The holidays are right around the corner, and that means we’re fast approaching the busiest shopping time of the year — which also means more profitable traffic will potentially come to your website.
The operative word here is: potentially.
Before you start associating dollar signs with holiday cheer, there’s one thing you’ll need to do (especially if you run an eCommerce business instead of a brick-and-mortar store): Get your site ready for the holidays.
Not only do you want to ensure that your website is equipped to handle the demand for your products or services. But you also want to be sure you’re catering to the user experience. That means optimizing for the holiday-minded consumer.
Consider this your website holiday preparation guide. Keep reading to learn more about why you need to get your site ready for the holiday season, plus 9 essential tips on how to get it done.
Why It’s Necessary to Prepare Your Website for the Holidays
As you know, the holiday season arguably provides the best opportunity to get your numbers up before the end of the year. It’s also a great way to unload stagnant inventory and generate new interest in your brand, turning potential customers into recurring ones.
According to the eCommerce data regarding online retail over the past few years, eCommerce accounted for upwards of 17.5% of the total holiday retail sales in the United States. During this time, online sales were projected to grow to at least 19% in 2021, which they did, amassing $29.41 billion.
However, the most recent projections show only a slight 6.1% increase in eCommerce sales this year. While 6% is better than nothing, now is not the time to assume that everyone will simply be shopping online. Online retailers are expected to have a tough time increasing their end-of-the-year sales compared to last year due to inflation and the ongoing recession.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that online shoppers will be skimping on their gift lists. They will, however, likely be more discerning about where they shop by doing more comparison shopping and price matching to find the online retailers offering the best price or deeper discounts.
This is why getting your site ready for the holidays is so important. If you don’t do what you can now to cater to your online customer base — especially under the current economic state — then you won’t see the revenue you’re hoping for. Of course, your competitors who are preparing, will see that revenue.
So, how do you prepare your website for the holidays?
How to Prepare Your Website for the Holidays
We won’t lie to you — getting your site ready for the holidays takes some doing. That’s why you’re going to have to start now to work out any kinks and avoid making any grave mistakes.
Consider the following tips for your website holiday prep checklist:
1. Make Sure Your Website Looks Holiday-Ready
Spreading holiday cheer is important, especially during tough times. The shoppers out there aren’t just looking for great gift ideas and deals. They’re also looking for some holiday cheer.
Your regular, bland (no offense) homepage and landing pages aren’t going to cut it. You want to encourage your recurring and potential customers to indulge in the holiday spirit with you, which means doing a light re-design of your website to make it more festive.
A few things you can do include:
- Use festive colors and holiday-like font styles
- Incorporate holiday-themed imagery or wintery imagery where appropriate
- Banners that display holiday cheers and sayings
- Add a music widget that plays holiday-themed music
Keep in mind the layout and flow of your website. You want to add to the user experience, not take away from it. Don’t overdo it by changing your cursor from an arrow to a candy cane, for example.
2. Focus on Holiday-Related Content
As a website owner, in general, you already know how valuable your blog content is for bringing in user traffic and increasing your sales conversions. Around the holidays, your blog is even more valuable as it can be leveraged to reach customers that aren’t shopping for themselves but for others — which means you have an even larger audience to pool from.
Of course, it’s also important for retargeting your regular audience, who already enjoy reading the content you regularly produce.
The key to driving more traffic to your eCommerce store isn’t just about just putting out holiday-themed content that will rank well in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for holiday shoppers. It also involves using this time to announce a stronger value proposition that speaks to your audience’s most pressing pain points.
Holiday shoppers are looking for the best products and services as gifts for their loved ones. You need to convince them that your products or services are the best possible gifts for those people. And to do that, you need to publish high-quality blog content filled with valuable advice, information, and so on.
Holiday-oriented content can look like this:
- Holiday gift guides
- Budget ideas
- Holiday recipes
This type of content is excellent for helping those not sure where to start with their holiday shopping while allowing you to promote your products or services.
3. Refresh Your SEO Efforts to the Tune of Holiday Keywords
In addition to putting out holiday-inspired content, you must approach your SEO strategy with some yuletide cheer. Once again, using relevant keywords around the holidays is incredibly important. But what’s more important is ensuring those keywords are also relevant to your products or services. That’s the key to giving your product or service pages and your content a boost in the SERPs.
One way to make these keywords even more relevant is to use specific modifiers, including:
- The current year
- Holiday + the current year
- Holiday + shopping, recipes, travel, etc
- Store gift cards or shop gift cards
- Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Small Business Saturday/Christmas sales
- Christmas + the current year
4. Offer Special Holiday Promotions and Discounts
As you know, everyone shopping for gifts this holiday season will be looking for the best deals possible. Not to mention, online shopping provides the ease at which consumers can compare prices and products from the comfort of their own homes — without a salesperson breathing down their neck.
Therefore, you’ll want to run holiday promotions for your eCommerce store and do it strategically. This means you’ll want to devise a solid plan and start advertising your sales and specials as early as possible.
Here are a few promotional ideas to get you started:
- Implement flash sales that offer deep discounts for a limited time.
- Incorporate a “spin to win” feature that will engage the users on your page and encourage them to join your email subscriber list simultaneously.
- Try an advent calendar where a new product will go on sale each day leading up to Christmas.
