6 Tips to Prepare Your Ecommerce Site for Holiday 2012

For some ecommerce companies, the impending holiday season can feel more like a foreign invasion than a golden sales opportunity.

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Multichannel Merchant
Multichannel Merchant
Multichannel Merchant
O+F Operations and Fulfillment

Between the frantic buyers, the fear of site crashes and the incessant call for free shipping (not to mention the threat of blizzards and ice storms), even the most committed seasonal seller might be tempted to stay in bed and pull up the covers.

But just a few timely tips can help turn this year’s holiday push into a long, delightful sleigh ride (or at least a short, exciting trip on a Flexible Flyer).

So take these tips to heart and your holiday stress levels will drop as your profits rise. That way, as you head into the solstice and the darkest days of the year, your ecommerce outlook will sparkle and shine:

Change is good
But if you think you might need a few site changes, don’t wait until the last minute, especially if you’d like your shopping cart provider to do the dirty work.

Volume gets crazy heavy this time of year, so send all details to your partner well ahead of time. Get a quote on how much the work will cost, then schedule as much of the maintenance in advance as possible. Because no one wants to be fixing glitches when they could be singing “I Have a Little Dreidel” and gorging on gelt.

Test, test and test again
Test all of your promos to make sure they work correctly well in advance of sending catalogs and brochures to the printer or doing email blasts featuring those promos. There is nothing worse than finding out the deal you’ve offered cannot be executed as promised. Unless it’s the leaden fruitcake your Aunt Bonita sends every year–ugh.

When in doubt, disclose
Clearly post your special holiday shipping transit times and rules, lest angry customers come for you disguised as carolers. Update your shipping information pages early and often, as well as any special shipping messages in checkout and promo spots to clearly state the cutoffs for holidays.

The promotional calendar, aka the proverbial string around your finger
Create an internal holiday marketing and PR calendar that has all of your email promotions, shipping cutoffs, website updates, etc. Though you might wait until the last minute to buy that Kwanzaa gift for your brother (hmmm…should I get him the retro-nostalgia skinny tie–or a Slinky for his desk?), you don’t want to get to December 15 and realize you need to get out your “last day for ground shipping!” email in an hour.

Gift cards: the gift that keeps on giving
It may seem like a no-brainer, but many online retailers forget how powerful a gift card can be to the grandparent who can’t decide what to get little Anna and Miguel. Offer and promote gift cards and gift certificates heavily, especially at the very end of the holiday season when other items won’t arrive in time or overnight shipping is too expensive.

Diversify and verify
Just as Santa doesn’t feel one gift works for every kid, your customers expect you to tailor your site to all the many ways they visit your store. So test your site across all browsers and platforms–and versions thereof. And because these days many shoppers buy when they’re on the move, that includes mobile and tablet versions of your site, too.

Blake Ellis is the founding partner and chief executive officer and Nathan Focht is founding partner and president of ecommerce platform CommerceV3.