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Five Things You Need To Do To Prepare Your Ecommerce Site For 2018 Holiday Sales

Are you ready for the influx of ecommerce shopping over Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holidays? Simply having an ecommerce site doesn’t mean you will automatically be able to convert higher traffic and take advantage of increased holiday spending. That said, there are some easy ways to improve your odds and stand out in a competitive space.

Consumers spend billions online over the holiday season. Most ecommerce stores see a traffic bump between November and December, not to mention increases to social sharing and referral traffic. Research conducted by the National Retail Federation showed that in 2017, online and other non-store sales in November-December were up 11.5% over the year before. This marked the biggest year-over-year gain since 2010. All things considered, 2018 will likely be similar.

Is your site optimized to meet evolving customer expectations? Will visitors share your store with their friends? Chances are that what you had last year likely isn’t up to snuff for this year.

You don’t need to have a significant budget to update your site, but it is important to start early, leave yourself some buffer time between launching your site updates and periods of high volume of traffic, and dedicate time to think through your holiday sales strategy. Now is the time to put together a plan.

Before You Start

Before you make any changes, there are two important first steps:

  1. Capture your baseline and understand current site usage
  2. Identify industry best practices

In addition to using Google Analytics, leverage heatmaps and individual visitor recordings to understand why users aren’t converting and what they do prior to leaving your website.

Understanding what users want, care about, and engage with through aggregate interaction analytics provides valuable insight you can use to identify iterations required to your site. TWG uses tools like Lucky Orange, Crazy Egg, and Hotjar to make informed user experience (UX) recommendations. All three have free trials and don’t require any technical skills to implement, so there is no risk in getting started.

Next in your preparation work is to identify industry trends specific to your market niche and learn about evolution in digital consumer behaviour. With best practices changing month-over-month, you need to know how customer expectations are advancing. At TWG, we recommend Shopify’s Ecommerce Industry Reports and Baymard Institute Ecommerce UX Research Articles to get started.

If in doubt, a digital product agency can help you assess your analytics and apply industry best practices to your digital experience.

Making Updates to Your Website

Once you understand current customer behaviour and industry trends, it’s time to make some updates to your site. Below are five recommendations we make to TWG clients that are proof-positive to increase conversions and other key metrics.

1. Incorporate User-Generated Content

User-generated content builds brand trust, increases conversion rates, generates brand engagement, and supplements content creation – all of which is great for marketing and will save you time when it comes to driving sales. Turning customers into advocates not only indicates a strong likelihood of repeat purchases, but it also converts very well at a macro level. According to research done by Reevoo, 70% of people trust images taken by “people like them” over company images. Additionally, users say customer reviews are second only to the experience of family and friends in changing their perceptions of a product.

Our favourite tool for visual user-generated content is Foursixty, which enables you to turn your Instagram and user-generated content into shoppable galleries for your online store, emails, blog, and ad campaigns. Foursixty supports all web platforms and has a free 21 day trial.

Foursixty’s shoppable Instagram feed
An example of Foursixty’s shoppable Instagram feed on Rebecca Atwood Designs’ website.
Clicking one of the images on the Foursixty shoppable Instagram feed
Clicking one of the images on the Foursixty shoppable Instagram feed on Rebecca Atwood’s site brings up a modal allowing users to add the specific items from the image to their carts.

2. Engage Users with Rewards

Customer loyalty programs are proven to increase retention, purchase frequency, lifetime value, and referrals. According to a recent study by Bain & Company, 60% to 80% of satisfied customers do not return to the company that initially satisfied their shopping needs. With so many different choices, reconnecting with users via rewards programs motivates them to create accounts, return to your ecommerce store, and ultimately drive more revenue for your business. Our partners at Shopify have put together a comprehensive list of rewards strategies to help you get started on a model that works for you.

The customer rewards and loyalty program TWG recommends most often to clients is offers points, referrals, and VIP programs.

3. Show Recommended Products in the Cart

Beyond showing recommended products on your individual product detail pages (which should be standard on your site), you should also be cross-selling and upselling on the cart page. By highlighting related items, you are more likely to increase cart size, but you will need to think carefully about placement and content.

When designing the way in which you want recommended products to appear on your cart page, it is important to consider where they are placed. Anything too bold risks distracting customers from their original purchase intent and could increase cart abandonment. Look at industry leaders in your sector to find best-in-class examples, or talk to your agency partner about successful strategies they have employed on other ecommerce stores. Ensure you are creating a plan for rules-based merchandising to control which products are included or excluded in this section of your cart. It’s fairly obvious that if your user is purchasing women’s clothing, highlighting men’s shoes is likely not a good use of space – but we’ve all seen it. A good, simple tactic to get started is to show items related to the customer’s cart contents or their recently viewed items.

cross-selling items in the cart
An example of cross-selling items in the cart on World Vision Canada’s website

While there are some apps for this approach, adding recommended products to the cart page is best done through custom development. Talk to your tech partner to develop a strategy for your website.

4. Streamline Checkout

According to research done by Baymard Institute, the average cart abandonment rate is 68%. The question is why? According to Baymard research, a quarter of visitors leave during checkout because the checkout process is too long or complicated. Simple design changes and reducing form fields can dramatically simplify this crucial flow. How many form fields does your checkout have? If your checkout has more than seven form fields, you have twice as many as needed, according to another Baymard study.

If your store is on Shopify, you can leverage Google Autocomplete to gain 20% time savings and error reductions and Shopify Pay which helped ecommerce stores close $30 million in sales three times faster over Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend in 2017.

5. Set Up Retargeted Ads

In addition to paid search, social media ads, and content marketing, retargeting should definitely be part of your advertising strategy for this year’s holiday sales period. According to a study by comScore, retargeted ads lead to a 1046% increase in branded search and a 726% lift in site visits after four weeks of retargeted ad exposure.

You don’t need to be a large enterprise or have an advertising agency to try retargeting. Companies like Shoelace offer customer journey retargeting automation for online stores and integrate closely with email management apps, abandoned cart services, and more. If your site is on Shopify, you can find even more efficiencies by connecting Kit and have retargeting campaign options and performance updates sent directly to your phone.

Is Your Website Ready to Convert?

If you feel there are some gaps in your website’s potential to convert visitors to paying customers, TWG can help. Send us a note at or reach out to me directly for a no strings attached conversation.