10 Crucial Ways to Prep Your Online Store for the 2020 Holidays

The holidays have always been a historically busy season for ecommerce stores but this year it’s going to be taken up to 11.

Retail store shutdowns and quarantine laws have helped ecommerce owners thrive in 2020. The online shopping industry has seen 4 to 6 years worth of accelerated growth in 6 months according to research by Adobe Insights and it shows no signs of stopping as we approach the busiest shopping season of the year.

If there’s ever a time to optimize your ecommerce store, it’s now.

To help you get ready, we’ve put together a checklist of the 10 most important things to do before the buying season blows in.

1. Do a double-take (or even a triple)

It’s possible to be so familiar with your website that you no longer see its weaknesses. Sure, you can navigate the site pretty easily but that’s because you already know where everything is. First-time visitors might not be having such an easy time.

Try viewing your website the same way a customer does even if it means reaching out to a third party to do so. Is it easy to find the products you want? Is all the important information readily visible? How is the flow between products to checkout? Are there any points that can be improved?

If getting a third party agency or consultant isn’t in the budget then try asking a relative or friend to go through the site as you watch then take detailed notes on where they stumble. Third party tools can also lend a hand such as HotJar and CrazyEgg.

2. Review your email templates

If the store is the heart of your ecommerce business then the emails are your hands. They allow you to extend your reach and nurture customers even when they’re not actively browsing. They tap buyers on the shoulder and remind them that it would be a really good idea for them to take another look at that abandoned shopping cart.

Take a good look at your email setup. Are any of these missing?

  • Promotional emails
  • Order confirmation email
  • Abandoned Cart email
  • Thank you email
  • Drip Series email

You can sign up for email services like BeeFree.io if you don’t have one already. BeeFree is a free email template builder that allows you to design your own email using drag and drop builders. It’s much more presentable than simple text email, and helps your brand stand out to consumers.

3. Set up holiday discounts

Seasonal sales and discounts are a time-tested way of drawing in customers. Set up discounts on some of your hottest items, but be strategic in their application--spread the discounts around to cover a wide range of product types to capture diverse buyer interests.

You can introduce different kinds of sales promotions to keep things interesting. Buy one get one sales, holiday-themed competitions, and price match promotions are just a few possible tactics you can use to entice buyers. See our blog post for more ideas.

If you need assistance setting up these discounts, AmeriCommerce has advanced discount capabilities that can help you build the discount pricing structure you want.

4. Send out an email blast

Assuming you followed step 2 above, you should already have the framework of a promotional email already to hand. Now you just need to send out an email that gets people excited for whatever sales or products you have waiting for them, and knowing who to send it to.

Fortunately, AmeriCommerce may already have a default mailing list already set up for you in the back end. This mailing list would’ve been compiled partly from buying history and behavior.

AmeriCommerce already integrates with popular mail services like Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor, and Bronto.

5. Add some holiday content

If your own website doesn’t acknowledge the holiday season, the customer has no reason to think you’re doing anything special for them.

Update your website banner and slides with holiday images and messaging. If you have the time, write a holiday-themed blog as well and distribute it to your social media channels (which should also be broadcasting holiday content like themed product categories, pages dedicated to holiday specials, and more).

6. Prepare an ad campaign

Blogs and on-site banners are great for customers who are already on your site, but you’ll also need to reach people “in the wild.” Emails can assist with that, but only if you have their email address and permission to contact them.

Ad campaigns are an effective outreach method that can be targeted towards specific individuals. Use different ads to highlight different products and promos to the people who care about them the most. Post ads on social media channels, PPC, remarketing, etc. Anything that lets people know you’re alive.

7. Optimize your transaction fees

Transaction fees are a cost of doing business online (and retail in general), but that doesn’t mean you can’t save on them.

If you have spare time, evaluate your different payment options and gateways and see where you can save on unnecessary fees that dig into your profit margins. Not only could you save money but you may also be able to reduce fraud as well.

AmeriCommerce Payments, for example, offers rates as low as 2.3% plus custom rates that can be negotiated (depending on the situation). Plus, if you’re using PayPal Checkout, you can see transactions from both card processing and Checkout in the same PayPal transaction dashboard.

8. Offer new ways to pay

You want to make it as easy as possible for people to give you money, so offer a variety of payment options. Flexibility is the name of the game here. PayPal, for instance, offers Venmo, PayPal credit, and Pay in 4.

Pay in 4” is a free credit option to online store owners that allows customers to pay in installment plans while taking out the risk for merchants. With PayPal Pay in 4, a customer would pay for 25% of the item up front, and then pay an additional three instalments over a 6-week period. The program is valid for items priced between $30 to $600 with no interest or additional fees while the seller is paid in full on the first transaction.

9. Launch/promote a new product

Holiday shoppers are often looking for something new or interesting to give to their loved ones, so this is your opportunity to put a spotlight on your latest and greatest offerings.

You don’t even need to apply a discount--just craft some marketing around it. A banner ad, a splash page, or even an email announcement. Anything that will grab your customers’ interest and prompt further investigation.

10. Add a live chat

One of the biggest advantages that brick-and-mortar stores have over ecommerce is the presence of in-store sales people. These people are always available to assist customers and answer questions, unlike e-stores where the customer only has whatever information you provide them. Yes, the customer can go on Google to research, but at that point they’re off your site and may not make it back.

Live chats, on the other hand, give the customer a way to get information while still visiting your store. When they start a chat session, you’ll be able to answer their questions directly and confirm why your product is the ideal choice. Bold 360 and Tawk.to are popular options.

What other things can you do to prep your online store for the holidays? Share them in the comments below!