It's that time of year again: just after Halloween and just before Thanksgiving. That means your Web site is probably frozen, with no more development possible. Your IT guys are bracing the site and making sure it can handle the traffic the holidays will (hopefully) bring. Usually at this time of year, I remind readers to harness the traffic in Q4 long after it's over or how to turn interactions like customer returns into acquisition opportunities.
Today, however, let's look at quick fixes you still have time to make to your site, even though it's technically locked down. Obviously, we will concentrate only on the easy things. Nothing on this list will change logic or technology on your site that your QA people will fuss over. Given that restriction, we can only address minor issues in this quick-fix list. But added together, these quick fixes could have a major impact on your success this holiday season.
Before the holiday season ramps up, try these fixes:
Search engine optimization. I've never talked about SEO in this column (there are other ClickZ columns dedicated to the topic), but make sure you have category descriptions on the category pages filled with the keywords most likely to be searched. Make sure all your product pages have the product in its page title. If you use a lot of images, make sure all your alt tags have something meaningful in them (which will also increase accessibility as well).
Paid search landing pages. Obviously your paid search terms should link directly to relevant pages on your site, not just the home page. More than that, though, make sure the landing pages have clear visual imagery and calls to action that are connected to the paid search ad. That way visitors won't get confused when they click into your site and don't know what to do next.
Product path. Go through your product path (home page, category page, subcategory page, product page). Do all the images representing your categories reflect the most scintillating content within those categories? For instance, does your "Electronics" category image show an outdated CRT monitor or a fancy flat screen? Does your "Cell Phone" category show a RAZR or an iPhone?
On your product pages, look carefully at the 20 percent of products you suspect will drive 80 percent of your traffic. Have you chosen the most tantalizing photography? Do your product descriptions simply state the facts, or do they hit an emotion place with the visitor? Do product descriptions say why the products would make great gifts or who the best recipient of that product (as a gift) would be? Is your "you may also be interested in" list as finely tuned as it should be? Do all product recommendation make sense? Are you correctly upselling or creating bundles of products that represent a singular gift (e.g., a Wii, two extra Wiimotes, a couple of covers, and a few games).
Checkout path. While you obviously can't (and shouldn't) make any structural changes at this point in time, you can look at the copy on the checkout path for a few vital things. Is your return policy clearly displayed during the checkout process? Do you list a phone number within the checkout process in case the customer has any problems or concerns about making the purchase? Do the products you recommend as part of the checkout process (if you do this) complement the products the customer is already buying? Make sure the recommendations add to the sale and aren't substitutes for items already in the cart. Understand the differences between competing, complementary, family, and accessory products. Does your post-purchase e-mail marketing contain more gift ideas based on purchases, or do they simply say "Thank you for your order"?
Calls to action. Does each page have a clear call to action above the fold? While you can't restructure the page at this point, you can probably change colors of things, swap button graphics, or make text a different size. If "Add to Cart" isn't drawing enough focus on the page, make it bigger, change the graphic, or change the color. Do whatever you can do within your structural constraints to make this and other calls to action much more obvious and successful.
Sale prices. Especially given the current economy, is it clear what your sale prices are versus your normal prices? Are you making it very apparent what percentage off the customer gets? Do everything you can (both in the presentation of these numbers and in the copy for the product) to make it clear the value of the product and the discount the customer is getting.
Live chat 24/7. Do you offer live chat? It will help you increase sales this season. However, if you operate live chat only during business hours (and only on weekdays), you're missing a huge opportunity. Make sure your live chat is manned seven days a week for extended hours -- or 24/7, if you can. So many people are shopping at night and on weekends, and you are completely missing the point of offering live chat if your chat window always says "Offline. Leave us a message."
Icing on the Cake
This list is all about dotting your i's and crossing your t's. There aren't any major pieces of functionality you can implement at this point in the year. But you can look at these very detailed questions, because oftentimes they get overlooked in favor of a big new feature being implemented. None of these items will singularly change your bottom line significantly. But taken together, the list represents the final polish needed to make your (hopefully) already robust Web site that much better at converting holiday browsers into buyers.
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Jack Aaronson, CEO of The Aaronson Group and corporate lecturer, is a sought-after expert on enhanced user experiences, customer conversion, retention, and loyalty. If only a small percentage of people who arrive at your home page transact with your company (and even fewer return to transact again), Jack and his company can help. He also publishes a newsletter about multichannel marketing, personalization, user experience, and other related issues. He has keynoted most major marketing conferences around the world and regularly speaks at Shop.org and other major industry shows. You can learn more about Jack through his LinkedIn profile.