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How to Optimize Your E-Commerce Website for Holiday Shoppers

Marisa Sanfilippo
Marisa Sanfilippo

Optimizing your e-commerce website this holiday season can boost sales and customer satisfaction.

  • E-commerce optimization involves improving your online store to facilitate more seamless sales.
  • When optimizing your e-commerce store, make sure you maintain good SEO practices to increase your reach.
  • Optimizing your website for mobile responsiveness is especially crucial today, as more consumers are shopping from their phones and other mobile devices.
  • This article is for business owners looking to optimize their e-commerce shops this holiday season.

While many businesses gear up for what may be their busiest time of the year, there's a lot that goes into planning your promotions and choosing which products you want to sell. Especially this year, amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it's important to appeal to online shoppers via your business's website.

A key part of your digital marketing strategy this holiday season needs to be optimizing your e-commerce website for search engines and consumers. Read on for our tips on how to do so.

What is e-commerce optimization?

Before you can dive into optimizing your e-commerce website, it's helpful to understand exactly what e-commerce optimization is. E-commerce optimization are the steps you take to try and improve your online store in order to generate more, and faster, sales.  

If your website is not optimized properly, it causes issues that ultimately lead to a drop in revenue. A few of those issues include

  • Abandoned shopping carts
  • Poor user experience
  • Negative reviews and complaints from frustrated customers and prospects

To ensure you're noticed by the search engines while also providing a smooth shopping experience for consumers, optimizing your e-commerce website should be ongoing; it shouldn't be done only during the holiday season. [Looking for more information on running an e-commerce site? Check out our comprehensive guide on how to start selling online.]

Key takeaway: E-commerce optimization involves improving your website's online store so consumers have a more seamless experience and feel more comfortable shopping with you.

12 ways to optimize your site for holiday shoppers

Looking to optimize your business’s e-commerce shop this holiday season? Here are 12 ways to do it.

1. Make search engine optimization a priority.

We briefly mentioned search engine optimization (SEO), which is critically important for all websites, especially e-commerce sites. In short, SEO evaluates where users go on the web and the queries they make to get there. When you properly optimize your website for SEO, you:

  • Help targeted prospects find your products and services
  • Get a higher return on investment (ROI)
  • Increase the exposure of your business on the web

2. Celebrate the season on your site.

Physical retail stores often set up holiday displays during the shopping season. You should take a similar approach to your website.

"Now is the time to … make your site more seasonal," said Lisa Graves, senior email marketing strategist at DEG, a full-service digital marketing agency. "Dress up your digital channel just like you do your brick and mortar [store]."

Richard Stevenson, head of corporate communications at e-commerce software provider ePages.com, said that doesn't mean you simply add Christmas trees and flashing lights to your homepage."

"Rather, revise your website content, and adapt it with encouraging, upbeat content for the most important milestone dates: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas and [the] new year," Stevenson said. "Shoppers respond best to content that celebrates the products, ties these to festivities and gives a sense of why the recipient will be delighted with them."

As part of celebrating the season on your site, get festive with product images. When taking product photos, prop products up against a festive background, for example, to generate more attention. The images should be so good that users naturally want to share them on social media, especially on Pinterest.

3. Boost your page conversion rate and entice customers to buy your products online.

Your product pages are the bread and butter of your e-commerce business. Improve your on-page and conversion rates by:

  • Using ALT text and relevant tags to optimize images for search engines
  • Making checkout fast and easy
  • Crafting engaging and relevant product descriptions
  • Using high-quality, engaging images as product photos

4. Highlight your special offers and discounts.

If you aren't proudly displaying special holiday offers and discounts, your customers won't be as willing or excited to shop with you. Make sure your holiday offers are featured prominently on your homepage so consumers don't have to search for them. Interactive web banners spread across the top of the page are a great place to highlight offers and discounts. You can also generate traffic by frequently posting special offers to your social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. That way, buyers know where to find you and why they should choose you over competitors this holiday season.

5. Make site speed a priority.

Many online retailers focus on the design of their website, such as how pretty the page looks, how big the graphics are, how easy the buy buttons are to access, etc. The problem, however, is that large photos and interactive elements slow your site down significantly.

"All that effort spent to make a gorgeous [website] could get wasted because the page doesn't load in time for the consumer," said Deborah Szajngarten, director of public relations for Radware.

Although a well-designed homepage is important, businesses should also focus on finding web solutions and hosts that give them the necessary bandwidth and speed to support higher holiday traffic.

If your site slows down, you have a lot to lose ‒ 57% of consumers abandon a site that fails to load after three seconds, according to Radware research.

"If the site doesn't respond ... [customers think] it's not worth it and go to another website to buy [the item]," said Frank Yue, director of solution marketing and application delivery at Radware. "It's not just the [site] outage you have to worry about but also the degradation of performance and delivery to retain customers."

