The holiday season is upon us again and the important day that kicks everything off is close at hand – Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving has traditionally become the first day of the Christmas shopping season. Retailers all over the country capitalize on this traditional day by heavily targeting shoppers with advertising and discounts. For an online retailer, this is one of the most important days of the year. Below are some tips for preparing your store for the rush and making the most out of Black Friday.

Minimize Last Minute Development Updates

Nearing Black Friday, it is important to remember to avoid making significant development updates to your ecommerce platform. If security patches or upgrades are required, perform the updates during slow times or the following week. Any downtime for the store results in a significant drop in shoppers and sales. Depending on the platform used by your store, many of the additional tips below require development and design changes to the store. While many of these items will help during the holiday season, I would like to encourage you to test all changes heavily in a development environment and only implement changes to the live site during low traffic times.

Free Shipping & Discount Codes

Free shipping is a huge factor for any shopper on Black Friday. Most shoppers will look for this feature immediately, so advertising this is also important. This will set your store apart from the competitors. If a free shipping deal on Black Friday is too costly for business, consider sending out free shipping or discount codes to repeat shoppers on your mailing list. Store codes are a great way to not only reward repeat customers, but also track the success of email and social media campaigns. With the most powerful ecommerce platforms, like Magento, setting up discount codes and shipping rules is quick and easy.

Best Buy, one of the more successful online stores, is well prepared for the holiday rush with a Thanksgiving weekend countdown and free shipping offer.

Optimize Store for All Browsers

Shoppers will be visiting the store from a variety of devices and web browsers. Making sure that each user’s experience is smooth and uninterrupted regardless of the browser they user. While Internet Explorer 7 users has decrease to less than 2% (according to W3C browser statistics), testing is still recommended for Internet Explorer 7-9. Shoppers will also be visiting the site from Chrome, Safari and Firefox.

SEO & Analytic Tracking

Behind the scenes analytic tracking will not lead to direct conversion for your store this Black Friday. However, the collection and analysis of this data is important for the future. Analytic data will help you evaluate the success of your deals and advertising. How did the shopper navigate your store? What element on the homepage caught their eye? Which products were most viewed? What were the key traffic sources? The analytic data will help you answer these basic questions and more. Tools such as Google Analytics are easy to implement into a store, are free and even feature ecommerce conversion related tracking.

Free tools like Google Analytics provides site adminsitrators with helpful data that will lead to store improvements and higher conversion rates.

Advertising Deals & Unique Promotions

Almost every online store will be advertising deals on Black Friday. The key is the placement and uniqueness of these product deals. Deals and discounts should be highlighted prominently on the homepage of the store using banners, call-out graphics, or regions listing sale items and featured products. The store is not the only place for these discount ads. Social media should be saturated with product discounts and holiday deals. Increasing the amount of search engine advertising (Google AdWords) is also recommended. Pay Per Click ads can become a sizable investment, but it is easy to set a max spending limit and you will see a significant spike in visits and conversions. The quality of the call-out graphic is important, but the actual deals and offers are too. It is important to consider offers that will convince the shopper to purchase your products rather than shopping around for even better deals. Ideas such as bundling products together (example: “Gift with Purchase”) and free gift wrapping have had documented success.

Optimize Website Hosting

The hosting of your store platform is by far the most important component and key to success. Online retailers will experience a considerable spike in traffic on Black Friday. It is important to ensure that your site is ready for the shoppers. Load testing the store’s web server is highly recommended. This testing should be done well in advance of the big day and in a development environment. This load testing will help to correct weaknesses in the hosting infrastructure and prevent the store from crashing during key shopping times.

While these are only a few tips for preparing your store for the Black Friday rush, they will make a huge impact on your store’s success during the holiday season. This is the start of the most important time of the year – make sure your store is ready. Here at Unleashed, we specialize in assisting businesses with their ecommerce and hosting needs. If this post has generated any concerns with your store or hosting, we are here to answer any questions. Contact us today to learn more about our services.