Anyone’s who has talked with me for any given amount of time will tell you I’m adamant about testing sites for security and navigation. Summer is the perfect time to plot out upcoming holiday season sales campaigns, and it’s also the time to make sure things are running smoothly. With an ever-growing number of people shopping online, comes a vast amount of new online stores, some of which will likely be competitors. It pays to be more than just the guy who offers a better deal. You’ve got to be better overall, right down to design elements, customer guidance and tools that give online shoppers a sense of security.
Here are my top 10 things to look for when determining if your store will be ready for the biggest holiday shopping season ever:
Make sure it’s working and that no errors are present. Fix all errors as they are found. A dedicated SSL certificate lends more credibility to your business.
Customers need to be able to browse the store, so make sure they can easily find things via both browse and search, from any page on the store.
Shipping costs are still the number one reason for cart abandonment. Save the shock by providing a means to review such costs prior to checkout.
Let customers know up front what payment methods you accept. It’s frustrating to find out during checkout that you don’t take methods like Discover or PayPal.
Guide shoppers right through the checkout process. Don’t make them “learn” your system. Use standard methods whenever possible.
Test the store and site pages on various browsers, both PC and Mac. There are several sites available that provide a means to test on browsers you don’t have installed. Use Firefox’s built-in utilities links. And test on page widths as well. With 20 to 22-inch widescreen monitors becoming more common, you might want to set a max page width on the site to prevent elaborate white space.
With an ever-growing amount of spam, it’s time to research tools that help you separate junk from legitimate messages. I recommend using both server and email client-based software and services. Remember, email also utilizes resources on the server — not all site slowdowns and outages are due to traffic alone.
Don’t procrastinate. Start plotting out banner designs for advertising and affiliate programs, as well as budgeting and keywords for web advertising, and begin to get your print advertising pages ready to go.
Server Space Cleanup
Get rid of unnecessary files. Make sure all necessary redirects are working and tweak your site’s error404 (page not found) page to contain a custom, more helpful message than “the page cannot be found.” Keep in mind that 404 is only the most common error, and many others exist.
Plot out a plan for maintaining inventory. If you use real-time tracking both online and off, great. If not, figure out how you’ll prevent overselling items.
My list here is really only the tip of the iceberg. Chances are many more steps will become evident as you start planning. In the coming weeks, at my blog at Practicalecommerce.com, “Mistakes That Kill” will focus on key components of a successful online store during the holidays. There, you can comment and even share your own stories at Practical eCommerce’s public forums.