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The Christmas shopping season is upon us, and retailers both online and off are enjoying heavy sales. You need to get a piece of the pie, and optimizing your site is the best way to do it. Take these actions to turn your website into a Christmas cash cow.
The Christmas shopping crowd isn't your average online buyer. Many of these people shop online just a few times a year, and a number of them are decidedly un-savvy to the ways of the web. Making sure you're catering to these users will fool-proof usability.
- Make it easy for buyers to find what they want: This is simple stuff. Ensure that your menus are easy to use and you have a sufficient search option.
- Be sure everything works: It sounds like a no-brainer, but you can't forget this important step. Your sales will suffer if customers are frustrated by broken links, slow-loading photos, and other e-commerce maladies.
- Be clear with errors: Whether it's option values or contact information, be sure to give good error messages to customers when you need more information, or they may abandon your site feeling confused.
- Use descriptive headings: Screen readers need these to understand page structure, and regular users need them to get an idea of what you're offering.
- Follow conventions: Internet users are accustomed to certain standards, like the term “shopping cart.” Stick to established conventions and your customers will have an easier time navigating your site.
- Clearly identify the next step: If you want your visitor to buy the item they're looking at, use a large button they can click to do so. Make it obvious what they should do next, and it will be easier for them to do it.
- Use readable text: Make sure your font size and color is easy for all visitors to read, or you may find them abandoning your site.
Christmas shoppers often fall into two camps: those looking for inspiration and those looking for something in particular. Make both of them happy with a landing page that provides clear direction and makes a statement about what you're offering.
- Answer your customer's question: When a visitor reaches your landing page, they should be able to answer a few questions: What's the offer? Why should they be interested? How can they take you up on the offer?
- Create different landing pages: One size doesn't fit all. Visitors from one ad may buy certain items, while others from a different source will buy differently. Direct each of them to a landing page that's optimized for what they will buy, and you'll improve sales.
Don't let flighty Christmas shoppers abandon their carts before sealing the deal. Take these steps to make sure they don't leave frustrated and confused.
- Make checkout easy for new customers: Let customers purchase without registering, saving this option until after they've completed the transaction.
- Second Bite: Abandoned shopping carts mean lost sales. Get your customers to come back and finish their transaction with this service.
- Make sure cart editing is easy: Don't let your customers get hassled by quantity changes, item removals, or changing values. Make all of these options easy to manipulate from the cart.
- Offer a progress indicator: Make sure customers don't feel like your checkout is an endless process. Give them an idea of how much more they have to do so they'll continue to hang on.
- Keep payment options simple: Don't offer too many different payment options, or your customer may get confused and abandon their cart.
- Offer total costs early: Nothing will make a customer close a shopping cart faster than discovering that after shipping and taxes, the item is just too expensive. Offer these costs earlier so customers have an accurate idea of how much things will cost.
Although images are vitally important to Christmas shoppers, it's often your text that sells them on a product. Make sure yours is up to par by following these guidelines.
- Avoid excessive adjectives: Adjectives can quickly turn off customers. They're often vague, misunderstood, or simply come off as too hyped. Use strong verbs that convey action instead.
- Use trigger words: Online shoppers often know exactly what they're looking for, so when they get to your site, be sure to confirm they're in the right place. If they're looking for a pink Gibson acoustic guitar, they'll respond better to a page that describes the product as such, rather than one that just says “guitar” or “pink Gibson.”
- Use question-based headlines: Questions make our brains want to know more, to understand the answer. Turn your headlines into questions, and you'll get visitors to read on.
- Make your copy “scannable”: Internet users and shoppers in particular don't want to read lengthy paragraphs. Rather, they scan. So make it easy for them with short paragraphs, bullet points, and highlighting.
After prices and products, design is perhaps the thing that shoppers notice the most. Make your site attractive and optimized for Christmas buyers with these tips.
- Provide lots of photos: People want to know what they're getting. If your site's photos aren't large or detailed enough, they may search elsewhere for photos, putting you at risk for lost sales.
- Use text more than images: Your images may be flashy, but your text is the star of the show. Visitors are looking for information, so give it to them.
- Differentiate between significant and insignificant attributes: Make your headlines and “buy now” buttons stand out above copy or color.
- Avoid “click here”: No one wants to “click here.” Rather, people want to buy shoes, sign up for your newsletter, or ask a question. Name your links accordingly.
- Place important items in the upper left corner of your pages: Most computer users are trained to “read” a website from left to right, so focus on this important spot for features that improve conversions.
