24 Ways to Prepare Your eCommerce Site for Cyber November

24 Ways to Prepare Your eCommerce Site for Cyber November

If you run an online store, there is a massive opportunity approaching with the upcoming holiday sales cycle. Is your WordPress site prepared for it?

Adobe Analytics estimates that in 2018, Black Friday pulled in $6.22 billion in online sales, up 23.6 percent from the previous year, and CBS News reported that Amazon recorded its biggest shopping days on Cyber Monday and Black Friday, with more than 180 million items ordered during the five days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday (which hit an estimated $7.9 billion in sales across all retailers, making it the biggest online shopping day yet).

Wall Street analysts predict that eCommerce will continue to grow over the course of several more years. So, what are you waiting for? As the holiday shopping season draws near, now is the perfect time to prepare your WordPress site for it.

How to Prepare Your eCommerce Site for the Holidays

You know how they start bringing out Halloween candy in August or Christmas decorations in October and you think, “It’s too gosh darn early for this”? Well, that’s not the case here. It’s never too early to plan and prepare your eCommerce site for the holidays.

1. Start with an eCommerce Plugin

WooCommerce WordPress eCommerce Plugin
WooCommerce WordPress eCommerce Plugin

Before you do anything else, make sure your WordPress site has a reliable and full-featured eCommerce plugin. The holidays will be a stressful enough time, so the more control you have over your site’s sales, the easier it’ll be to navigate it.

WooCommerce is a good plugin to look at if you don’t already have one. With a store built on an eCommerce platform like WooCommerce, you’ll be able to knock out a number of other tips I’ve included below, like shopping cart monitoring, secure payment gateways, related product promotion, discount coupons and gift cards, and more.

If you want to research additional eCommerce plugins, here are some WooCommerce alternatives.

2. Use a Secure Payment Gateway

It’s no secret how profitable the holiday season has become for online retailers. So, it’s hard to imagine that hackers aren’t lying in wait, hoping to crack into as many websites—and customers’ private information—as possible while you’re busy selling. One way to fend these attacks off is by using a secure and reliable payment gateway.

3. Get an SSL Certificate

A secure website URL address
Don’t even think about selling online until your website’s address begins with https.

Another way to tighten up security around the holidays? Get an SSL certificate and give your site another layer of encryption to keep hackers out—and let customers know you’re doing your due diligence to keep them safe. In fact, if your site is not using SSL, you shouldn’t be selling online.

4. Speed up and Secure with a CDN

While you’re at it, you should probably also look into getting a CDN. This is normally something I’d recommend for websites with a global reach, but a CDN will come in handy during this time of year when your server’s going to be under a lot of strain. Extra speed and security are never a bad thing. CDNs not only improve performance by loading images and files faster, they can also save you money by lowering bandwidth and data transfer fees. That’s why even our free Smush and Hummingbird plugins have a CDN built right in, as well as our Hosting services.

5. Use a Caching Plugin

A caching plugin will also help keep your site running in tip-top shape no matter how busy it gets on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or during last-minute shopping in December.

6. Stress-Test Your Site

Before November arrives, I’d strongly suggest you test the limits of your server. Even if your analytics don’t show any major surges in traffic from last year, that doesn’t mean your site won’t be spared them during this holiday season—especially if you successfully market your business for it.

So, do what you can now to prepare your site for a surge in traffic. Stress-test it with a tool like Load Impact and then work with your web host if you need to increase bandwidth.

7. Optimize Your Images

Smush image optimization plugin for WordPress
Smush: Free WordPress image optimization plugin.

If you have a large number of product images on your site, one way to decrease the load on your server—at any time of year—is to compress your images. A plugin like Smush will take care of this for you.

8. Don’t Forget Mobile

Google mobile-friendly test page
Google mobile-friendly test page.

The Adobe Digital Insights report from 2016 showed that:

  • 50% of visitors to websites in November and December did so using a desktop computer, 41% used a smartphone, and 9% were on a tablet.
  • 69% of sales made over those two months took place on a desktop, 21% were on smartphones, and 10% were on tablets.

While smart devices weren’t the leading source of sales or the tool most visitors made their purchases through, they still greatly contributed to the success of last year’s eCommerce spending. If you haven’t done so already, check your site’s mobile-friendliness with Google.

