How to Maximize Site Performance for the Holidays

This holiday season is different for a lot of shoppers. And it’s stands to be a lot different for Web site managers and businesses. In a normal year, retailers large and small bank on the final three months of the calendar year, especially between Thanksgiving and December 31.

This year is different for a number of reasons, including:

  • The credit crunch

  • Layoffs
  • Low consumer confidence
  • Home foreclosures and reduced home values and home equity

The list could go on and on.

Managers of retail Web sites have good reason to be concerned.

If you’re the site manager, ideally you and your team have analyzed what’s working on your site and what’s not. And you’ve improved your site through different tests. If that’s the case, you will have a finely tuned Web site ready to take advantage of the holiday shopping season. In fact, you may even have a few more ideas or offers up your sleeve to quickly test and tune through the remainder of the year.

More than likely, however, your site isn’t as primed as it should be. What can you do to maximize the impact of the holidays on your bottom line? Here are a couple key things you can do quickly over the coming weeks.

Tune Your Campaign Landing Pages

This practice is commonly referred to as landing page optimization. Whether you have significant paid media or just paid search traffic, you have an opportunity. Look at what percentage of that paid media comes to your site and immediately leaves after looking at only one page. Feel like you’re throwing money away by not getting visitors to engage further? You are.

There is a multitude of testing tools out there, and you can even start with the free Google Website Optimizer tool. For basic testing, this is a great place to start. Now what to test? Try different headers, calls to action, or anything else you think might get people to move from those landing pages deeper into your site to engage with your it, products, and offerings.

You can follow the same strategy on common entry pages. You probably have a few that you don’t consider landing pages, such as pages linked from partners or social media. Look at the common entry pages within your analytics tools to get a better view of this.

Behavioral Targeting

This may take a bit longer to set up, but it can still make an impact this year if you are moving to adopt behavioral targeting anyway. If you are an Omniture Test&Target customer, ask about the behavioral targeting offering and how you can start using it immediately. This product came out of the TouchClarity offering a while back.

You can do quite a few different things with behavioral targeting, but here’s one thing that can help you through the end of the year. Set up the behavioral targeting tool to test different offers for your visitors. Is free shipping for purchases better for orders over $75 than promoting the upgraded two-three day shipping or complimentary gift wrapping? The answer depends on each visitor. Behavioral targeting can help you figure out which promotion to put in front of the right audience.

The tool can be set up to account for where people are coming from; for instance, we know a visitor from a search on Google will most likely behave differently than someone coming from AOL. You can determine if they are returning visitors, what they did, and other behaviors. This approach can test and deliver the proper solution to the right people and will continue to test and try different things so it learns and gets smarter over time. You can get this rolling at a basic level and get some lift (if you act very quickly and realistically the wheels are already in motion) through the holidays and into next year.

Don’t treat this holiday shopping season like every other. Competition will be fiercer. Consumers will be looking for bargains and may be choosier about where they spend their money. Look for ways to maximize your success by understanding your visitors’ behaviors, wants, and needs.

Jason is off today. This column was first published just before last year’s holiday season.

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