June 19, 2014, 11:46 AM

A 2014 holiday preparation checklist

Here are six things to do now to get ready for the 2014 holiday season, courtesy of David Rekuc, marketing director at Ripen eCommerce.

1. Fine tune your e-mail campaigns

Although it’s obvious you need a holiday campaign, it may be unclear what that entails. Besides sending the obvious hard hitters for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there are other factors to consider making your campaign stand out.

To ensure your e-mails make it to the inbox, check that your list is clean so it avoids spam filters. You can increase your open rate with personal and segmentation e-mails based off of info from e-mail lists. Promoting gifts for him? Send it to the ladies (and vice versa). Finally, consumers are bombarded with sale e-mails to the point of exhaustion well before Black Friday. If you reduce your frequency before the rush, your customers might be more accepting of a higher frequency during the holidays.

2. Stress test site performance

There’s nothing worse than thousands lost in revenue due to your site being offline during shopping rush hours.  Investing in load testing prior to massive holiday traffic spikes may be money well spent if you’re concerned with your site’s stability.

Ideally, be ready for a huge spike in traffic without having to change your marketing campaigns. But if you need to, stagger your e-mails to make sure you don’t send out a server-crashing deal.

3. Evaluate and re-evaluate merchandise

Make sure your sales are as exciting as the season with competitor comparison and product deals. Take a look at what your rivals did last year and if they used a loss leader (selling one item at a loss to draw buyers). Chances are they will be as aggressive this year. Don’t have that info? Use Wayback Machine’s internet archive to see features of competitors’ sites in years past.

Promoting quickly expiring deals is a way to increase urgency and shorten the decision process, which can lead to an increase in sales. Also check last year’s records for inventory levels for this year’s orders. You don’t want to stock out too early or be left with a surplus of candy cane greeting cards.

4. Beef up security

Cyberattacks are high during the holiday season, especially on Cyber Monday. Click fraud and malware cannot only ruin a sale, but can also destroy your reputation during an important time. Take this opportunity to add security before it’s too late. It can be as simple as having a security provider and displaying the logo somewhere on your site. Shoppers are more likely to buy when they know their information is secure, so this step can also mean a bigger bottom line.

5. Make mobile shopping easy

We won’t annoy you with statistics about mobile shopping being more popular than ever. But if there is one time to take advantage of those non-stats, it’s the 2013 holiday shopping season. Increase conversions by optimizing your mobile site and cleaning up the checkout process. Adding helpful features like easy-to-find checkout buttons, readable browsers, and automatic field fill-ins can prevent shoppers from getting too frustrated to continue.

Still, you can’t save them all. Mobile abandonment rates are high, so make sure you give your customers a way to remember what they looked at and buy on a desktop later. Also, in-store mobile comparison shopping is increasingly popular, so be sure your prices are competitive enough to make the deal, or try pushing extra features instead.

6. Expand your shipping options

Make sure you are offering next-day shipping or “arrives by” guarantees as late as possible to squeeze more out of the holiday rush. Online shoppers are going to be looking around as late as December 23rd hoping they can get their gift delivered next day.  If you have nothing to offer that can be delivered in this time frame, make sure you push them towards a gift card so you aren’t turning desperate last-minute shoppers away.

While price reigns king, speed and convenience rise near the top of customer priority during the holidays. Options like gift messages, gift wrapping, and/or gift receipts are time-saving perks that improve satisfaction and may sway a buyer’s decision.  Offering these options can also increase your average order value by tacking on some additional costs, all the while increasing customer satisfaction.

Ripen eCommerce is a New Jersey agency that specializes in delivering custom solutions to e-commerce clients. For more information, visit www.ripenecommerce.com.

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