There is no doubt that more people will be doing online shopping, this socially distanced festive season, than at any time in history (data from Adobe Analytics shows that the last holiday season saw two years’ worth of ecommerce growth in a single year). While Jeff and the retail giants must be rubbing their hands in glee there is no reason why you, owner of a somewhat smaller online store, should not have your slice of the Christmas cake.

In this article we unwrap 10 practical ways to prep your online store for online shopping this Christmas.

1. Dot The I’s And Cross The T’s

There is nothing less beneficial to your online business than a dissatisfied customer. So, make sure your online store delivers an easy and efficient customer experience, from site navigation to payment processes. Is your payment portal working correctly? Are your product prices and descriptors all up to date? Is everything you list as “in stock” actually in stock?

update terms and conditions on your online shopping site

Make sure your website’s privacy policy, refund policy and terms and conditions are not only clear for website visitors, but compliant with legislation. (We’ve linked to some handy templates here, but you may want to run a Google search for examples from your country/region).

2. Check If Your Site Can Handle The Crowds

Check with your website hosting service that the hosting plan you are on includes unlimited traffic – some of the cheaper plans don’t, and a website that crashes when traffic increases is a retail disaster. You may want to level up to a higher plan, even if temporarily.

Your site may slow when the traffic builds – and statistics suggest that over 50% of Internet users will abandon a site if it takes longer than just three seconds to load. You can check your current site speed with a number of free online tools, and then take steps to improve it. One of the best ways to improve site speed is to optimise your site’s images (see point 4 below). 

3. Optimise Your Site For Mobile

optimise your site for mobile shopping

No one can buy from your online store if they can’t find it. Google has made it mandatory for a website to be mobile-first, in order for it to rank in search results. So, if your website is not optimised for mobile, it will be lost and adrift on the sea of the internet. Google’s stance aside, more than half the global population now access the internet only via mobile; by 2025, it will be almost three-quarters. Adopting a mobile-first approach is simply good business sense. Here is a handy guide to making your WordPress site compatible with small-screen shopping.

4. Make Your Website Seo-fit

Mobile-centric design plays a big role in optimising your website for effective performance and seo, but there’s more to consider. Make sure that all images on your site, including product images, are optimised correctly. Images should also have alt text to increase your site’s visibility to Google’s crawlers, and all of your site’s pages should have relevant and effective metadata (tags, keywords and descriptions). 

These are basic seo musts; if you want to take seo to a more advanced level, run a PageSpeed analysis on your site. It will tell you all the glitches you need to fix, so that you can make the required updates (or lean on a developer friend to do so). 

If you really want to make your life easy when it comes to seo, there are an increasing number of automated seo solutions, that are driven by artificial intelligence and can move your website to page one of Google within a few months (bit late for this Christmas, but something to consider for 2022).

5. Polish Up Your Product Photography

You might be happy with the product images in your online store or gallery but consider re-shooting some of the products that people are most likely to be interested in, with a fresh spin. If your product images are not reflective of the current season, you might also want to reshoot them. Need some inspiration? Take a look at these ecommerce photography tips.

Update product photography with a festive twist

You could also consider incorporating an attractive festive theme into new images – a drape of tinsel here, a flourish of mistletoe there. People have been through a lot this year; a bit of Christmas cheer will be welcomed. You could even go further and …

6. Create A Christmas-Themed Product Gallery

Whether you sell footwear or fine food, you should have a fair idea of what products will be on shoppers’ wish lists based on last year’s December sales, the current cold season and lifestyle trends over the holidays. Have a peak at what your competitors are promoting for Christmas, too. These criteria in mind, you can create a dedicated Christmas product gallery filled with gift ideas, and even incorporate search functionality through FooGallery PRO Expert, so that online shoppers can briskly fill their trolleys. 

Have a think about products you could cross-sell to visitors; silver tableware pairs nicely with a set of frosted glasses, one Icelandic landscape photograph really deserves another, and winter socks can matchy-match with a cosy scarf. 

product gallery for online shopping

7. Run Holiday Sales And Specials To Promote Online Shopping

Many budgets are tight this year, and shoppers will welcome the chance to save on their purchases. Consider offering regular customers, or customers from last December, a discount on purchases from your Christmas gallery. Some online store owners also offer free shipping for purchases over a certain value. 

Discounting prices or not charging for shipping might feel like a revenue dampener, but with more or bigger purchases being stimulated by your special offers, it’s a win-win arrangement for you and your customers. You can add a plugin like FooBar to your online store, to create eye-catching Special Offer notifications. It’s human nature to not want to miss out on a good deal, so why not attach an eye-catching countdown bar to your deals as well.

8. Ramp Up Your Social Media Marketing

The thing you want most for Christmas is more inbound traffic to your website. Social media can play a big role in this if you allocate a decent budget to some sponsored posts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn (if you have a company page) – pick the platform(s) most relevant to your core customer. Sponsoring posts allows you to target social media users by location, age, gender, interests and more. By the way, going back to your product photography, Facebook posts with photos receive an average 37% increase in engagement and that trend is also reflected on the other platforms. 

Social media marketing

It’s worth widening your social circle further by investing in a social media plugin, allowing website visitors to easily share your Christmas products and deals with their own social networks. 

9. Take A Direct Marketing Approach

Presuming you’ve set up a contact database for your WordPress site, now is a good time to send out a festive emailer promoting your online shopping, Christmas gallery and/or special offers. Remember that the first key to success with emailers is the subject line – while not specific to Christmas, here are 12 types of email subject lines that have been shown to increase open rates. Including a “unique” discount code in your emails, for example, will be a nice nod to loyal repeat shoppers.

Your direct marketing efforts could also include LinkedIn, whose InMail functionality lets you send a personal email directly to anyone in your network – that’s powerful. Consider, for instance, if you had spent the last year connecting with consumer or lifestyle bloggers on LinkedIn (they are not hard to find). Now would be the time to pounce on them and motivate them to run a short feature backlinked to your online store or gallery.

10. Service That Gets Smiles

Lastly, before the digital crowds descend, ensure you are ready to answer shoppers’ questions or solve their issues promptly. Whether it’s just you or you have a dedicated customer-facing team in place, make sure your store’s phone number has a friendly “We’re busy right now, but we’ll call right back” message for those peak periods, make sure emails and contact forms will be attended to swiftly and be clear to site visitors about your “open” and “closed” hours. 

Good customer service is important

Adding a straightforward FAQ page to your site that answers common questions related to your products, prices and other online shopping processes may answer many queries before you need to. And consider adding a chatbot to your site, which may be able to handle basic enquiries when you’re not online or are under pressure.

Thanks for reading and we wish you limited elbow room in your online store this Christmas.