No-Nonsense Techniques To Prep Your E-Commerce Website For The Holiday Season

By Aamina Suleman , Nov 23 2016
e-commerce website

Feature Image Source: Freepik

Ho ho ho, what a year this has been! Conversational commerce, social selling, and virtual reality pave the way for e-commerce businesses to enter a realm of a highly social and digital world where as Ryan Holmes of Hootsuite suggests dwell the Generation C mindset.

For such an audience, you need to prep your ecommerce website for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year because according to eMarketer, this holiday season ecommerce sales in U.S. will hike 17.2% that’s over 13% higher than on-ground retail sales. Lo and behold, the shopping frenzy has begun.


Success Of E-commerce Website Depends On

Although your e-commerce business model influences the way you approach your customers, I strongly believe (and Santa may agree) that the success of your startup and small business website during the holiday season extravaganza is based on four main aspects:

  • Design
  • Experience
  • Content
  • SEO

ecommerce website success aspects
Vector Source: Freepik

Prep Your E-Commerce Website For Holidays

You may have a mind-blowing campaign but if you don’t know how to execute it then say good-bye to that delicious turkey. Nonetheless, I’ll be your elf for the day to help you create an awe-inspiring web presence this holiday season. Finally here are the no-nonsense techniques you need to prep your e-commerce website till customers storm your stores and you reach your desired sales goal until the clock strikes 12:00 for another exciting year.

ecommerce holiday Cinderella quote
Image Source: Disney Princess


Welcome Customers: Make Themed Home Page

Just like people dress according to the occasion, e-commerce websites should also revivify themselves around the holiday theme. Since there’s no time to change the user-interface of your entire website, you can only focus on the home page. Use free festive fonts, color palette, illustrations and photographs.

The CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Meg Whitman says “communications is at the heart of e-commerce and community.” Thus it’s always nice to show warm affection to a tech-savvy yet social audience that craves for humanized interactions.

Enhance Visuals For Holiday Season

It may sound like an obvious technique but it’s not used to its full potential because e-commerce websites such as Amazon and Alibaba often forget the influencing power of festoon and bespangled visuals. Instead such retail giants focus on sales promotion images with a slight or no touch of celebration. As a startup like Boxed, ViralStyle or Suck UK, you can give an edge to your promotional campaign with infographics, GIFs, cinemagraphs, and of course explainer videos with ‘holiday mood’ design and special effects.

From November up until the end of December, there is a list of holidays to target. So don’t spend too much time on one visual and if you want the “perfect” look, make sure you start now. The images, for instance, you use for the upcoming Black Friday loot will be different from let’s say Christmas. Also make sure your visuals are responsive (can adapt to user’s device) and graphic files don’t take forever to load.

Add Festivity To CTA Buttons

Want to maintain your original look in the holiday season and not be too fancy? Decorate your call-to-action buttons to follow the ever-growing minimal craze. Replace the usual corporate style to something that invites customers to your landing pages and also suggests what they’re about. You could adorn it with gift icons, cornucopia or snow flake just to give hint of celebration or simply animate them with CSS and SVG filters.

As much as words are important to attract visitors to click, you need jazz up the clickable button with the festive color scheme or design element. By the way, this is a great chance for e-commerce websites to bring out the Good Time Charlie.

CTA button ideas for holiday season
Vector Source: Freepik

Make Merry Social Media Icons

In the book Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business, Erik Qualman highlights the importance of social media to business success online. His theory regarding socialnomics is an interesting outlook on how the different platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Snapchat and Instagram are an effective means of word-of-mouth marketing. Social media icons on your website make it easier for your customers to connect with your live feed and to share your products and promotions with others.

For the holiday season, it’ll be nice to ornate your social media icons with Christmas balls and socks, mistletoes, tinsels, and snow globes. Again this is perfect for e-commerce businesses that like simplicity and only want to show a tinge of celebration on their website design.

social media icons for holidays
Vector Source: Freepik

Customize 301 And 404 Error Design

If you have the ‘oops’ moments when some of your web pages don’t function then customizing their design will cool down fiery customers who really liked your offer but when they clicked it, they found a booboo. No one likes that, even I don’t. It’ll be pretty embarrassing to offer a solution and when people want to avail it, there’s an error especially in these two months when people are in a hurry.

