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Unlike last year, when the uncertainty of the pandemic made Canadians less structured in their approach to holiday planning, this year’s shopping is anticipated to return to pre-pandemic levels. According to the Retail Council of Canada, Canadians are planning to shop earlier, have higher spending intentions, and approximately 37% of sales will be online.   That said, ensuring your e-commerce website is optimized, user-friendly, and technically sound has never been more important.

Below we outline our e-commerce best practices and tips ahead of the holiday shopping season to ensure seamless transactions, boost sales, and improve customer satisfaction.

Prepare for Increased Digital Traffic

The holiday shopping season means an influx of traffic to your online store, especially during the peak shopping days like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Boxing Day. With an increase of traffic to your site, you will also need a surplus of inventory. Consumers want to shop where the experience is efficient and few items are out of stock or back-ordered. Retailers should check in with suppliers early to make sure their products are appropriately stocked, especially for gift items.

Furthermore, the direct correlation between webpage speed and revenue means ensuring your website is properly set up to handle increased levels of traffic. As a retailer, you’ll want to double-check the reliability of your online networks with your e-commerce provider to guarantee your technical ecosystem can handle increased traffic and maintain website speed and security. At the same time, you’ll want to look at any third-party integrations you have on your website, such as payment processing applications, ect., to ensure they’re up-to-date and can handle the extra traffic as well.

Prioritize User Experience

One of the most important factors to consider when optimizing your website is ensuring user experience and navigation are up to par. Start with making sure your products are simple to find. Your navigation bar or main menu should have clearly labelled pages so that it is intuitive for potential buyers to browse throughout different product pages. Your search bar should also be properly functioning for an alternate method to finding specific products.

The next step to fostering a positive user experience is ensuring your product pages have the necessary information on them to entice visitors to buy it. Here are a few essential aspects to include on your product pages:

  • Descriptive product names
  • Clear images with option for enlarged views
  • Simple product options to choose from, such as for colour or size
  • Informative product descriptions
  • Easy way to add item to shopping cart

It is also imperative to simplify your checkout page for a faster buying process and improved conversion. Have all your checkout information forms on one webpage and enable guest checkout on your website for a quicker and easier process. This also enhances the overall user experience.

With Business Insider anticipating that 45% of the total e-commerce market will be shopping from mobile devices by year end, the last aspect of user experience that’s important to prioritize is a responsive (mobile) design. A responsive website design ensures that web pages render well on a variety of devices for ultimate usability of your website.

Consider Shopper Interests & Intentions

Due to the pandemic, shopper interests have shifted towards a “homebody economy” meaning that rather than spending on traveling or activities, consumers are spending on casual clothing, decor or indoor entertainment. What retailers can do to incorporate this into their ecommerce site is create categories that incorporate these interests, such as a self-care gift guides, seasonal home furnishings, games and toys, ect. Additionally, shoppers are more interested now than ever to shop at local businesses, which should help give you a much-needed boost this holiday season.

Incorporate Personalization

Shoppers appreciate a tailored experience, especially during the holidays. Try adding product recommendations on your product pages to encourage individuals to look through all your offerings. This also transforms the shoppers’ buying process into a more personal experience by having them feel that you understand their needs and lifestyle through your recommendations.

To go one step further, you can also put together holiday shopping guides to create that personal connection with your customers. With the increase of loungewear and skincare purchases during the pandemic, you may want to do a self-care gift guide. Ultimately, you’ll really want to think of your shoppers’ interests and how to appeal to their needs.

You can also employ personalization tactics in your email marketing campaigns. Try segmenting your email lists based on buying history. If they primarily have bought toys in the past, you may want to tailor their emails to items and promotions surrounding children’s items. Likewise, if they primarily have bought women’s clothing rather than men’s, you may want to highlight new women’s inventory in an email. Personalization will help you build a stronger and more loyal relationship with your customers, and help give you important insights into your buyers’ interests.

Create Promotions & Special Offers

Running special offers and promotions leading up to the holiday season is a great way to engage your customers and incentivize them to make a purchase. Consumers have come to expect discounts and savings events during this time, so staying relevant and competitive within your marketplace to meet their needs is important. Holiday promotions could include a discount,  free gift wrapping, social media giveaways, or using gift cards to upsell at checkout.

It’s also key to have a coordinated strategy in promoting these efforts across all digital platforms to ensure you’re broadening your customer base as much as possible. Make sure to highlight them not only on your website, but on your social media channels and in your email campaigns as well.

Be Transparent About Shipping and Returns

There are many advantages to free shipping as it often solidifies whether a visitor becomes a customer. That said, shipping can also be more costly over the holidays and often involve delays due to increased order volume. To mitigate this,  consider an alternative to shipping for last-minute shoppers or those who need to receive their items quicker, such as in-store pick-up. Regardless of shipping costs, methods or times, it’s important to clearly communicate it to your customers ahead of purchasing. Similarly, you’ll want to be transparent and clear about your return policies as well. When people know what to expect, there is an increased chance of an overall positive experience.

Alita Fabiano

Author Alita Fabiano

Specializing in strategic communications, content marketing, SEO, and digital accessibility, Alita Fabiano has a passion for creating and managing digital content to help organizations thrive. Alita’s insights have also been published in the Ottawa Business Journal and Canadian SME Magazine, as well as she has been invited to speak to several organizations about inclusivity and accessibility.

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