It’s summer in the city . . . and everywhere else for that matter. And you know what that means. Backyard barbecues. Roasting marshmallows over an open fire. Swimming, sunning, surfing. Beach volleyball. Biking. Hiking. Catching a few winks in your hammock.
And if you’re a smart retailer – getting your e-commerce site ready for the holidays. Sure, it’s only September, but the holiday shopping season will be here before you can say “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, e-commerce spending during the 2013 holiday season was up 15 percent compared to the same time (Q4) in 2012. And holiday 2014 is expected to be even better for online retailers.
But if you want to get a piece of that pumpkin – or mincemeat – spending pie, you have to start now to plan your inventory, create top-notch holiday promotions and get your website in tip-top shape.
These five tips will help ensure your e-commerce site is ready for the holidays:
1. Security Is Job 1
Just like the rest of us, cybercrooks love the holidays. That’s because they know that many small to midsize businesses don’t pay enough attention to securing their websites. The fact is there are more data breaches during the holidays than any other time of the year. But most e-commerce companies don’t sufficiently prepare their systems for the likelihood of an attack, according to a survey by Ponemon Institute. Ponemon says companies should not wait until the holiday shopping season to take the necessary security precautions.
“While shoppers on Cyber Monday can significantly boost sales, just one hour of downtime as a result of an attack could mean an average loss of almost $500,000,” according to Ponemon. “Or, about $8,000 for every minute a purchase is prevented or the integrity of the website compromised.”
Here are some steps you can take now to ensure your customer data is safe and secure come the frenzy of online holiday shopping;
- Do a security audit: Ensure your network access points, e-commerce transactions, etc., are secure. Hire a security consultant to help.
- Run cyberattack scenarios: To be really safe run both common and emerging approaches to cyberattacks then analyze the different ways a security breach could potentially occur. Your network admins can patch the flaws before holiday shopping starts in earnest.
- A secure connection is a must: Use SSL (secure sockets layer) authentication to let your customers know that their personal information is encrypted before it is transmitted. Your customers will know that data is secure when they see the lock icon that comes with an SSL-secured website or the green address bar that comes with an extended validation SSL-secured website. Additionally, websites secured with SSL will begin with https rather than http.
- Display trust seals: A trust seal is granted by a particular entity to indicate that your website is secure so your customers feel more confident about buying from you.
2. Tidy Up Your Email Marketing Lists
You’ll get better ROI on marketing spend. Go over your email campaign reports from the last six months. Create a list of subscribers who opened emails during that time and a list of those who didn’t. Get rid of those inactive subscribers. Why pay to send emails to people who never open them? And you’ll also get better results because you’re emailing people who are interested in your company and what you have to offer.
3. Segment Your Marketing Lists
You should market different messages based on who your customers are and how they buy. Consumers want information that’s relevant to them as individuals. So determine who on your customer list is male? Which subscribers are older? Where do they live – in LA or Boston? Determine who your best customers are and put them on a special list. Then reward them for being loyal customers by sending them special holiday coupons or invitations to special holiday events.
4. Find a Partner or Two
Do joint marketing with a non-competitive, complementary businesses. Teaming up with another company whose products or services complement yours can help you save money and enable you to benefit from a larger customer base. Develop co-branded messaging and consumer offers. Create joint holiday marketing materials, as well as joint direct mail, e-mail or advertising campaigns.
5. Develop Dedicated Apps for iOS, Android
It’s critical to have dedicated applications for these platforms for push notifications to reach consumers with relevant and timely messages as well as for consumer convenience. According to the Ecommerce Quarterly EQ4 2013: Holiday Roundup, more consumers logged on to websites via their iPhones, iPads and Android devices. iPhone and Android accounted for 59.59% and 39.05% of all traffic from smartphones respectively, while the iPad accounted for 87.52% of all traffic from tablets, according to the Ecommerce Quarterly report.
Bottom line: Planning now will help you ensure you receive the best gift of all – a profitable holiday season.
About the Author: Linda Rosencrance is a freelance writer/editor in the Boston area. She has written about information technology for over 15 years. Her articles have appeared in such publications as Computerworld, ITWorld, CIO magazine, Tech Target, MSDynamicsworld.com and others. She has over 20 years experience as an investigative reporter, writing for many newspapers in the metropolitan Boston area. She is also the published author of five true crime books. Rosencrance can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.