An e-commerce Christmas: Refreshing your store to stay ahead of the game

Benjamin Teszner, CEO of open source e-commerce solution PrestaShop, outlines his top tips for e-commerce stores ahead of Christmas.

Christmas is the most important time of the year for e-commerce store owners, and ensuring that your store is optimised for the festive period should be at the top of your priorities. While recent advances in technology, such as innovation in open source e-commerce platforms and new payments models, have made it easier for e-commerce store owners to compete with the major players like Amazon, it’s never plain sailing for e-commerce sites, with managers often overlooking pitfalls such as poor SEO, unresponsive site design, and ill-thought-out product ranges. Discussed below are some top tips to consider for your e-commerce store ahead of the Christmas rush.

Your customers are the lifeblood of your business and understanding their needs and wants is key to your eCommerce success. Like all of us, your customers are going to feel the pressure of Christmas – so place yourself in their shoes to make their shopping experience as painless as possible. By following the compass points of: needs, education, security and wants, you can quickly ascertain what it is you need to do in order to please your customers.

Needs – Are you fulfilling the needs of a potential customer? Remember that for them to make a decision, they need detailed product descriptions, different angles for product photos, as well as a variety of sizes and colours to select from.

Wants – Is your customer getting what they want? Maybe they would like free postage or a discount – try going through the shopping process on a competitor’s site and think about how yours compares.

Security – Do customers feel safe shopping on the site? For example, customers want to see their preferred local payment solution, plus easy ways to contact you and clearly displayed return policies.

Education – Have you, educated consumers, on your product? This is true whether or not your product is new to the market. Potential customers should know what’s special about your product and why they should purchase from you and not from the competitor. Consider publishing a few blogs or Twitter Q&As to help people fully understand why it’s worth making a purchase.

It is your products, which are going to largely shape the success of your store. Bearing this in mind, an extensive amount of research should be done when selecting your products range. Consider whether there is strong enough consumer demand; whether the products you offer complement one another; and how products on your site are differentiated from the competition.

The simplest way to ensure you’re tapping into market demand is to use Google Trends to explore the search volume of your products. It will soon become clear what people want and when they want it, also, keep an eye on your competitor’s inventory – they may spot a new trend before you do.

It is also wise to work out if the products you are selling will lead to healthy profit margins. Consider the manufacturing, packaging, postage costs, and also how long your products last. Are they one off purchases? Or are your products meant for repeat purchases?

For any eCommerce store owner looking to benefit from the festive rush, convenience is key. When assessing your site, the main focus should be on whether potential customers can find your site and whether, once they’re on your site, they are able to find what they are looking for quickly.

For making your site visible, you need to implement SEO best practices, including:

  • Using appropriate titles and meta descriptions – Ensure titles accurately describe the product/page and that the meta description is relevant and comprehensive
  • Use only one domain – Either refer to your site as https://www.myonlinestore.com or http://myonlinestore.com. Using both will lead to search engines treating the domains as two separate sites, which will cause your shop to slip down the search rankings.
  • Avoid URLs that look like maths equations with strings of irrelevant letters and numbers, instead include keywords in product URLs.

For customers browsing your site, making it easy for them to find what they are looking for is the final step in establishing a successful e-commerce store. Typically, website users tend to prefer a clean design with large and bold images. Having a cluttered page can distract a shopper’s attention. Also important is the ‘three click rule’. Any customer should be able to find whatever it is they are looking for within three clicks or taps.

The points discussed above are fairly straightforward, however, it is always worth going back to basics when preparing for a major shopping season. And for eCommerce stores, nothing comes close to the Christmas season in terms of importance.

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