November 24, 2009

Ten Last-Minute Ways to Drive Holiday Sales


Hostway Team

By Hostway

The holiday shopping season is just a couple days away, and online shoppers have expectations about what the shopping experience should be like. They want a Web site that loads quickly, protects their personal information and is easy to navigate. If your Web site lacks any of these qualities, you could lose business to the competition. You'll need every competitive advantage you can get for your Web site this holiday season. Read on for some small tips that can help you keep customers clicking on your ecommerce Web site into the New Year.

1. Make sure your Web hosting plan can handle the increased traffic.

The beginning of the big shopping rush is not the time to discover a lack of bandwidth on your Web site. That can slow service down and may cost you a small fortune in overage charges.
Take a look at your Web hosting plan and your monthly usage statistics now. Will a traffic surge send you over the limit? If so, consider upgrading your plan or contact your Web host to see what other options are available to you.

2. Purchase or renew your SSL certificate.

Your customers are aware of the potential for identity theft on the Internet. You must convince them that they can trust you to keep their information safe. An SSL certificate assures them that their personal and financial information will be encrypted and protected. It activates two signs that their data is safe: "https" shows in the address bar and a lock icon is displayed on the corner of the screen. Also, make sure your privacy policy is easily accessible on every Web page.

3. Promote your return or exchange policy.

One advantage physical retailers have over etailers is that customers are very familiar with the return process. While an online return policy can be simple, it's important to make the process clear to customers. An easy return policy could be your edge over the competition.

4. Post fresh product pictures.

People like to hold and touch items before they buy. As an online retailer, you can give them the next best thing: pictures of each item from every angle. Show customers what the product will look like and how it works so they're not disappointed when they receive it.

5. Make it easy for customers to find out if an item's in stock before they order.

Nothing is more frustrating than falling in love with and ordering a product only to find out it's out of stock and unavailable. Don't let your customers down. Tell them upfront whether you have each item in stock by configuring your shopping cart to only add in-stock items.

6. Plan a promotion.

Offering a discount is a great way to draw visitors into your Web site. It can be the focus of an ad campaign, and you can even make a special holiday landing page for customers.

Even if you're a business-to-business company or don't sell a product or service associated with the holidays, you can offer a special promotion as a goodwill gesture to give your customers a break during this expensive season.

7. Make your Web site festive and welcoming.

Major retailers like Starbucks, Target and others dress up their Web sites for the holidays. It shows customers that the site is current. You can give customers the same impression by adding a bit of holly or other seasonal decorations to your Web site.

Also, take a look at your words. Is your Web site welcoming? Do you thank visitors for their time and their business? Review your Web site for ways your words can lead to a better shopping experience.

8. Offer multiple payment options.

Let your customers pay with their credit card, debit card or other online methods like PayPal or Google Checkout. Offering multiple options and backing your payments with a highly recognizable name like Google or PayPay, can help customers trust you enough to buy from you.

9. Set an advertising budget.

Online advertising is a great way to promote your Web site. Take a look at what's left of the year's marketing and advertising budget, then consider how you might use that for one big, final ad campaign to drive more visitors to your site.

10. Pose as your own customer.

Run through your entire purchasing process to see what potential roadblocks can cause customers to abandon their carts. Fix any problems you find now, before the shopping season opens.
With a little preparation, you're on your way to a happy, successful and profitable holiday season.

Happy Holidays!

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