It seems like 2020 has gone by both incredibly fast and slow as molasses. In any case, the holiday season is upon us, with Thanksgiving weekend just around the corner. If you own an eCommerce business, you know what else is looming: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These are two of the busiest shopping days of the year, with Black Friday regularly generating a sizeable sum—in 2019, online sales amounted to $11.9 billion.
Despite this telling statistic, many small business owners find themselves unprepared for the influx of customers every year. Online store owners are especially susceptible since they aren’t sure how to prepare their websites for increased customer traffic.
And it’s even more imperative to be prepared this year. For one, the number of online shoppers is trending upwards—142.2 million consumers shopped online in 2019 vs. 124 million in-store. Add to this the ongoing pandemic, which will undoubtedly encourage even more online shoppers as people try their best to avoid crowds in stores.
It pays to be prepared as an online business owner, and we’ve put together an informative checklist below to help ready your eCommerce site for the busy Thanksgiving weekend. Be sure to review all the items to ensure your online shop is at 100%.
7 Steps to Prepare Your Website for Black Friday and Cyber Monday
1. Check site speed and load time.
In the grand scheme of things, a single second isn’t worth much. But in the context of online shopping, that’s not the case at all. Today’s digitally-savvy consumers have steep expectations for their online shopping experiences, especially when it comes to the wait time.
Consider these revealing stats about website performance and its impact on consumer shopping behavior:
- 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less.
- 40% of online shoppers abandon a website that takes longer than three seconds to load.
- A one-second delay in page response decreases customer satisfaction by as much as 16% and results in a 7% reduction in conversions.
Clearly, every second counts in the shopping experience, so your online store needs to be in tip-top shape. You can use several tools to check your eCommerce site’s performance and load time; some even advise you on what needs fixing. For example, Google has a free tool called PageSpeed Insights that analyzes a specified webpage and generates recommendations for making it faster.
You may find a few easy fixes after using one of these tools, though some recommendations may be too technical for you to handle on your own. Hiring an expert is an option, though you may find switching to a different eCommerce platform the simpler approach—not to mention a new provider may be a better long-term option.
2. Optimize your checkout process.
If you can’t recall the last time you walked through your checkout process, it’s been too long. Even on the most carefully maintained sites, things can break or behave unexpectedly—and when you least expect them. Regular customers may be willing to figure out workarounds to these site issues, but the same can’t be said for new site visitors.
Act like you’re a new customer and walk through your site, making sure to browse through different pages. Add items to your shopping cart, remove a few, create a new account, and check out—do everything a new customer might do as part of their shopping experience. Go one step further by having your staff, friends, and family do the same.
Everyone’s customer journey will be different, which is what you want. Each person will navigate to a different set of pages, use other browsers, choose various payment methods, and so on. Chances are you’ll discover not only site issues you were unaware of but also areas that can be improved.
You may determine that your current eCommerce platform makes your checkout process cumbersome or otherwise limits customer options. If so, consider an alternative provider with reliable, secure hosting that makes the checkout process seamless and enables customers to choose between multiple payment options.
3. Update site banners with special deals.
Whether you’re planning on offering 20% off all merchandise or 50% off select items, be sure to make your Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals clear to customers. The last thing you want is online shoppers confused about what is on sale (and what isn’t).
Announce your deals on the home page and wherever else you deem appropriate. Just be sure to queue up all your banners before Black Friday. Then all you have to do is flip the digital switch when it’s time. Even better, have the banners automatically go live when you specify, assuming your eCommerce platform has that feature.
4. Add and promote discount codes.
If you’re running different seasonal marketing campaigns, you’re going to need discount codes. Your eCommerce platform should address this need. For example, you may not want to go to the sitewide discount route. Or perhaps you’re testing out different marketing channels, such as billboards or social media. Discount codes can help you identify which channels bring in the most traffic.
You can also use discount codes to segment new customers from current customers. For example, if you’re using email marketing (and you should be!), you can send an exclusive discount code to people who’ve purchased from your store in the past six months. The code could offer them a special Black Friday deal that includes an extra percentage amount off, free shipping, or whatever perk will entice them to make a purchase.
5. Add cross-sells and upsells.
Cross-selling and upselling are other areas your eCommerce platform should enable. Upselling is offering a better or upgraded product to a customer while cross-selling is offering one or more items that complement the originally chosen product.
Upselling is a valuable method of revenue generation, as it usually costs nothing if you’re using an eCommerce platform with upselling (and cross-selling) built-in. By offering customers the opportunity to upgrade, the worst case is they say no, in which case the sale amount stays the same. But if they say yes, you’ve just increased their purchase amount. All in all, upselling can increase your revenue by 10% or more.
Cross-selling also offers a great way to generate additional revenue. For example, assume you own an online store that sells footwear and related accessories. If a customer is interested in a pair of tennis shoes, your eCommerce site could try to cross-sell athletic socks and shoe deodorizers—complementary items the customer might need in addition to the tennis shoes.
6. Ensure you have social proof.
Consumers have always been more open to purchasing from brands they trust. But the advent of eCommerce businesses has made tons of options available. How do consumers then decide which brand to buy from? The answer lies in online reviews.
Customers spend 31% more money when a company has glowing reviews. But this is a company-level view; it doesn’t guarantee site visitors will buy a specific product. Convincing someone to buy a product has its own review requirements—for example, you have a 270% greater chance of selling a product with five reviews than a product with no reviews.
You can use other social proof elements to build trust with site visitors. Try customer testimonials, clear contact details, and engaging information about your company. Though these elements will likely have a smaller impact, they could make a difference in someone’s choice to buy from you.
7. Verify social media buttons and newsletter signups are prominent.
Remember to promote, promote, promote! Considering the amount of digital noise customers have to wade through when shopping, you must take every chance to stay in front of them. That means presenting opportunities for them to follow you on social channels, like Facebook and Instagram, and sign up for your newsletters and other marketing emails. Make sure social icons are visible, such as at the top and bottom of each page. Additionally, try adding a signup form at the bottom of the page or in a pop-up.
For Thanksgiving weekend, you can adjust your regular signup messaging to call out your Black Friday deals. For example, you may entice visitors to sign up by offering exclusive discounts. Once Black Friday is over, you can switch messaging to emphasize Cyber Monday deals.
Checking the above items off your list will help give you an edge over competitors. But if your eCommerce platform isn’t up for the challenge, no amount of preparation will matter. Yahoo Stores is a cloud-based eCommerce platform with all the tools needed for online sales and a smooth shopping experience—templates, shopping cart, order management, discount codes, gift certificates, domain address, email addresses, SSL certificate, and more. Sign up today to ensure Black Friday and Cyber Monday go off without a hitch.