So if you have the ‘redirect pages’ or the ‘unavailable pages’ then draw a custom illustration or animation to cool down frustrated customers. For this holiday season, you could add humor since that lightens the mood. Gather ideas related to the holiday season. You can convert these pages into a holiday theme shop display window.

Content Layout On Your Website

Have you ever come across a website that is filled with ads and product pop ups? I have and it’s an irksome journey to move around that site. Kindly refrain from spammy marketing tricks and restructure tacky promotions.

The last thing you want to do as an e-commerce business is to shoo away visitors from your website with excessive advertising, so much so that all the edges of your pages are filled with a marketing pitch about the products you sell. Sure you want to tap onto the ‘holiday shopping breeze’ opportunity but dumping things over your customers is a no-no and similar to traditional outbound techniques.

So “how do I display products on my website?” It’s simple! Use visual hierarchy tricks to structure your content. Categorize your content and divide into grids (sections) on your web pages.

ecommerce site visual hierarchy
Vector Source: Freepik


Be Responsive: Design For Mobile

The core reason you’ll want to finally invest in responsive web design this holiday season is that 177.4 million buyers (baby boomers, generation z or millennials) in the US will purchase products and services online via their mobiles, as per Statista. It’ll be a disaster to miss out on this opportunity. It’s high time, get a responsive web design! By the way, this technique won’t make it to the finishing line fast enough this holiday season.

If you decide to adapt your website design to mobile right now, you’ll be able to get your hands on the increased number of mobile shoppers in 2017 and 2018, as per Statista. Ethan Marcotte, the designer who coined the term, suggests that a responsive website meets the requirement of the ever-changing web-scape. Pair this with the OpenType variable font and you’ll have a perfect combo for any internet-enabled device.

Personalize Online Customer Service

The buzzwords social selling and conversational commerce are the next big thing in online sales and customer service. You must use version 2.0 artificial intelligence bots on website and upgrade your live chat with a real human for a personalized appeal round the clock whenever customers have a query regarding a holiday sales promo, payment options, finding the right product, sales returns, and shipping etc.

In fact, for Christmas, you could embellish the image of a person in a pop-up with a Santa hat. On the other hand, with Thanksgiving around the corner, you can garnish your live chat widget with garlands. The idea is to get in the holiday loop.

Do Site Loading Test Preparation

According to Kissmetrics stats, in any given day 47% of online customers expect web page to load within 2 seconds. Now imagine the holiday season traffic – and think about the shopping haul. On the peak days, such as Black Friday, customers are literally swooshing across websites to find good deals. While you prep your design for the holiday, make sure you don’t increase the loading time of your site because that’ll be a bummer.

A good website loading speed can increase visitor retention, engagement and enhance their overall user-experience. Fast page loads also help direct customers across landing pages and this may influence conversion rates. As per the Aberdeen Group research, a delay of one second reduces customer satisfaction by 16%. Crazy, right?

user survey for ecommerce website
Vector Source: Freepik

Add DIY Touch For Products

What if I’m a lover of quote t-shirts and you sell them? I don’t want to end up on your website and buy only what you have to offer. I’d like to gift a Christmas t-shirt to my brother and I want a custom message for my brother. Here’s where product customization comes in. You need to give visitors the leeway to ‘mix and match’ or to see a particular model or style of product in different colors for example. This is a great idea for a greeting card selling startup online.

In fact an addition of artificial intelligence may just enhance this experience. An outdoor products company The North Face is like a virtual sales assistant that displays options according to your answers.

Explore Virtual Reality Prospects

Alibaba’s GnomeMagic Lab is an example of virtual reality worth exploring. A team member, Zhao Haiping envisioned that virtual reality could enable online customers to shop on New York’s Fifth Avenue virtually from their homes. An excellent idea for those who detest the rush of physical stores during the holiday season.

Virtual reality isn’t a new thing but the way businesses have started to use it is a good case study for startups and small businesses. Lucie Greene, Director of Innovation Group elucidates that the “digital and physical worlds are blurring in new ways.” Wayfair Inc. just launched a VR app IdeaSpace, which lets customers see the possible combinations of home furnishing products the company offers.

lucie greene quote digital world
Vector Source: Freepik


Themed Blog Content

There are several reasons you need a blog for your e-commerce website and you may already have one. It strengthens your brand messages, helps you promote your products while solving customers’ problems, and it helps you drive targeted and valuable traffic to your landing pages. Plus, it’s a cost-effective strategy that has high returns if you do it properly. The list of benefits is never-ending.