6. Lean on tools to simplify optimizing your e-commerce website.

Optimizing your website, regardless of when it's done, can be overwhelming; luckily, there are various tools that provide assistance. A few include

7. Bolster your website's security.

It's not just shoppers who ramp up their online activity during the holidays. Hackers are waiting in the wings, ready to take advantage of the increased number of transactions. Yue recommended educating yourself and your team to recognize the signs of cyberattacks, such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, and investing in security solutions so you can handle any potential situations.

"DDoS attacks are a regular occurrence. Expect them to step up during the holiday season," Yue said. "They're getting complex. You need [to be able] to mitigate the attack appropriately."

8. Enable customer reviews.

Customer reviews are helpful for businesses. They give you insight into which products customers love and which ones need improvements. If certain products continue to generate negative reviews, remove them from your site or make improvements before additional complaints come in.

Great reviews can turn prospects into customers and need to be part of your user-generated content strategy. If your site has the functionality to do so, enable reviews with images; oftentimes passionate consumers love to share images in their reviews. Just look at how many photos customers submit on Amazon reviews.

9. Ramp up your customer support.

Holiday shoppers want a positive customer experience, so make your contact info easy to find on all the pages of your website in case customers have questions about their orders.

"You may want to consider adding temporary help to answer the additional calls, if you think you will need it," said Debbi Lechner, vice president of product marketing and management for Web.com. "A simple answering service can ensure you don't miss a call, and it lets customers know you plan to get back to them quickly."

Good customer service is the backbone of every successful e-commerce business. Be sure to communicate clearly with your customers so they know what to expect from your business, like specific shipping times or discounts/deals.

Some additional ways to ramp up your efforts include:

  • Live chat/chatbots: On your website, offer instant messaging options like live chat or chatbots to ensure you are providing 24/7 customer support.

  • FAQs: Make a list of frequently asked questions and provide detailed answers on a dedicated FAQ page on your site to reduce the need for customer service help.

  • Implement customer service software: Look into customer service software options that help organize customer tickets, stay on top of complaints/feedback and address any concerns/questions.

10. Improve mobile responsiveness

With more than half of all internet traffic shopping from a mobile device, it's crucial to increase your e-commerce site's mobile responsiveness. Today, consumers value convenience; and if you don't provide a seamless customer experience, prospective buyers will look elsewhere for similar products.

Additionally, consumers often come from social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook, which they access on their mobile devices. If you're advertising products on social media (as you should be), you have to have a mobile-friendly website/e-commerce shop to accommodate the influx of customers you'll be recruiting. Otherwise, you might as well not even utilize social media marketing.

11. Create a holiday content calendar

Content marketing is a great way to boost your business. On your website, display holiday-themed content, like blog posts and graphics, to get consumers in the spirit. Be sure to integrate content from your website with other platforms like social media. For example, share a blog post on your site, then schedule a summary of it to go live on Facebook or be sent as an email newsletter. By repurposing content, you'll save time while improving consistency across all platforms. Map it all out in a calendar, and you'll be set for the season, never void of content to share.

12. Set up an Instagram Shop

Instagram’s “Shops” is a relatively new initiative Instagram rolled out in May of 2020 in an effort to support businesses during the pandemic. Shops is an immersive storefront that allows businesses to secure sales without consumers ever having to leave the app. This is an easy and convenient way to increase the reach of items from your e-commerce shop and improve your business's accessibility. [Read related article: Instagram for Business: Everything Your Need to Know]

Key takeaway: There are many ways to optimize your e-commerce store, from focusing on SEO to improving your mobile responsiveness. Take the time to apply each of these tips for a more successful holiday season.

For additional tips on how to prep your online store for holiday sales, read our article on four holiday marketing trends that drive sales.

Additional reporting by Sammi Caramela. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Image Credit: Rawpixel/Shutterstock
Marisa Sanfilippo
Marisa Sanfilippo,
Business News Daily Writer
See Marisa Sanfilippo's Profile
Marisa Sanfilippo is an award-winning marketing professional who has more than six years experience developing and executing marketing campaigns for small and medium sized businesses with a focus on digital marketing. After graduating Stockton University with a B.A. in Communications and minor in writing, Marisa worked as a freelance journalist for numerous publications, ultimately earning a position as an e-marketing specialist for a credit union. While in that position, she earned HubSpot's Inbound Marketing Certification and helped build the organization’s digital marketing strategy from the ground up. Her efforts helped lead the credit union to success on and offline including: a 200%+ organic increase in Facebook followers, a sales generating blog, and much more. Later on, she worked on a social media campaign that gained recognition by The Huffington Post.