9 Tips to Improve Online Sales This Holiday Season

While we’re still recovering from the hot summer months, small businesses are always preparing for the next big buying season. With many businesses eager to make this the best Christmas shopping season ever, the time to start planning to reach new customers, retain those customers, and prevent shopping cart abandonment this year is now.

Hostway Corporation, a leading provider of Cloud hosting, managed hosting, and hybrid Cloud services, recently put together a list of tips that can help e-tailers compete this holiday season and improve online sales. These tips are designed to help small businesses avoid the pitfalls that normally plague business owners during the holidays.

Have a Great Website

In the months leading up to Black Friday, take a look at your website, seeing it as a customer would see it. This includes access via mobile devices, since many customers will be hitting search engines and navigation apps in search of businesses just like yours. Hostway Corporation recommends making sure information on each of your bricks-and-mortar locations is up-to-date, including addresses, phone numbers, hours of operation, and directions.

If you offer online shopping, make sure your website is easy-to-use, with shipping information accessible before customers begin shopping. Try out the shopping process on a smartphone to ensure your visitors with Android and iOS devices have the same pleasant experience as their laptop-owning counterparts.

Publicize Sales

Christmas is an ideal time to market sales, promotions, and great gift ideas through your social media sites. To reach new customers, encourage your followers to re-post this information. You can also join Facebook groups that allow you to post about your business and your special holiday sales.

Get Involved

The holiday season brings plenty of community-related events, offering opportunities for businesses to get involved. Choose events that matter to you, as well as your customer base, and you’ll build goodwill while helping get your name out in the community.

“Work with community groups and volunteer organizations,” Hostway says. “Think about coats for the homeless, toys for underprivileged children – even a food drive. Make your store a drop-off location, and offer discounts to those who participate.”

Celebrate the Holidays

Be sure to make your business a fun, festive place to visit between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Decorate your store and pipe in holiday music to help get customers in the holiday spirit. They’ll remember the experience and keep coming back, year after year. Consider offering small freebies like hot cocoa and apple cider to help make shopping a fun and relaxing experience for your customers.

Host Special Events

Thank your loyal customers at the end of the year by hosting a special “repeat customers only” night where you offer special deals related to your business. A hair salon could have a special workshop on great hairstyles for holiday parties and a spa could provide free chair massages. Retail shops could give customers the chance to shop in a less crowded environment, while receiving a small extra discount as a thanks for their loyalty throughout the year.

Capture Information

The busy holiday season is a great time to get customers’ e-mail addresses for direct mailings throughout the year. Be sure to get permission, asking if they would like to join your mailing list. As Hostway Corporation points out, sending out a newsletter not only keeps you on your customers’ minds, it also provides customers with a direct link to return to your website throughout the year.

Offer Paperless Receipts

Try out something new by providing receipts via e-mail instead of stuffing one in customers’ shopping bags. Paperless receipts are good for the environment, as well as being convenient for the customer and providing an opportunity to attach a coupon for future purchases.

Wish Lists

Through your website, offer visitors the opportunity to create wish lists that can easily be searched by friends and family. Ensure those lists can be easily shared with others and that items can be quickly added and removed.

Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment

According to a Harris Interactive survey, 66 percent of shoppers who have tried to make a purchase via smartphone have abandoned their shopping carts due to problems during the payment process. Remove any obstacles to finalizing purchases to help expedite the process. Also be sure visitors can easily access customer service should they have problems during checkout.

The holidays provide a great opportunity to land new customers and get the word out about your business. By putting Hostway Corporation’s great tips to use, you can build a customer base that keeps coming back long after the holidays are over.

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Stephanie Faris

Stephanie is a freelance writer and young adult/middle grade novelist, who worked in information systems for more than a decade. Her first book, 30 Days of No Gossip, will be released by Simon and Schuster in spring 2014. She lives in Nashville with her husband.

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