seasonal sales and set your business up for long-term success. A few hours spent checking the windows and doors and making updates now will pay off in more sales this holiday season — and beyond.