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BizReport : Ecommerce archives : October 06, 2008

Holiday prep - the time to act is now

Don't get caught with your pants down this holiday season. With just a few weeks left until shoppers begin spending in earnest you need to ensure your online marketing campaigns and website are in shape and able to cope with consumer demands.

by Helen Leggatt

With a third of U.S. consumers already actively shopping for holiday gifts, yesterday was a good day to be ready for the hectic season ahead. However, for those left dragging their heels, here are five tips to get your online campaigns and website in tip top condition.

1. Push your promotions. Consumers are looking for ways to save money on their purchases so if you're offering free gift wrapping, free delivery or discounts you need to get these in front of consumers now.

2. Load test your website. Too many online retailers learn that their website is unable to handle the volumes of holiday traffic the hard way. Avoid downtime and the subsequent loss of sales and consumer trust, by carrying out load testing well in advance of the big traffic spikes.

3. Update keywords. The top 10 search results presented to a consumer are usually the ones acted upon. During the holiday period, consider creating seasonal ad groups and keyword phrases.

4. Socialize. The chatter on social networks regarding gifts and where to buy them is increasing. Listen to, and engage in, these conversations to discover the products consumers are considering, and more to the point, those they're not and learn how they perceive your business.

5. Check out the checkout. Many sales are lost through shopping cart abandonment the causes of which include surprise charges, security doubts and lack of delivery options. What is your cart abandonment rate and why are they leaving?

"It's critical that retailers optimize their sites during the holiday season -- even as IT 'locks down' the shop to prepare for business," advises Eric J. Hansen, president of website optimization firm SiteSpect, Inc. "Savvy marketers know that optimizations performed outside of the holiday season usually need revalidation because they were done for different audiences under different contexts."

"The high concentration of shoppers, including many who may only purchase online during the holiday season, offers a rich opportunity for marketers to make improvements at a time when purchase intent is at its highest," he added.

Tags: checkout, free delivery, holiday, keywords, load test, online shopping, promotions, shopping cart abandonment, social networks

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