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Is Your Ecommerce Store Prepared for the Holiday Season?

As the ecommerce holiday season is coming closer it is not uncommon for merchants to start wondering about the state of their ecommerce store and the preparations need to deal with the influx of visitors and people ready to buy.

See: 5 Ways to Boost Conversions on Your Ecommerce Store This Holiday Season

There are 3 parts that we would like to highlight in this article- User experience, Organisational planning, and Technical setup.

User Experience

UX, the one and only. This two letter combination strikes fear into anyone who has not taken the plunge into wild waters of design and if done poorly, provides a good laugh for those who understand the concepts behind it. Even though User experience might be considered subjective to a degree, there are several industry guidelines every seasoned designer is familiar with.

Simple – A staple for an ecommerce store, especially with the ecommerce holiday season coming up, there should be a clear offering and detailed description of your products or services. For an ecommerce store, the first thing you should be demonstrating is some of your products. Obvious isn’t it? Yet, in our experience we are seeing banners, blog posts, videos and other types of introductory content taking up a majority of the homepage. Or perhaps it’s impossible to find the main menu, or mobile version looks more like a video game rather than a working store. There are several ways how to make people lose themselves in the design.

All websites are visually divided into blocks and each block has its own purpose that we as internet users have adapted to. Do not take this as an argument against fun or eclectic design choices, you can do some experimentation, but the website should be set up to sell your product not just as an entertainment place for its visitors.

There are businesses who compromise in the simplicity department in favor of a more futuristic look. What you have to choose between getting conversions (and revenue) or the slight chance of being a pioneer of a not-yet known technique.

Easy to navigate. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous principle. There shouldn’t be any obstacles in the way of the user flow. Make sure navigation is easy to understand and CTAs are present on every page so that users can easily anticipate the next step. There shouldn’t be a situation where user does not know what to do next. In order to follow this, you can use visitor recordings or check GA funnels to see where people are dropping off.

Relevant – This is most likely the easiest principle for ecommerce, a holiday is coming up so it’s time you can put yourself in the shoes of the visitors and ask yourself:

Is This What I Was Looking For?

If your customer research and targeting are on point, there shouldn’t be any issues with relevance. Describe and showcase your product as intended and customers who are interested in your offering will be pleased.

Consistent – customers should be able to browse through categories seamlessly and the “feel” of similarity should be present on all pages. If you are running ads anywhere on the web, experience on your landing page should be a continuation of what was presented in the ad. Show the same offering, products, banners, and typography to avoid customers feeling lost.

Secure, as visitors mostly have just one goal – making a purchase, you should make it as frictionless as possible. Feeling of insecurity is usually the biggest obstacle to turning visitors into customers. The whole website and check out especially should feel secure for customers to trust you with their personal data and money. If there is a need for some private information, you have to explain why is it necessary. Don’t ask for information that you won’t need for delivery!

List your solution providers, safety add-ons or plugins that your store has. Those badges of security are not only a designers’ choice, they actually (as silly it might seem) help convince visitors that the store is safe.

Helpful – content should help with any uncertainties that customers might face and provide information before any questions arise. You must have an FAQ page, in addition to that, a call center and customer chat always help. If your UX is rather poor, as a last resort you can make your sales team do the heavy lifting, however, you shouldn’t rely on it too much or expect the same return as a great website design would have.

Organisational Planning

Logistics. We are sure that you already have good logistics in place, obviously, without it any business won’t be successful. But are your partners ready for a possible production ramp-up in a matter of days? Where do you get your raw materials or products from? Might start by contacting other suppliers maybe? Is your staff equipped to take on more orders? Might need to hire some part-time help Every aspect should be thought of and covered.

Make sure that your partners care about the final product as much as you do and that the customers’ first interaction with the product is always pleasant. Wrapping, looks, feel and smell of a new product is something customers get to experience once. You shouldn’t neglect the post-purchase journey just because the product has left the warehouse and it’s not your responsibility anymore.

Technical Setup

If you are not a technical person yourself, make sure your IT department is on top of things- patches to your store are up to date, 3rd party connections are secure and there are no apparent vulnerabilities to exploit.

Where to host your store is one of the most important tech decisions you will have to make. Safety, speed, and reliability are just some areas that should be considered, for more technical information, we would suggest looking up topics on how to choose a hosting provider.

As for the sales side of things, hosting features we are interested in are;

Ability to scale, no matter how many visitors you have per month be it 1000 or 100k, your web hosting provider should be able to handle current load and several times more at least with no lag or crashes.

Downtime – how much downtime can you expect from the provider? Remember that time spent dealing with server issues will be added on top of other, development or setup related issues. Choosing a reliable host with very little downtime is essential. Also SEO, more downtime means a lesser priority on search engine rankings.

Support – are the representatives of the provider helpful, knowledgeable and most important fast? Do they respond to your issues at any time of the day or when they are ready to deal with it?

What if your servers are up and running but your store is still experiencing downtime? Many store owners have no idea where to start when an issue arises or even how to put an action plan in place to prevent or at least mitigate the effects of the disaster.

There are several tools and apps that follow along with the state of your store, however, since there is a lot of money in the industry you can be sure that service providers will crank up the prices accordingly.

In order to justify the price tag there usually are numerous features included (we will not discuss the need for all features here) and usually a cumbersome set-up process that only can be done by your IT guy or a dedicated person from the service company itself.

Magebee is an uptime monitoring app tailored specifically for Magento stores. Monitor up to 10 stores and receive notifications anytime there is something wrong with your store. It is cheap ($24) and has all of the features unlocked in the basic version. You can set it up by entering the URL of your store and try it out for a month.

Conclusion

The above article begs the question; where do you want to be in case your sales targets aren’t met? Keeping a sharp eye on your progress will help you understand your goals in a clearer way and help you streamline your plan as well.

Think we missed out on something? Let us know in the comments below and we will get back to you.