US e-commerce sales are rising, year after year, especially during the holiday season. Considering that consumers are becoming more demanding with their online shopping, e-commerce websites should be prepared for the holiday shopping season. Those that don't perform well can lose their customers, the customers that won't tolerate a bad shopping experience.
Retailers should focus on two major elements in order to be prepared for the holiday season:
- Website infrastructure
- User experience.
Databases, web servers and all the software and hardware your e-commerce site is using are the key infrastructure components that have to perform optimally. You can create a solid infrastructure by following these practices:
- Traffic expectations – last year's data and metrics will show you what to expect when it comes to number of visitors. Be prepared for this traffic and calculate how much more traffic your website can serve if you plan to extend your marketing efforts.
- Website downtime – this happens, BUT, you can't have it happen during the holiday season. You don't want to lose money because of the downtime so have a backup server standing by, as well as a backup database.
- Using additional hosting services – talk to your web host and see what they can offer when it comes to fast page load, content delivery and load balancing. Having several servers is always a good idea as you can spread out your traffic load and keep all of your servers running smoothly.
- Managed services – not all e-commerce websites are able to use full redundancy across their website infrastructure. A good idea is to use managed services – allowing you to utilize infrastructure from a third party as long as you need them.
- Separate database and application servers – your e-commerce website will run better if you use 2 servers – one for your database and another for your content and web pages. (EndLayer can help you with this)
- Test, test, test – before and during the holiday season. Make sure you test your website's performance and make changes accordingly.
- Take traffic spikes into account – the traffic you receive during the season may surprise you and your team, especially if you extend your marketing efforts. Promotions, such as TV commercials, may hit your e-commerce hard. Prepare additional servers or use a cloud environment, a proven and economical way to deal with traffic spikes.
- Use basic and advanced monitoring – even if you are outsourcing your website infrastructure, you have to monitor your resource availability in order to stay on top of things. This is the only way to stay ahead of latency, traffic spikes and bottlenecks. Your quick reaction can return things to normal and keep your website operating at its peak.
The other element every e-commerce website needs to take care of is user experience. Satisfied consumers will bring in more clients if you know how to provide them with a fantastic shopping experience.
- Be prepared on time – don't wait for November to start preparing for the holiday shopping season, start with preparations as soon as possible.
- Sales over design – while good looking websites attract more sales, you should not focus on website design only. User experience is more important so you should create a simple holiday theme to align your website with the holidays.
- Explore your search results – research all the terms that customers are using on your website as well as on the search engines. Optimize your web pages for the search terms you are seeing and consider hiring an SEO company if you don't have an in house SEO department.
- Page load times – while your customers expect your pages to look attractive and rich, they prefer fast page loading. Optimize all your web pages as well as your CSS, HTML, images and Java Script.
- Presence in social networks – your potential customers are looking for shopping recommendations and advice on the various social networks, which means you should establish your presence there. If you do not have accounts on networks like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest, it's time you create them and interact with your potential customers.
- Buying should be easy – buyers can use and appreciate buying guides so make sure you have them. Many buyers are not buying for themselves, so it's wise to have a Gifts For Dad or a Gifts For Mom section. Whatever you can do to help your customer make a buying decision, do it as simple as possible.
- Streamline transactions – if you are using gift cards or gift certificates, and you should, make sure your buyers receive a confirmation that their order is being processed and that the transaction was successful.
- Sense of urgency – this will not only boost your sales, it will help you get early purchases and prepare you for traffic spikes. You want your whole team to be ready and the best thing you can do is request a free consultation from EndLayer to ensure that you’ll be ready to weather the $torm.