9. Test Contact Points

As web traffic increases, so too will the number of questions your visitors have and issues they potentially encounter. Rather than leave them thinking about ditching your site in favor of someone who responds in a timely fashion, equip your site with as many contact points now as you can:

Then test each of your contact methods to ensure there are no random black holes on your site.

10. Recommend Related Products

Even if your visitors and customers don’t contact you directly, you should still have a way to recommend related products or services, or make other recommendations, while they’re shopping on your site. A number of WordPress eCommerce plugins offer this functionality, including the free Related Products plugin.

Related Products For WooCommerce WordPress plugin
Related Products For WooCommerce WordPress plugin.

You can also check out these WordPress plugins to upsell and cross-sell in eCommerce stores.

11. A/B Test Your Product Pages

A/B testing is a best practice for WordPress sites, in general, as it enables you to make smart and data-backed decisions about your design, copy, and images. The holidays are not the time to be messing around with this though. Take care of A/B testing your product pages and images now so you can put your best foot forward when November rolls around.

12. Add Conversion Boosters

People can become very scattered during the holiday season. There’s so much to think about and stay on top of, that it’s easy to get sidetracked when shopping. So, take this time to gently guide them back to your site and their shopping carts if they meander off the path. You can use plugins for exit-intent messaging, shopping cart abandonment reminders, remarketing, live chat support, and so much more.

A great example of a conversion boosting plugin that uses social proof to induce a buying frenzy, is the Live Sales Notification plugin that pops up on your screen as visitors are perusing your store showing who from where just bought what.

Beeketing live sales popup notification plugin
Beeketing live sales popup notification plugin.

Also, make sure your site offers convenient payment methods and purchasing plans. A number of companies like ZipPay and AfterPay offer convenient “buy now, pay later” options that will help you boost conversions.

13. Improve Your Credibility

Online shopping isn’t like shopping in person where you can wander up the electronics aisle and browse through all related products at once. In online shopping, your site is pitted against all other sites, which means visitors usually have to abandon you to check out other options. And you don’t want them to do that.

If you want to get around this, then you need to give your site a major boost in credibility with trust marks and social proof. Include customer testimonials, enable ratings and reviews, add security seals, and so on.

14. Update the Navigation

Navigation menu
Improve your site navigation for better conversions.

Again, this is not the time of year when you can expect visitors to stop by and take their time browsing around your inventory. If you look at last year’s sales, you’ll probably notice that there are a number of items or services that sold much more than others. It would also serve you well to research what the anticipated “hot” gifts will be this year.

By using this data to determine product popularity, you can better shape your site’s navigation to point visitors directly to what they need right away. Sure, you can do this with popup notifications and special home page header images, but creating ever-present navigation options for those holidays shoppers will likely be more effective. Designing the first page of your eCommerce store to convert better also helps.

15. Create New Landing Pages

If you plan to run any major promotions to lure in online shoppers, a landing page would go a long way in grabbing their attention. You can use this for holiday sales, new products, or even to announce special shipping offers or delivery timelines.

16. Revamp Your Keywords

Obviously, you won’t want to undo any of the work you’ve put into optimizing the content for search. That said, it wouldn’t hurt to infuse some of your copy—especially on product pages and special holiday-related landing pages—with keywords that online shoppers are looking for.

Pull up your site’s analytics to review the keywords that drove Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers to your site last year. If you’re not already using them, get them on your site ASAP.

17. Add a Festive Touch

In addition to making your site stand out with special offers and new products that your customers will be dying to get their hands on, why not add a festive touch to your design? With WordPress, you could even have custom themes for special days of the year or annual sales events.

18. Update Pricing Now

Online shoppers are going to start comparing pricing between you and the competition as soon as holiday shopping crosses their mind (so probably around early November). Rather than let them see you change your product pricing in the midst of the shopping season, take care of updating your pricing now if you want to get the biggest buck for your bang.

19. Advertise Holiday Promotions Early

Of course, the biggest draw of shopping around the Thanksgiving holiday is to cash in on special Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Since this is specifically what your visitors will be looking for, this “tip” is actually more of a non-negotiable.

Once you’ve determined what sort of special deals and promotions you can afford to offer, you can use promotional tools like hello bars and timed popups to let visitors know when those deals will be available. Having an annual events and promotions calendar pinned on your office wall can also help you prepare ahead of time.

