1. Make sure your customers can find you. Eighty percent of shopping trips start with the search box, and that percentage increases during the holidays. Look through your search logs from last November forward to identify ways to improve site search effectiveness. Typical fixes include:
- Adding to synonym/hypernym dictionaries
- Enhancing product descriptions (adding relevant keywords)
2. Build out your affiliate network. Under current economic conditions, shoppers are going to be very savvy when looking for the best deal online. Now is the time to start building strong relationships with those affiliates that are likely to drive significant traffic and volume to your site during the holidays. Consider setting up automated product feeds to key shopping comparison sites like GoogleBase, Shopzilla, NexTag and other sites that your customers frequent.
3. Set your product catalog. Pay particular attention to catalog readiness for cross-selling and up-selling opportunities, product related promotions and product categorization for easy navigation. Make sure products are easy to find by adding proper keywords for search results. Also, make sure you have the capability to cross-merchandise products in different categories - during the holidays, you'll want to present a given product in both its home category (e.g. men's shirts) and also theme, event or occasion-based categories like 'Gifts for Dad, 'Pre-Thanksgiving Sale,' 'Hot Gift Ideas.'
4. Prepare holiday site enhancements.
-Add 'wish list' functionality. By helping customers create the list and linking other people to that list, you not only convert a 'wish' to a completed sale, you reduce returns and increase customer satisfaction.
5. Segment your audience. The holidays are the season for gifts - most shoppers are buying for other people. For example if you're a jeweler, anticipate that men will be buying for women. Change the look and feel, products and promotions for the type of audience that is going to be buying during the holidays.
6. Bestsellers and gift ideas. Highlight these items on your homepage to provide additional gift ideas for uncertain shoppers. Create detailed gift guides based on the recipient, the price point and other elements to lead customers to a purchase.
7. Engage in A/B testing now. Engage in A/B testing of new site design concepts, features and functionality to get some real-world data before settling on what you'll ultimately go with during the holidays. For some merchants, the back-to-school season might be an ideal time for this type of testing.
8. Get creative with promotions. Don't just use flat discounts to drive traffic - think about the long-term relationship with the customer. Think about loyalty-based promotions that will create repeat customers and word-of-mouth marketing. Also create a sense of urgency by making order-by dates and time-sensitive offers part of your promotions strategy.
9. Leverage social merchandising. Beyond adding a comments and review section on product pages, consider these other social merchandising tactics:
- Allowing customers to create desired "outfits" or bundles of multiple products, and saving/sending these to friends and family
10. Update inventory on product pages. Nothing infuriates a customer more than to find out that the product is out of stock after the completion of the checkout process. Post inventory levels on every product page to set expectations for customers and also create a sense of urgency when levels are low. Make this a year-round practice.