Christmas retail: gearing up for Cyber Monday (part 2 – website optimisation)

Yesterday, Ben looked at how careful research and planning is essential to maximising sales on Cyber Monday, and over the course of the Christmas period. Now that you have established your ‘hero’ products, target audience and key messages, I turn attention to your website. After all, dedicating time to research and planning, and increasing investment to acquire traffic over the Christmas period, will be wasted if your website fails to convert that traffic into sales.

With this in mind, and time against you, we recommend you spend day two of five preparing your website for the uplift in traffic you can expect by executing tactics in paid search, link building and social media, all of which we will be looking at as the week unfolds.

Day 2 – Website optimisation

According to Logan Tod‘s Annual Online Shopping Index, the factors most important to consumers online shopping experience last Christmas were listed as delivery options, site search and product availability, and well-written copy.

On this basis, here are some relatively quick-win considerations in each of these areas:

Delivery information and options

  • There is nothing worse than getting to the very end of the checkout to be hit with a larger than expected delivery charge. Ensure your delivery costs are made clear from outset, ideally on product pages
  • If you can, offer a range of delivery options and prices. For some customers next day delivery will be essential. For others, as long as it received prior to Christmas, next day will not be so much of a priority
  • Consider using delivery options as an extra incentive to encourage sales, for example by offering free delivery on orders made between certain dates, or for orders over a certain value
  • Do not make promises you cannot keep when it comes to delivery. Let down a customer by failing to deliver to them what was promised and on time, and they are unlikely to be as forgiving at Christmas as they may be at other times of the year

Site search

  • As we get closer to Christmas, search queries will become more specific as prospects get closer to the point of making their purchase (having already worked through the research and consideration stages of the buying cycle). Does your site search function stand up to this by displaying relevant results for longer tail searches?
  • Ensure that your site search functionality is set up to account for different methods by which customers may search. For example, do you send out a catalogue? Do products therefore have codes attached to them? If so, customers may search using these codes so ensure the site search function will deliver results on this basis
  • If there are no search results to return, be sure to offer alternatives. Nothing is more likely to drive a prospect away than the message ‘sorry this product is not available’ accompanied by little or no accompanying help or advice

Product availability

  • Do not allow customers to add a product to their basket only to get to the checkout and be informed it is actually not available. Or worse still, pay for the product, receive the confirmation email only to then be informed later on that stock is not available (I’m amazed so many retail sites still allow this to happen!). Therefore, ensure your stocking information on the website is as up to date as it can possibly be. If you are utilising an automated back end system that maintains live stocking information on the front-end website this should be straightforward. If not, you need to establish a manual process to update stock levels at least every couple of hours
  • If products are not available, be sure to display information detailing when they will be back in stock. Better still, allow customers the functionality to reserve the product when it becomes available again. If it’s too late to build this automated functionality into your website, add a call to action that encourages the visitor to ‘call and reserve’

Copy (and other types of content)

  • Ensure your product descriptions are accurate, well written and optimised with relevant search terms. Are you REALLY selling the features and benefits of not only the product itself but also why the prospect should buy from you?
  • Ensure your product images are of good quality and tagged with appropriate descriptions
  • Create content that will help support your product descriptions, and therefore sales, especially if your research and planning has indicated that you are targeting a different audience at Christmas to the one you would normally attract. What content can you create that will help a male audience, for example, to make a more considered purchase of ladies underwear? Your aim is to make the buying process as straightforward and pain free as possible. Make sure this complementary content, buyers guides for example, is highly visible alongside product descriptions, downloadable and shareable
  • If you have promotional areas on your homepage, for example a banner, ensure they are pushing the ‘hero products’ and key messages you have established during the research and planning stage
  • When attempting to cross sell, ensure the products you deem as complementary are indeed so in the eyes of your customer. The disappointment of finding a product is out of stock is hard enough to bear, offering alternative products that are almost entirely different just adds insult to injury and will not be seen as at all helpful
  • Make sure your contact details are obvious and if offering support, particularly by phone, have a clearly visible number on every page

Checkout process

  • Importantly, test your checkout process now to make sure it is running normally
  • Assuming you have conversion funnels set up in your Analytics software, you should be able to identify where visitors typically drop out of the checkout process and to what extent. Based on this data are there any quick and easy tests you can run to increase conversion rates, such as:
  1. Removing the need to register an account before making a purchase. This is a sure fire way to have potential customers drop out of the checkout process in their droves yet so many retail sites still insist on it
  2. Where you do have forms, can you remove any of the fields, which if you really thought about it are unnecessary?
  3. Can you add progression indicators so users know how long the process will be i.e. this is step 1 of 2?
  4. Are you providing too many distractions at the point of purchase? Attempting to sell other products at this late stage, although admirable, may actually lead to abandonment, the exact opposite of what you were looking for
  5. Are the payment methods clear?
  6. Do you need to reinforce the security of your checkout. Shoppers may be more wary of fraud around Christmas
  7. Are you communicating the next steps clearly, for example will the customer receive a confirmation email? Will they receive an email when their product is dispatched?

And finally…

Increasing sales over the Christmas period is somewhat wasted if you do not seek to build relationships with newly acquired customers. Any promotional efforts over the Christmas period should be aimed at developing ongoing dialogue with new customers.

Therefore, ensure you offer newly acquired customers an incentive to come back. Consider how to collect data so you can engage with these customers again in the future. Request that they join your social networks for further offers and add them to your mailing list, for example (the latter with their permission of course).

Now that you your website is ready to go, you can focus on efforts to increase targeted traffic. Tomorrow, Amelia looks at paid search.

Until then…

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