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Is your website prepared for the holidays?

It’s that time of year again when people pack up the pumpkins and start thinking about the upcoming peak buying season; is your website prepared for the holidays? There are quite a few things that should be done to help get your online business ready to handle the upcoming rush of the holidays and as an experienced website development company that has annually advised clients how to prepare themselves each year over the past decade, we wanted to take the time to share the things we have learned with everyone.

Just like the Boy Scouts, we feel that being prepared is absolutely critical to success during the holidays. Much like when a big storms blows in, you can never be exactly sure where the worst will hit until it does which is why planning ahead to cover the various possibilities ultimately will lead to greater success and more conversions for your business.

Step One: Check the engine

First things first, you need to make sure that your website is running smoothly. Before taking a long trip many people know that they should check their tire pressure, get an oil change if needed, and generally make sure that everything in your car is ready.

The same should be done with your website.

  • Analyze past data – If your business has been in existence for a few years then you have access to valuable data to help plan for this season. Take the time to analyze last year and the prior year’s data to obtain a baseline for traffic volume and issues that might have occurred. Each year people spend more online so you can then forecast what to expect with a 10%, 20% or even 50% increase in business.
  • Test your speed – Site speed is absolutely critical to your conversion rate. The longer people wait, the more likely they are to simply abandon what they are doing to find a site that can provide them service faster. Plus faster loading sites rank higher in search engines. You can test your site with Google PageSpeed Insights to find problems Google recommends you fix for better performance.
  • Load test – It is critical that your website can handle not only the traffic you expect, but also the unexpected traffic that can occur. For example, if you have a product that suddenly becomes the “it” product of the holidays then your site could face an unexpected level of traffic which could cause the site to crash or create bottlenecks. Using Load Testing allows you to determine how the system will behave during both normal and peak expectations.
  • Mobile optimization – Over half of the shoppers this year are expected to be browsing and converting on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. That means your site needs to be optimized for mobile or you risk losing out on some of that business. Again, Google comes to the rescue with a Mobile Usability Report you can utilize to find problems that you can correct.

Step Two: Avoid new roads

When you are taking a long trip, the best practice is to drive your tried and true route. You know about how long it will take, where the best food and gas stops are, and there is not the uncertainty which comes by choosing a new route.

The same concept relates to making certain changes to your website right before the holidays. You want to avoid adding new vendors, using a completely new optimization method, or add new entry points. At this stage of the year it is simply too late for those types of changes because there is insufficient time to properly test them in a live environment.

The last thing you want is something that you add at the last minute, in an attempt to make things better for customers, ends up making things worse and affecting your conversions.

Step Three: Have everyone use the same map

At this time of the year it is vital that all departments are on the same page and using the same map for getting to your ultimate destination; a successful holiday season.

That means your marketing department, customer service, IT department, and sales all need to be on the same page for how the season will be approached. Everyone needs to be aware of what the overall goals are and how their departments fit into the plan. Strategies should flow together so that customers are provided with a great overall experience from the first touch point to the last.

For example, if the marketing team is going to be producing videos to help entice buyers not only should the sales team be aware of the messaging and offers but also the IT department needs to be aware of the expectation of how those videos will affect the site performance and optimization that may be needed.

Customer service needs to be aware of all marketing and sales promotions so that they can better handle customer questions and concerns. For example, if they were not aware of certain peak day promotions or time sensitive coupons then it could lead to communication issues with customers inquiring about them.

If everyone is not using the same map then it can be easy for one department to get off track.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that if your business relies on the end of the year for sales of either products or services the time to act is now when it comes to ensuring your website is prepared for the holidays. Even if you do have plans in place, make sure to take a moment and review our thoughts and ideas. After all, even Santa Claus makes a list and then checks it twice to make sure he gets it right and every advantage you can create for your business ultimately means more money in your pocket at the end of the year.

Be sure to check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for great new Lounge Lizard blog articles.

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