Technical Steps | Holiday Prep Checklist for eCommerce Stores, Part 1

ecommerce-holiday-checklist-technical

The sun is shining and, for most of us, the holidays are the last thing on our minds. However, for eCommerce store owners, the best time to start getting a store ready for the holiday season is right now. There are steps to take now to make everything go smoothly in the colder months. If a store isn’t ready, it’s easy to get blindsided and fail to capitalize on the most profitable time of the year for online retailers. Existing customers are likely to buy more than they normally do and it’s also a great time to build relationships with new customers.

The holiday season can bring:

  • More traffic
  • More orders
  • Bigger orders
  • More emails
  • More returns

Coolblueweb has put together a Holiday Readiness Checklist. Is your store ready?

Make sure your site is secure and PCI compliant

Does your store accept credit cards? Then your customers are entrusting you with sensitive payment information and you owe it to them to keep their data secure. Even in this age of heightened security concerns, some stores still are not PCI compliant. When an online business is PCI compliant, it means they meet specific security standards when dealing with major credit card information.

The holidays are an active time of year for cyber criminals. Do not wait until right before Black Friday hits to make sure your website meets PCI security standards.

There are several additional security steps you’re going to want to think about to keep your store and data safe. We recommend reading this post about site security.

Check that your server can handle holiday traffic

While you might be able to squeak by with a normal amount of traffic on a normal day, holiday influxes can cause unique struggles.

  • Are you using a professional hosting service? If not, consider switching now.
  • Do you have CDN (content delivery network) enabled? Doing so will give your servers space to do their jobs better.
  • Check to make sure your server isn’t at capacity. Otherwise customers could encounter slow load times or even be unable to access your site during high traffic periods.

Beware of making big changes to your store design or navigation

If customers have been browsing your products in advance of making a purchase, implementing huge changes to navigation or design can throw them for a loop. Consider the fact that many online shoppers visit stores a few times before moving forward with an order, to comparison shop or give themselves time to make a decision. Do not make it difficult for them to reorient themselves upon coming back a second or third time.

Don’t forget about mobile shoppers

With more and more web traffic coming via mobile devices (71% in the US according to Smart Insights) and more shoppers becoming confident making purchases online, you need to make sure the mobile version of your website is holiday-ready. If you’ve been planning on releasing a mobile app, it’s important to get it developed and launched well before the holiday season, to give you time for troubleshooting and collecting customer feedback.

Prepare for international orders

It’s important to take distinctions between different cultures into account when selling internationally. While Black Friday is a huge shopping day in the United States, businesses catering to Chinese shoppers might see a boost in sales in advance of the Chinese New Year, as well as huge sales for Singles Day. Do some research on the cultures you’re serving to make sure you’re prepared to meet their needs.

Get your returns system in order

Many retailers focus on sales during the holiday season, but you also need to be prepared to deal a larger-than-normal quantity of returns. A few questions you’ll want to have answers for are:

  • What is your return policy?
  • What are the practical steps customers need to take to return an item and are these steps communicated clearly?
  • How will you process these returns? Will you have enough resources and employee hours to facilitate returns?

Consider bringing a few extra people on board for the season

Anyone working in eCommerce knows that the holidays bring all kinds of unique challenges and heightened emotions. Having a prepared team makes all the difference in the world. Your customers will also feel the difference if you’re fully staffed. Additional workers can help you process orders more quickly and they’re also invaluable when you’d like to provide quick answers to the deluge of customer service questions you’re likely to receive.

If you’d like some development help preparing for the upcoming holiday season, get in touch at info@coolblueweb.com.  We’d love to talk with you!

Sarah has been with coolblueweb since 2012. She enjoys dance, movies and laughing at inappropriate times.