Christmas in August?

Do you get a little edgy when folks start dragging out the Christmas trimmings a month before Thanksgiving? Well, grit your teeth, because I’m sitting here in ultra-hot, sticky, dead-of-summer weather, and I’m about to tell you that if you don’t start nailing things down for the holiday shopping season right now, you’ll be too late.

We’ve talked about a bunch of issues associated with improving the conversion rate on your Web site, from little tweaks to major overhauls. And, while I’d normally encourage you to do all you can as soon as possible, if you are one of those businesses looking to the holiday season as a major shot in the arm, this is not the time to subject your site to a complete redesign. By the time you do all the steps correctly, do the testing that is necessary, and then iterate the process to completion, the 2001 holidays will be history.

Instead, this is the time to grab the low-hanging fruit on the Tree of Tactics for Improving Your Conversion Rate (you remember that tree from the fairy tales your parents told you, I’m sure…). Those are things you can implement quickly; though they may be simple, they can help boost not just your top line but even your bottom line — a lot — in the months to come. Let’s look at a few.

Clarify Your USP

If you haven’t done it yet, you definitely want to take some time to identify just what makes you and your business unique. From that, you craft a concise and compelling message that communicates your unique value to your customers, one that distinguishes you from the crowd. Your message answers the question, “Why should I buy from you and not one of your competitors?” Here is an exercise in how to write your unique selling proposition (USP).

Refine Your Logo

Take a good look at your logo; does it needs a lift? That can easily get overlooked when it comes to thinking about improving your conversion rate, but it is the fundamental graphic representation of you and your business. Make sure the design is clean, professional, and evokes a positive and useful “first mental image” about your business. For good example of a before and after logo, click here.

Spruce Up Your POAs

You want to be certain your customers will be able to clearly identify all your points of action (POAs) and that it is immediately obvious to them what they need to do. Pair your POAs with appropriate statements that address your customers’ concerns, particularly their worries about privacy (and mean what you say!). If an action requires the customer to provide information, be sure you ask only for the bare minimum and always make sure there is a clear exchange of value offered with subsequent requests for information.

Get Your Assurances Up Front

Don’t forget to let your visitors know that they can shop on your site with confidence, that you offer safe and secure transactions and hassle-free guarantees. They won’t buy from you if they don’t trust you. An ideal place to locate some of these assurances is on the right side of your Web page — a place your customers are always at least peripherally aware of. Also, as customers move further into the sales process, you have to adjust your assurances to coincide with your customers’ changing needs at each point.

Will What They See Be What They Get?

Beyond the adjustments to your Web site, now is also the perfect time to stress-test your back-end processes. Don’t forget the importance of fulfillment and customer service to the digital sales process. Sterling service and satisfying fulfillment are what your customers expect from you — and they are typically less forgiving of glitches during the holiday shopping frenzy. Be sure that your systems, digital and human, are ready — ideally, eager — to cope with the load.

Finally, “Do You See What I See?”

It’s really dangerous to assume that your customers will get everything on your site the way you and your staff intend. In fact, you can take it to the bank (or, actually, not to the bank) that they won’t. We’ve been asking, “Could your mom shop your site?” for over a year, and it’s still a useful question. There is no substitute for third-party testing, and then learning from and applying the feedback. Testing does not have to be extensive or expensive or even professional. A few friends or family members and a couple of pizzas can get the job done. For more about usability testing, click here and here, but check this out, too.

So there’s your recipe for a real holiday treat. Refine, tweak, and do the simple and quick stuff you can do right now to up your conversion rate. If you haven’t tried this already, you’ll be pleasantly surprised; even small changes can yield great results.

Plus, plan to have it all signed, sealed, and delivered no later than November 15, not only to be sure that you’ve caught any bugs but also to give your customers a chance to get comfortable with what’s new. After that, no changes, OK? Save the complete overhaul for January. When you’re ready, learn about wireframing and focus on the “whats” before you worry about the “hows” so you can create a site that will knock your customers’ new holiday socks off.

Now… pass me that suntan lotion, would you?

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