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Spruce-up your virtual storefront for the holiday season
Rather than spend money in these tough times, consumers are saving it (savings accounts are the new black). Instead of resigning yourself to a red holiday season (in the bottom line sense of the word), now is the time to gear up and make the most of the holiday season.
And you can – with a few well-thought out strategies that I outline in this, Part II of Web Marketing Holiday prep. (If you missed Part I, wherein I talk about aligning online and offline strategies, you can find it here.) This week: getting your online house in order!
First: Ensure your site is extra secure for online transactions.
I visited the website of a financial institution recently and was appalled to note that the little “lock” icon was missing from the right corner of the Web page AND the secure “https” was missing from the URL.
Even worse, this site wanted me to log-in to my account using my social security number. Bad news, people! According to SSL.com, if you’re asking for customers’ sensitive information, i.e. credit card numbers, your website should be super secured using SSL.
Having a secure website eases customers’ fears about ordering from your site – and it gives you a leg up over those clueless retailers who leave security to chance. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to educate consumers about how you’ve secured your site as many people don’t know about how online security works.
Second: Help buyers compare similar items.
In a recent trip to the mall, I was pleasantly surprised to see the parking lot full and the mall crowded with people. It’s not that people aren’t spending money – it’s that they’re comparing products and prices and often visiting two or more retailers to find the best deal. (In fact, consumer spending data shows that debit card use is up – an indication that people are using cash versus credit.)
Online retailers have a real advantage over their bricks-and-mortar colleagues because you can develop Web pages that compare your products with your competitors’ products, including features and pricing.
Such information saves consumers time and helps them making buying decisions – especially if they’re in a hurry and need to make a purchase, like now.
Third: Let consumers see if product is in stock.
One of my Yield Software co-workers visited Best Buy in her town in order to purchase one of those cool netbooks. First she had to put her name on a list to even get waited on, then when her turn came, she found out the retailer was out of stock of the netbook. Grrrrr!
So she went online to Staples and in a few clicks saw that a store near her had the netbook – and plenty of them. Thirty minutes later, she was the proud owner of one.
Again, you’re saving customers time and money – both of which are in short supply – by providing your customers with an online inventory database. Balking at the cost? Remember, consumers are buying your goods with after-tax dollars and using cash, meaning they have fewer dollars in their wallets. Your cost for creating an inventory database is a business expense on pre-tax dollars – so do it. Your bottom line will thank you.
Fourth: Make it easy to contact you and return product.
I once bought the wrong power cord for my laptop from an after-market retailer, and found out, much to my chagrin, that I had no way of contacting the online retailer in order to return it. The site lacked an email address and phone number!
You can give consumers confidence when purchasing from you by including your contact information – and return policy – prominently on your website.
Fifth: Update your homepage, product pages and your blog.
If you’ve been putting off website updates — including content, navigation or back-end technologies — now is the time to draw up a to-do list. Think about who is best able to make the changes you need, consider any budget-related impacts, and assign them their duties and deadlines. Now is not the time to put of until tomorrow what you can get done today. If you’ve been neglecting your blog lately, start reinvigorating it now — you’ll want to reawaken search engine crawlers to the fact that you’re regularly updating your website again. (In the final post in this series, we’ll address these issues again as they pertain to SEO, PPC campaigns and landing pages.)
Finally: Take advantage of trends.
Eco-friendly. Organic. Green. Energy efficient. Consumers are hot for these trends and will spend hard-earned cash if they believe they’ll some positive impact in the long run (and believe me, consumers are becoming much more savvy about how their purchases affect the environment). As I’ve already hammered-home, frugality is the order of the day and trumps all other trends (with luxury brand categories a possible notable exception), so you should also be sure you’re highlighting how it is your products and services saves money, time or other resources. Think about two-for-one or gift-with-purchase promotions. More than anything else, shoppers want to see value in their purchases.
In part three of this series, I’ll cover how to prepare your landing pages, paid and natural search keywords, and PPC campaigns for the coming holiday rush.
Instead of offering products (such as robotic singing elves whose voices make you want to commit suicide) consider offering products such as wooly blankets made from free-range sheep. Your customers will walk away with a good conscious and they’ll stay warm over the winter to boot.
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