20. Create Convenient Shipping Options

Shipping plays a crucial role when it comes to the holidays. For people shopping for the November sales days, something like free shipping could make or break their decision to buy from you. For people shopping last minute before the holidays, they’re going to, at the very least, expect next-day shipping, too.

So, don’t forget to think about small ways in which you can simplify the decision-making process by changing the shipping rules during this time. And, if you’re worried about it costing you more than it’s worth, check out this article from Kissmetrics that talks about how you can make free shipping profitable for your business.

21. Offer Gift Cards and Track Discount Coupons

If your eCommerce site is large and popular enough where you think that gift cards would get some traction, then definitely make sure they’re clearly being advertised on your site. Put a promotion for them on your homepage and create a special section for them on your navigation bar, too.

With discount coupons, if you plan to advertise a sale in your store using different marketing methods and campaigns (e.g. magazine or print ads,  Facebook ads, Google Ads, etc.), create different coupon codes for each promotional method so you can track where sales came from. This will help you know next time where your advertising dollars will be better spent.

WooCommerce Coupons screen
Use different coupon codes to track the results of your marketing campaigns.

Tip: If using WooCommerce, consider using a plugin like Smart Coupons for WooCommerce to add advanced coupon options such as creating various coupon restrictions and enabling auto-apply of coupons, giveaway offers, easy coupon management, and more.

22. Blog Regularly

As you know, blogging doesn’t always need to be about your business or on the same topic over and over again. That said, the content should always somehow be relevant to what it is you do, even if it’s to start talking about the upcoming holidays, special promotions you’ll be running, or to highlight some products or services you know are going to be hot tickets in a couple months. You don’t need to cover those topics all the time, but sprinkling them throughout your schedule is a good idea.

Speaking of schedules, don’t forget that WordPress lets you schedule your posts to publish at the exact date and time you specify, so create a habit of writing and scheduling your promotional posts early, and you will have one less thing to worry about when big sales days come around.

23. Build Hype on Social

Although social media chatter around #BlackFriday, #CyberMonday, and #holidayshopping is pretty light for most of the year, we’ll start to see talk around that as we move deeper into the month of October.

Once you see companies like iPhone talking up Cyber Monday deals for the new iPhone X, then you know it’s time for you to get in on the game too.

24. Stay in Touch by Email

To round out the marketing trinity, you should also be using your newsletter now to bring attention to the holiday shopping season. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using a newsletter plugin on your eCommerce site, or you’re subscribed to a platform like MailChimp. If you’re not regularly emailing your subscriber base, now is a great time to get in touch and start building mindshare for your business.

If All Else Fails…

If you’ve implemented all of the above strategies to create a buying frenzy and visitors still decide to leave your site without buying, at least make sure you have built-in visitor recovery strategies like exit intent popups to offer site visitors one last opportunity to buy before they leave (e.g. an extra discount, or at least get their email address), and ways to reduce shopping cart abandonment, whicha number eCommerce and email marketing services offer.

A plugin like Hustle, for example, gives you one last chance to get the customer back before they leave your site for good.

Hustle WordPress marketing plugin
Hustle gives you one last chance to fight for that extra sale.

Also, if you’re just getting started with eCommerce and want to make sure that you have all bases covered, check out our comprehensive guide to planning an eCommerce store with WordPress.

So… Are You Ready For Cyber November?

While it’s a great time to be doing business online in general, we’re all aware of how important the holiday sales season is for eCommerce companies. This is when online consumers are chomping at the bit to discover big sales, find better shipping deals, and simplify and remove the stress from the process of buying gifts for family, friends, and acquaintances.

By preparing your WordPress site sooner rather than later to handle the upcoming surge in traffic and eager shoppers, you’ll be setting your business up for a greater chunk of a multibillion-dollar sales cycle.

So… get ready for the next big online sales event and make sure that when Cyber November hits, you’re all good to go!

Over to you: Are you planning to work over Thanksgiving weekend in case your clients’ sites need your support and assistance?

Brenda Barron

Brenda Barron Brenda is a freelance writer from Southern California. She specializes in WordPress, tech, and business and founded WP Theme Roundups. When not writing about all things, she's spending time with her family.

Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch Martin Aranovitch is a blog writer and editor at WPMU DEV. He is a self-taught WP user who has been teaching businesses how to use WordPress effectively almost since the platform began. When he is not writing articles and tutorials, he’s probably off bushwalking in the mountains. Connect with Martin on Facebook, and his WordPress client training manual and free content management course websites.