- Or, try out a 12-days-of-Christmas promotional theme where certain products will incur certain discount percentages for 12 days throughout the month.
- Leverage a reward points program for existing customers to encourage them to only shop with you. You can even double the points for a certain amount of time.
- Offer free samples or trials with online orders that amount to a certain amount.
There are a lot of unique promotional ideas you can come up with. Just don’t forget to keep the following best practices in mind:
- Make a plan in advance regarding which products or services will be discounted.
- Decide whether or not you’ll offer any incentives, like rewards points, free samples, gifts, or services with purchases.
- Make sure you crunch the numbers to make sure the promotions you decide to implement don’t cause you to lose money.
- Make sure that you account for the proper inventory you’ll need to meet the demand for any products you’ll be promoting. You don’t want to lose out on significant revenue because you ran out of the product you’re enticing people to come and buy.
5. Optimize for Site Speed and Performance
During the holiday season, websites become the most traversed entities imaginable. While heavier traffic volumes can indeed boost sales, it can also have the opposite effect if your website is equipped to handle the overload.
The first thing you’ll want to do is check your site speed using the proper tools. Once you zero in on what’s causing your site to load slowly, you can fix them for better overall performance.
Next, you’ll want to cater to your visitors’ time. People are in more of a rush this time of the year than usual, which means it’s in your best interest to put all essential information right in front of their faces. Keep your landing pages and product pages as simple and streamlined as possible, purge your pages of any outdated information and imagery or videos and make sure your site’s navigation menus are intuitive.
You’ll also need to make sure you optimize for mobile devices and other smart devices since more people tend to shop on their phones these days.
6. Highlight the Necessary Products
Part of optimizing your website and catering to the user experience means anticipating the needs of your visitors. During this time of the year, you know people will be looking for the perfect gifts. You have to anticipate which gifts regarding your products or services they’ll align with the most.
In anticipating what people will be looking for, you’ll want to highlight those products or services by displaying them front and center on your home page, product or service pages, and any other landing pages you create. Combine this display with holiday sales and concise calls to action (CTAs), and your visitors will have their work cut out for them.
7. Start a Holiday Newsletter
One of the best ways to spread your holiday promotions and drive more traffic to your sites is by delivering the Christmas cheer right to the inboxes of your email list.
You can start by sending out anticipatory emails, such as a countdown to holiday sales and special deals coming up. You can also incorporate limited-time holiday offers that expire to create a sense of urgency.
Don’t forget to include social sharing links in each email. This will allow you to tap into your subscribers’ personal network of family and friends, which will generate even more site traffic and sales conversions.
8. Simplify the Check-Out Process
The abandoned shopping cart rate is at 70% across all industries. One of the primary reasons why online shoppers abandon their carts is the lengthy checkout process.
By streamlining your checkout process, you’ll have fewer abandoned carts and more sales this holiday season. A few ways you can accomplish this is by doing the following:
- Cut out any unnecessary pages during the checkout process.
- Provide a guest checkout option (with an auto-fill feature) so people don’t have to spend time creating an account.
- Offer multiple payment methods beyond credit and debit, such as Klarna, AfterPay, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and so on.
Don’t forget to ensure that your website is safe and secure from cyber criminals to avoid repercussions and a loss of trust. A WordPress security plugin like iThemes Security Pro can make it easy to secure and protect your WordPress website.
Creating popups, slide-ins, banners, and more will help turn a site visitor into a customer. And Kadence WP offers the perfect way to do this with their Kadence Conversions. Kadence Conversions is a no-code WordPress block tool that allows you to create lightweight popups, sale banners, and slide-ins to connect your site visitors to your offers.
The holidays are a perfect time to refresh old conversions or create new ones. And with Kadence Conversions, setup is easy. Simply create the conversion, assign launch triggers, schedule your content, and track the conversion.
For an in-depth look, check out How to Increase Your Sales Using Kadence Conversions.
10. Test, Test, Test!
Always run A/B tests on the changes you make to your website to ensure they’re working for you efficiently and not against you.
A/B testing your eCommerce site in preparation for the holidays will help you:
- Maximize engagement
- Keep customers browsing and shopping on your site for longer
- Reduce bounce rates
- Minimize shopping cart abandonment
- Increase sales conversions, generating more revenue
- Create recurring customers, boosting your lifetime customer value
Moreover, A/B testing your website is easy and very low risk. Just make sure you’re doing the following:
- Test the elements (one at a time) that will immediately and directly affect conversions.
- Use a sample size that is large enough, and make sure you run the split test for long enough to get genuine results.
- Make sure that test “A” is significantly different from test “B” for the most accurate results.
Generally speaking, you should always conduct A/B tests to ensure your website works perfectly during and after the holidays. It’s the best way to maximize your ongoing efforts as a website and business owner.
Wrapping it Up With a Bow on Top
The holidays can be tough for online business owners, regardless of brand reputation and customer base. This is because, in today’s digital world, consumers are more demanding than ever before. There’s also a whole lot more competition to contend with.
If you follow this guide on preparing your website for the holidays, you should see positive results to ring the New Year in with.
Each week, the team at iThemes team publishes new WordPress tutorials and resources, including the Weekly WordPress Vulnerability Report. Since 2008, iThemes has been dedicated to helping you build, maintain, and secure WordPress sites for yourself or for clients. Our mission? Make People’s Lives Awesome.