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Plan Website Improvements for the Holidays Now

Posted by: Today's Tip Contributor on August 29, 2011

The holiday shopping season means more traffic and larger sales volumes, but it also heralds an important, seasonal change in overall shopping patterns taking place on your site, as well as dramatic changes to visitors’ interests as they scour the web for holiday gifts. Planning for the online holiday shopping season needs to start now. Here are five tips to consider.

1. Keep improving your site. Out of fear that something might break on their websites, too many retailers freeze their site for the last two or three months of the year. While playing it safe might be comforting, it’s not conducive to achieving high conversion rates. Make sure your digital teams are digging deep into website analytics to identify what updates will offer the highest strategic advantage. Then focus on rolling out those updates in a way that will resonate with your customers. Hold off until January on updates that won’t move the needle in a big way.

2. Embrace a different form of personalization. Traditional forms of personalization that focus on the individual, social profiles, and past purchasing history are going to be substantially less effective during the holiday. This is because people are shopping on behalf of husbands, wives, sons, mothers, friends—often, everybody but themselves. Personalization approaches that take into consideration a site visitor’s current intent will be much better suited to the holiday buying environment.

3. Highlight relevant gifts. Retailers that make it easier for shoppers to find gifts will reap substantial benefits during the holiday season. The key here, however, is relevance: Merely offering up a fixed set of products that aren’t great gifts won’t get you far. Creating relevance for your customers becomes a crucial balancing act between your interest in moving certain products and serving up the products your customers want and need. The savviest retailers will keep this in mind when crafting their sites for the holiday season.

4. Think social. Saying "social is important" is like saying the sky is blue, but you’d be surprised how many online retailers are still struggling with how to incorporate social into their businesses and drive sales through it. While some see social as more of an evergreen opportunity, a recent study on customers’ online experiences during the last holiday shopping season found that 16 percent of respondents purchased an additional product based on their Facebook friends "liking" or purchasing a product. This season, ask yourself how you are making it easier for customers to share your products and their purchases online. If you’re drawing a blank, you may be missing a big opportunity.

5. Develop a mobile strategy. Like social, mobile is one area that’s likely already on your radar and then some—holiday season or not. Looking back at the previously cited study last year, 13 percent of the respondents said they used mobile phones to make holiday purchases while 18 percent used them for comparison shopping. While mobile shopping has not yet hit the mainstream, it’s certainly emerging as an increasingly effective way for you to engage with your customers. With just months until holiday buying hits full swing, there is no time like the present to get your mobile strategy sorted out. Your more digitally savvy customers will thank you.

Bill Hustad
Chief Customer Officer
San Jose

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