How to prep your ecommerce store for holiday shoppers

Ecommerce, security and digital marketing experts discuss 16 steps ecommerce business owners and managers should take this fall to maximize holiday sales.

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11. Offer live chat

“Consider adding live support to your site, [so] customers can ask you questions while still browsing and don't have to wait on hold,” says McCabe. “Your staff [can] also deal with multiple requests at once with chat, instead of just a single customer at a time over the phone.”

[ Related: 9 ways mobile and social tech improves the retail shopping experience ]

“Prepare your live chat operations to accommodate consumer expectations and changes in traffic during the holiday season,” says Tara Sporrer, vice president of Marketing and Sales Operations, Moxie, a provider of customer engagement solutions. “According to a global research study, 71 percent of chat customers expect resolution within 5 minutes.” So “staff up your chat operations, if [possible], and [give] your chat agents quick access to pertinent holiday information, such as product availability and shipping times. As we all know, one of the most frequently asked question is ‘How soon will it arrive?’”

12. Add a gift-wrap option

“If you don’t usually have a gift wrap option available during checkout, include it during this period as a complimentary service,” says Nandita Narayan, founder and director, DesignRaaga, an online store for home decor and accessories. “Also [provide] an option to include a personalized note. A personal note from the sender can make all the difference in making the experience even more special for the receiver, and your customers will love you for this.”

13. Offer free shipping

Customers love free shipping, especially around the holidays. If you can’t afford to offer free shipping on all items, consider offering it on purchases over $50 or $75.

14. Provide hassle-free exchanges/returns

“Retailers should minimize the obstacles that make gift buyers hesitate to buy online,” says Roy Erez, founder and CEO, Loop Commerce, an e-gifting service. “Loop research and data from its network of retailers found that one in four gift shoppers cited worrying about the hassle of returns as the most common reasons they hesitate to buy gifts online. To overcome this barrier for purchasing gifts for others at the holidays, provide hassle free exchanges to make it easy for customers to purchase without worrying about the exchange process.”

15. Make checking out easy

“Optimizing your online checkout forms in time for the holiday season is paramount,” says Ben Harris, CEO, Decibel Insight, a Web optimization solution provider. “We've found that when confronted with an unnecessarily complicated or lengthy form online, potential customers may simply abandon the checkout process out of frustration. After succeeding in the hard work of getting them there, losing conversions due to a [complicated or lengthy] form is far from ideal.”

16. Provide a self-service option so customers can check on shipping and get answers to FAQs

“Let customers help themselves with self-service portals,” says Laura Pappas, head of Retail e-Commerce Vertical Marketing, Zendesk, a cloud-based customer service software solution. “These portals can serve as a great resource for customers searching for answers. And, when used properly, can solve problems without involving a service rep. This saves employees valuable time and provides customers with the prompt service they desire. So do your customers and employees a favor and guide customers to self-service during the holidays.”

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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