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How to get your ecommerce website ready for Black Friday

In this article, xneelo looks at how to prepare your ecommerce business for big shopping events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the upcoming festive season.

Black Friday is a popular shopping event that takes place annually on the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, but its popularity as a big shopping day has expanded worldwide. Combined with peak shopping periods like Christmas, it presents an opportunity for ecommerce stores to boost sales and profitability and make up for slower months.

According to First National Bank (FNB), over R670 million in online card purchases were made last Black Friday. All-in-all, the bank reported that customers made purchases worth over R3 billion on Black Friday, both online and in-store.

Capitalising on peak shopping periods is only possible if your website is ready and well-prepared. Here are some tips and best practices for gearing up your ecommerce store in time for Black Friday.

Make sure your offers carry real value 

It’s important to note that on big shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, customers are actively looking for great deals and will be comparing prices across all the popular retail sites. Do some research on popular items that do well and look at the type of discounts your competitors usually offer.

You can also encourage customers to increase their order value. If your website runs on WordPress, there are a number of WordPress plugins which recommend up-sell and cross-sell products. You can also structure bundle deals, offer buy-X-get-Y deals, provide a gift with their purchase or even offer free shipping.
Keep in mind that Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas put online retailers under pressure to deliver on what customers want. As an online store owner, this means making sure you have enough inventory available to meet the increased demand, and ensuring that you are able to deliver on the offers you’ve promised.

Prep your customer service team

Having a readily-available customer help centre on hand is an effective way to create return customers after sale events. 

Some proven ways to bolster your customer service on your website include:
  • Provide self-help and self-service resources, such as a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page
  • Use customer service software or a live chat tool to make contacting support quick and easy
  • Manage customer expectations by clearly communicating policies regarding shipping, returns, and exchanges.
Also, consider your current shipping and refund policies, and look for opportunities to better accommodate holiday shoppers. For example, customers purchasing gifts may hesitate to buy from you if you have a strict or complicated return process. If so, adjusting your policies during the holidays can be beneficial.

Prepare for additional traffic

Part of preparing for peak shopping days is pre-empting the inevitable traffic surge and making sure your website is prepared to handle the load. Look at your marketing and sales projections to see how much extra business you expect to attract over the busy season. Each potential transaction counts as a website visitor and a unique session. Check with your web hosting provider to see how much your website’s traffic allowance is and if it’s sufficient to handle the traffic you expect. If not, you might end up with poor website performance when you need it the most or a bill for traffic over usage.

Test your load speed

If your website takes too long to load it can cause higher bounce rates, shopping cart abandonment, and even hamper your conversion rates. Up to 39% of users may abandon your website if the images on your website take too long to load.

Slow load times can be caused by a variety of factors such as:
  • High-res images that have not been optimised for web
  • Not running regular updates
  • Not using a CDN to cache content
Use a tool such as Google PageSpeed Insights to test the load speed of your website and identify potential problems. You can also conduct a website health check and fix any issues that could be affecting your page load speeds.

Have a backup of your website ready

It’s always advisable to keep a backup of your website ready. If your website goes down, having a backup at hand allows you to restore an earlier version of your site to ensure business as usual and to reduce the disruption to your sales. Before restoring a backed-up version of your website, especially after bug fixing or a security incident, test it first to make sure you’re not restoring the issue as well. You can do this in Staging, which we explain in more detail below.

Set up a Staging site to test your sale first

A positive user experience (UX) can be what sets your online store apart while a negative experience can result in the loss of potential sales – and repeat visitors. 

Make sure your website is easy to navigate and that the ordering process is as seamless and frictionless as possible. This means testing the ordering and checkout process yourself, and making sure every button and page loads quickly. If you’re offering seasonal discount codes make sure those work before rolling them out. 

You can do this by loading your Black Friday offers on a Staging environment first to test that all sale prices, discount codes and offers work throughout the sale and checkout process. 

A solution like Managed WordPress Hosting removes some of the uncertainty and hassle from sale periods by providing small business owners with Starter Sites featuring sale demo pages, a free Staging Environment, unlimited traffic and daily backups to ensure everything runs smoothly when you need it most.

Useful resources:
xneelo
xneelo offers web hosting and business enablement to more than 500 000 South African websites.
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