10 shopping changes your ecommerce site needs now

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6. Make the checkout process easy

Alibaba.com 's Lee says payment processing during the holiday shopping season has to be as easy as possible. "Online shoppers need a way to pay for products and services online, and that's easy these days," he says. "You can accept credit card payments with either a PayPal account or an online merchant account."

There's some debate about allowing guest checkouts this time of year. However, Digital River's Gagliardi says, you're able to provide a better shopping experience on future visits when you capture customer data during the first visit. To that end, he recommends using a streamlined, one-page checkout for repeat customers and breaking longer registration forms into separate pages so new customers aren't overwhelmed with the registration process.

7. Improve access to customer support

During the holidays, providing customer service that exceeds expectations is priority No. 1 for online retailers. Harper, of Bigcommerce, suggests giving customers easy-to-locate and easy-to-use customer support tips and contact information. Audit your site to make sure this is the case. "Businesses also need to make sure measures and staff are in place to respond to customer questions and comments at a moment's notice," he says.

Gagliardi, meanwhile, recommends offering a toll-free customer service number and putting that on your website. "When we do this for clients, we don't actually see a real uptick in customer calls-but we do see an increase in close ratios because customers have more buying confidence."

8. Offer flash sales, coupon codes and daily deals

A popular type of online sale to offer this year is a flash sale, in which you set a really good deal for a short period of time-a few hours, usually-and promote the sale heavily on your website, in email and on social media. (To do these types of sales you need to prepare in advance and make sure servers can handle the upswing in traffic.)

"It's similar to door busters that you find in brick and mortar stores," Gagliardi says, adding that this type of sale proved successful for Digital River's clients last year and is expected to drive sales again this year.

Vendio's Effle also recommends promoting daily deals on your website to keep shoppers coming back throughout the season. This encourages shoppers to visit your site every day to see the "Offer of the Day." He also recommends that you make your daily deals and free shipping promotions available through coupon codes.

"You can then go to all the coupon sites and add your listing," Effle says. "This gives you even more exposure (and potential sales) than just including it for buyers who are already looking at your site."


9. Be special and show it on your page

In order to stand out, experts recommend posting specials and bundle offers on your main website pages. Alibaba.com's Lee says giving buyers something special is one of the main secrets of a successful ecommerce business.

"Spend time developing something that your customers wont find anywhere except at your store," he says. "For example, you can offer some services for free or provide coupons for future visits with each purchase."

Gagliardi recommends using product bundles to spice up your holiday promotion on-site and to give customers something unique. These could include bundling paper and ink with printer purchases or offering immediate discounts on the purchase of two video game titles.

"We have clients use unique bundles so they're not competing with Amazon or brick-and-mortar stores," he says. "They're actually creating unique bundle opportunities that can bring the average order value back up."

10. Don't forget to test all changes you make

The worst scenario is planning fantastic and unique holiday promotions and content but rolling out something that doesn't work or confuses your customers during the online shopping process.

When making changes to your website and setting up promotions, Walker of hybris software recommends that you always test the content. This includes all promotion codes, pages and hyperlinks. Testing every change is the best way to make sure customers have an exceptional holiday shopping experience on your website.

"One of the best ways to test," Walker says, "is to actually spend time shopping the site yourself."

This story, "10 shopping changes your ecommerce site needs now" was originally published by CIO.

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