Black Friday: Get Your E-Commerce Site Ready…

Get Your E-Commerce Site Ready for Black FridayHoliday shopping seems to start earlier and earlier each year. Ideally, you would have wanted to prepare your e-commerce site earlier in the fall to take advantage of the early birds and the customers who get all their holiday shopping done by Thanksgiving. But even if you’re a little late, you can still make some last-minute preparations to ensure your site is ready for increased traffic and—hopefully—increased sales by Black Friday.

Upgrade Your Hosting

Can your site handle the traffic that comes with the holiday shopping frenzy? Research firm eMarketer is estimating that roughly a quarter of all 2013 e-commerce traffic will occur in November and December. Even if your traffic has been steady all year, you could already be seeing quite a surge as Black Friday approaches. To accommodate that increase, you may want to think about upgrading your hosting plan.

Before you take on increased expense, consider what kind of e-commerce site you have. If you sell lawnmowers, chances are you’re fine. But if, on the other hand, your site sells jewelry, clothing, electronic gadgets, or anything else considered a hot gift item, you might want to look into a hosting plan that offers more bandwidth and speed. If you expect (or are already beginning to see) a dramatic traffic increase, you may even want to think about a managed hosting plan to ensure your site stays up at all hours, just like those last-minute online shoppers do.

Increase Security

Nothing puts a damper on holiday shopping like having your credit card number stolen from an e-commerce site. That can ruin one holiday for a shopper, but it can damage your business for months, or even years to come. If your customers can’t trust your site, they won’t shop from you.

Make sure all your software is up to date. If your site isn’t already using a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), consider adding it. The likely additional charge from your hosting provider is worth protecting your customers, and your business.

Upgrade Your Shopping Cart Solution

When starting an e-commerce site, business owners sometimes find themselves in a situation where they install something—such as a shopping cart solution—on their site as sort of a placeholder or temporary solution just to get the site launched, and plan to upgrade later. Next thing you know, it’s three years later, and you’re still using the lower-quality tool because you got too busy. Or maybe your site has been such a success, you haven’t wanted to take it down for maintenance, and risk losing any business.

Now is the time to make that upgrade, before the shopping season really gets going. A high-quality shopping cart can add speed and security to every transaction, making the shopping experience that much better for your customers. And if you did decide to upgrade to managed hosting, your hosting provider will likely install it for you, which can mean less downtime for your site.

Optimize for Mobile

If your website isn’t mobile responsive, you could be missing out on a lot of traffic and sales. It’s important to remember that mobile doesn’t just mean smartphones. With their larger screens, tablets have made shopping from anywhere easier than ever. In fact, tablet users are twice as likely as smartphone users to actually make purchases from their devices.

You’re in luck if your site is built on a content management system such as WordPress because adding mobile responsiveness can be as simple as installing a plugin. If this isn’t the case for you, it may be more complex. Talk to your developer to see if your site can be updated by Black Friday. The sooner you make it easy to shop from your e-commerce site on mobile devices, the more traffic and revenue you could start seeing.

Make Calls to Action More Visible

When customers visit an e-commerce site, there’s little question about the website’s purpose—it’s to sell. However, you can make it even easier on your customers by ensuring that calls to action are visible, and even clickable where appropriate.

While there’s a lot to be said for aesthetics and design, choosing bright colors such as red or Kelly green for purchase buttons not only makes them easier to see, they draw attention, and practically beg to be clicked. The text on the buttons is important, too. “Buy Now” may be more effective than “Add to Cart” or “Make a Purchase.” Where you place your calls to action and your buy buttons is important, too. These are all things that should be tested for performance, but with so little time left before Black Friday, you may want to just ensure the buttons are clearly visible, are large enough to see, and that there’s no question about their purpose. You can always perform some A/B testing after the holidays.

While you always want to ensure a good user experience on your website, Black Friday and the upcoming holidays can be the push you need to get your site where it needs to be. Making just a handful of changes and upgrades to your site can go a long way to making your customers happy. And when customers are happy, business is good.

PS. Keep your eyes peeled for “Black Friday” deals on hosting. Last year, HostGator offered a killer Black Friday deal. Who will this year? Watch this space and be first to hear! We’ll publish our round up first thing Friday.

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