Oct 13, 2016 968 reads by Katrina Manning

The holiday rush is just around the corner, is your site ready? For most retailers, this IS the busiest shopping season of the year. At times, it can make or break a retailer. If your site is not ready to handle a mass influx of hurried shoppers–you might as well throw in the towel right now. Why? Well, you can be certain they will quickly head over to your competitor's site. You need to make the right impression immediately. You don't have much time left to prepare.

Five Critical Steps to Prepare Your Site for the Holiday Shopping Craze

After Halloween, it can be a mad house up until the week after New Year's Eve. Don't wait until the last minute to prepare your site for peak traffic. Fourth quarter sales matters more online than offline. According to Rackspace, downtime costs businesses around $366,363 per year–especially when you consider days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In 2016, online sales have risen by 46%. Here are five ways to prepare your site.

Don't add any non-tested functionalities

Now is not the time to test a new site or new features. You just can't know if bugs or unfamiliar interfaces will creep your customers out. The best time to test a new site is after the holidays. If your site is up and running, stick to the status quo until after January. Otherwise, you risk causing severe damage to your holiday sales' potential.

Search for poorly performing elements on your site

Try apps such as Webpagetest.org or Google's page speed insights. Customers, even when shopping from the comfort of their homes, do not want to spend time waiting for pages to load. You need to know what can happen in times of high traffic.

Make sure your cloud provider offers zero downtime

They should understand that this is a remarkably busy time of year. On top of determining what promotions to run, you need to list them, keep your site up and make sure you have enough inventory to meet the demand. Then, you need to ensure your items arrive on time for your customers. Cloud experts in Australia, such as Web24, do recommend perhaps switching to a premium hosting subscription during peak shopping months.

This not only helps to handle the capacity, but it also improves security and site availability. Let your hosting provider know you will need extra bandwidth to handle higher volumes of traffic. Your web host should allow you to make essential changes quickly, that are scalable. Let them know that downtime is simply unacceptable during the holiday season.

Hire seasonal online staff

People are worried about getting all the right gifts, at the right prices. They don't want to worry about availability or items getting lost in the mail. Since so many customers are shopping, often at once, there is an increased likelihood of mistakes being made.

There may also be many shoppers who wait until this time of year to shop, such as on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. They may need help, which is why many sites will offer a live chat feature. Even if you don't normally offer this year round, you might want to provide it during busy periods. You should have a budget to handle a spike in customers. You also want to do it early enough to give you time to train them. If possible, customers also value free shipping.

Remove third-party tags

You probably have duplicates of tags that are no longer needed. You want to manage tags, you can disable, in the event they perform poorly during peak periods. If tags load asynchronously with scripts, then other elements of your webpage will not load until they have finished running. As a result, your page will take longer to load. And, what will happen to your new customers? They will run to the next site that runs much more quickly. You can use a tool such as Tag Inspector to scan your site for all tags.

Make sure your holiday theme loads quickly

This is the time of year to make the most of your opportunities. Here are some activities customers will need to shop for. Lure customers in with festive themes. But, don't make them wait. One of the most common errors is making a theme too large that it takes forever to load. It should take no longer than three seconds for your site to load. Keep in mind that many customers will be shopping from mobile devices–which, are not as well equipped to handle heavy themes. Don't forget, mobile-friendliness is ranked by Google. As a result, you should optimize your theme for mobile.

Although this list is not exhaustive, it should give you some ideas to help you provide better customer service throughout the holidays and afterwards. The last thing you want is to put obstacles in front of the potential for increased sales and revenues, right?

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Katrina Manning

Katrina Manning

Katrina Manning has written thousands of business and technical articles under her name and as a ghostwriter. She has authored and published two books that both available on Amazon, “Lupus Obscurus” and “Marmalade's Exciting Tail”. In her spare time, she enjoys the outdoors, taking dance classes and volunteering with causes close to her heart—helping the homeless. Follow and connect with Katrina on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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