eCommerce conversion rates often seem like impossible figures to move, especially during the holiday shopping season. After all, when you’re getting thousands of more users to your site looking for that perfect holiday gift, your conversion rate is bound to decrease.
But you don’t just have to sit back and accept whatever this holiday season has in store for you.
By testing and making changes today, you can get your online store in its best shape for the flurry of holiday shoppers that will soon be on their way. This is the busiest time of year, after all.
Today, we’ll recommend 10 holiday eCommerce strategies to consider for 2021, based on our experience working with dozens of online retailers over the past decade:
10 Conversion Rate Strategies to Test for the 2021 Holiday Season
Last year, the eCommerce conversion rate for Black Friday was only 2.3% — a significant drop from 2019’s rate of 5.13%. You can blame a lot of factors (economic uncertainty, fewer holiday gatherings, etc.), but most of them can ultimately be traced back to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While 2021’s holiday conversion rate averages will be a mystery until the season concludes, you can still start planning ahead with these site optimization strategies:
1. Implement a site code freeze.
The holiday season is likely the busiest time of the year for your online business, so you want to risk as few website issues as possible. Most companies will go into a site code freeze sometime after Halloween (and definitely before Thanksgiving) to prevent any last-minute errors that could decimate holiday sales.
If you’re going to test anything before the holiday season, we recommend doing so over the next few months. Then, confirm your site is working correctly — and “freeze” it until the holiday shopping sprees are complete.A few words of caution: Make sure all your code is actually complete before the freeze deadline, and that you’re on the same page with your developer about timelines for wish list items. A website code freeze won’t do you any good if you’re freezing poorly written or incomplete code.
2. If you don’t implement a site freeze, don’t rely on holiday test data.
Some of our clients decide against a code freeze during the holiday season, preferring to continue to run site tests during the holidays. That’s their prerogative, and it’s yours, as well, should you choose to do the same.
Because of the increased traffic of this season, some eCommerce businesses think it’s the best time to run tests. After all, more shoppers, more statistically significant results, right?
Not quite. The shoppers who come to your site on Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not your average customers. They have different goals and, thus, will behave differently. Their data is not what you should be basing your year-round marketing strategy on.
Our recommendation: If you keep running tests during the holiday season, do not use that data to plan strategies for non-holiday periods.
3. Start running your tests now.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time to dive into potential site optimizations. If you want to run tests on or optimize your website for the holiday season, now’s the time to do it.
Conversion tests typically take a long time to brainstorm, plan, and design — not to mention implement across your site. Even if you have the most responsive developer in the world, they will likely have a long list of to-dos for other clients. Of course, there’s also the tie it takes to run a test for statistically significant results. All in all, it can take at least three weeks (and more likely a month or more) to get the results you’re looking for.
If you’re sold on testing optimizations before the holidays, we recommend talking to your developer as soon as possible.
4. Get your site up to speed before anything else.
If your site is struggling to perform with your usual number of shoppers, it’s only going to get worse when the holidays open the floodgates. That’s why we recommend making your site speed your first priority before November — because it can have a significant impact on your desktop and mobile conversion rates.
- Moving content to a CDN or caching pages
- Optimizing your site code and removing unnecessary characters
- Reducing redirects
- Optimizing images
- And more
5. Add easy seasonal elements.
Customers love the holidays, so plan for some easy holiday-themed messaging and images across your site. By adding global seasonal elements like a Santa Claus in the top navigation, you keep holiday shopping at the top of your customers’ minds (and give them a little holly jolly joy).
While you can’t test out these elements ahead of time (no one wants to see Santa Claus during Halloween), we’ve found these additions rarely do any sort of harm to conversion rates of our clients.
6. Minimize abandoned carts.
On Black Friday 2020, almost 80% of shoppers abandoned their shopping carts while online shopping. That’s a huge amount of lost revenue — but there are some strategies for bringing down that number for your eCommerce site.
Consider using some of these approaches:
- Exit pop-ups offering discounts or promos
- Abandoned cart email flows (loop in your email experts for this one)
- Clarity on shipping costs from the start (more on that below)
7. Focus messaging and navigation on gift-giving.
Another way to avoid cart abandonment? Giving your customers a “wish list” or “save for later” option. Not only does this allow them to easily retain products, but it also gives them a convenient way of sending their list to family and friends asking about gift ideas.
While we haven’t seen this addition move the needle much on conversion rate, it’s usually an easy thing to add to your site and a huge bonus for certain subsets of customers.
On the same note, remember that many customers will be buying for others during this time. You can make the gift-giving process easier for them by:
- Promoting gift cards front and center
- Offering gift-wrap options
- Detailing easy shipping and return policies on category and product pages
8. Emphasize scarcity and urgency.
People tend to want what they can’t have — and when there are only a few products left in stock, they’re much more likely to hit the “purchase” button.
That’s why we recommend using scarcity notifications on your product pages, like so:
You should also incorporate shipping deadlines on your product pages, too. Shipping has been finicky for many eCommerce stores this year, so you should let your customers know what to expect — especially if they want to get a certain product by Christmas. By emphasizing your shipping cutoffs for the holidays, you urge shoppers to get their orders in now, rather than wait and run the risk of purchases not arriving in time:
9. Update recommender widgets.
Another hassle for eCommerce businesses since COVID? Problems with product stock and supply chains. Anticipate that certain popular products will sell out during the holiday season, and give your customers some alternatives to keep them on your site.
The easiest option is updating your product recommendations. Not only will this give your customers similar products in case their original query is out of stock, but it also boosts the chance that they will purchase additional products, as well.
When we say “updating,” we actually mean doing it manually.
Most product recommendations are automatically generated through your site’s algorithm — but remember that your shoppers behave differently during the holidays. We recommend looking at your historical holiday purchases, identifying which products were typically bought together, and updating your recommendations by hand for this once-a-year behavior.
10. Keep your eyes on the big picture.
In a list of tips about optimizing your conversion rate, it seems contradictory to tell you that it doesn’t really matter.
But that’s the actual truth.
During the holiday season, it all comes down to revenue. As mentioned above, you can expect your average conversion rate to actually drop during the upcoming shopping frenzy — but it’s just a fact of numbers. More traffic means more visitors, who may or may not convert, which will lower your conversion rate.
Here’s an example: One of our clients (like most eCommerce businesses) experiences a spurt in traffic during November and December. Last year, it was a 100% increase. Even though their conversion rate dropped by 20%, their revenue numbers still went up by 100%, which is what they really cared about at the end of the day.
Ask yourself: Are you meeting the revenue targets you’ve set? How does your site revenue compare to past holiday seasons?
If those answers are satisfactory, you can laugh about your conversion rates all the way to the bank.
Get Started Today with a Team of Experts
Testing for conversion rate can be tricky. If you don’t do it right, you risk seriously harming your sales potential over the next few months.
Fortunately, you can avoid that risk by working with an eCommerce conversion optimization specialist, like those on Inflow’s team. These experts can evaluate your desktop and mobile sites, understand your goals and needs, and then incorporate them into a full-fledged strategy tailored to your specific site.
Curious? Request a free proposal anytime to see what our CRO team can do for you.
In the meantime, happy optimizing, and may the holiday shopping odds be ever in your favor.