- Don't overload browsers: You may have the latest and greatest in computer technology, but the average Internet user, and Christmas shoppers in particular, may be working with an older computer or slower connection. Keep this in mind, and design a simple, fast-loading site that's friendly for most speeds.
- Avoid banners: If you've got a great deal that you're advertising on your site, do yourself a favor and avoid placing it on a banner. Internet users are trained to ignore these items, assuming that they're ads.
- Check for dead links: Dead links mean lost sales and credibility. If your shopper can't reach a sizing chart, return policy, or even the page for an item, they're not likely to buy from you.
- Highlight just one thing: Don't confuse customers and send them off in multiple directions. On your home page or landing page, put the focus on one thing you really want them to do.
- Embrace white space: Don't overwhelm shoppers with something in every corner of your site, or they may become frustrated and leave. Make things a bit simpler and they'll have a more pleasant shopping experience.
- Differentiate your site from others: Find a way to stand out from other sites, or you'll just be one of the many they visit to comparison shop.
Don't let the sale end with just one item. Push for multiple item purchases by suggesting items your shoppers might not have thought of. It's a great opportunity to add more value to their gift and more profit to your bottom line.
- Recommend products other customers like: Put popular items that are often purchased with a particular item on its sales page. Or better yet, offer products that are complementary to the item.
- Don't end the cross sell at the transaction: Put more offers in their confirmation email. For example, if someone bought a game console from your site, your order confirmation email could offer popular titles that are used with that product.
- Offer best-sellers: Sometimes there's no complementary product to offer. In this case, push items that have sold well site-wide. You just might appeal to another gift recipient on their list.
As we've noted, Christmas shoppers are a different breed than the average person who shops online. They're skittish and often wary of doing business with lesser-established sites. Reassure them using these methods.
- Make your return policy easily available: Shoppers may be concerned that they'll get stuck with a defective product or that the person they gift won't like what they've given them. Make sure your returns are easy and accessible to make them feel better about doing business with you.
- Offer assurance: Add phrases like: “we value your privacy,” “shop with confidence,” and “serving you since ____.”
- Prove there are real people behind your site: Buyers are skeptical, so assure them that you really do exist by providing contact information, an about us page, photos of your office, and even staff profiles.
- Join trust groups and display their logos: Christmas shoppers are usually very worried about sharing their credit card online. Reassure them of their safety by partnering with groups like Verisign, HACKER SAFE, and the Better Business Bureau.
- Use testimonials: If shoppers see that others are happy with your service, you'll gain credibility.
- Back up statements with evidence: Don't just say you're one of the top sellers online: back it up with a third party article or award that says so.
- Make yourself available: Offer contact options, from numbers to addresses, and email.
- Send out automated emails when contacted: Show shoppers that you're on the ball and on top of your communications by automatically responding to emails even when you're not around.
- Offer alternate ordering methods: Some people are still wary of using credit cards online. Offer a toll free number or even a mail order option to capture these customers.
- Show that you already have customers: Show potential customers that you're established in your industry by using testimonials, a news section, or other features that highlights customers.
Closing the Deal
Give Christmas shoppers the push they need to buy from you by using these methods.
- Create a sense of urgency: Offer specials and deals with an expiration date so that customers won't put off a purchase until later and then forget about it.
- Offer customer reviews: This friendly call to action can seal the deal for some Christmas shoppers. If they see someone else has had a positive experience with your product, they'll be more inclined to buy it.
- Give an incentive: Provide your customers with something the competition doesn't. Whether it's a limited time offer freebie or extended support, this will help foster urgency.
Although it's a little late to make tracking tools work for this Christmas shopping season, you should take advantage of the added traffic this time of year brings. Implement these analytics to find out what's working for you and what needs to be tweaked.
- Google Analytics: Google Analytics is a must have for any webmaster, offering conversion stats and other clear, easy reports.
- StatCounter: Follow individual users, measure your search engine traffic, and understand visitor paths with this free statistics tool.
- pMetrics: Using pMetrics, you'll get detailed statistics about every shopper that comes to your site.
- Crazy Egg: Crazy Egg offers heat maps, overlays, and more tools to help you understand what your visitors focus on.
- Site Meter: This popular statistics tool offers information on visitor volume, views, and more.
- Mint: Use Mint to get stats on what your visitors are attracted to.
- AWStats: Put your log information into this open source tool that offers analysis with advanced statistics.
- Opentracker: Opentracker provides webmasters with reports on customer behavior, traffic, and more.