If you have a blog then make sure you streamline your content according to the holiday season. Writers and marketers can work together to generate ideas that’ll attract your target market. Examples include:

  • 10 Ultra-Holo Nail Paint Ideas To Flaunt This Christmas
  • Black Friday T-shirt Styles For An Extra Edgy Look
  • Thanksgiving Gift Ideas Better Than The Turkey Mom Makes

Simply use trend tracking websites like Buzzsumo and Buzzfeed for ideas to entertain and educate your customers about your products and offers.

Holiday Season Catalogues

A 2015 InfoTrends study that surveyed 800 customers across America found that 74% of the total participants consider catalogs as a useful medium to learn about products, features and prices. The Australian Catalogue Association shares that customers spend over eight minutes reading a single catalog. This means an online visual catalog for a digital buyer is the best way to skyrocket your sales.

Ikea’s catalog for winter is an example you could follow but I feel for your e-commerce business you can make the design according to the trending contemporary visual taste. In your catalog for the holidays, you can definitely improve the sales copy with better trigger words than just “see more”.

survey on catalog design
Vector Source: Freepik


Holiday Specific Keyword

During the holidays, you must use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or any other free keyword tool to know exactly which words trigger the shopping hormones of customers. Set the holiday ambience with ‘trigger words’ (could be long-tail) that generate an action. For an e-commerce website, the ideal action is to buy a product. Here’s a list of words that’ll set the right tone and inspire your visitors to complete their buyer’s journey.

General List Holiday List
Free Offer Holiday Bundles
Lowest Price Black Friday Off
Compare Rates Cyber Monday Sale
Offer Expires Christmas Discount
Save Up To New Year Free Offers
Free Trial Holiday Package For Two
Only $ Cheap Holiday Deals
Half Price Winter Sale
Two For One Thanksgiving Packages
Free Shipping Last Minute Christmas Deals


holiday season shopping survey
Vector Source: Freepik

According to a consulting firm’s survey, 40% shoppers accept they’ll never pay full price for a product during the holiday season. Nevertheless, don’t overuse keywords and spam your e-commerce website. Take inspiration from Argo, or House of Fraser.

Plus Julian Connors, Director of SEO Without Borders shares that search engines like Yahoo, Bing and Google don’t like keyword stuffing. You must offer valuable content to “improve user engagement, enhance organic authority and drive conversion” Connors suggests.

Optimize Holiday Visuals

While you’ll optimize your web page with visuals to rank better on SERPs, you also need to optimize your visuals as you add them to your website. If your marketers or developers forget to do this, make sure you remind them since it is a matter of your online success. Don’t be a doofus – know the key things that can influence your online biz and make sure they’re implemented and tracked.

It’s important to use holiday specific keywords to describe each and every visual on your website. Make sure your content writers attach a unique alt text with relevant keywords with every image, video or even a podcast (not visual). Whether you make custom visuals or use stock images, you must follow this step so that search engines bots can pick them up.


Before you work on the above techniques, prepare for everything.

Julian Connors quote web content
Vector Source: Freepik

Set Holiday Season Goals

A Deloitte study confirms that this year’s holiday season for e-commerce businesses will be a big bang! Half of the survey participants conveyed they’ll shop online. Then it’s obvious, you need to prep your website since that’s where everything starts and ends. But the worst you can do is to implement all of the above techniques and not have a way to analyze the impact, evaluate the results and redesign strategies.

In fact setting goals for retailers with multiple online selling points is a good idea. Set your goals according to the holiday period on Google Analytics and observe how your effort affect your return on investment. Track your campaign and assess the impact of keywords, marketing channels and content on your website.

Use behavior funnel reports to understand the way customers complete their purchase during a particular holiday such as Black Friday. On the other hand, the acquisition report will help you determine the source of traffic on your website.

So which technique do you think will work best for you?

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A marketing design enthusiast, super passionate about the evolving scope of visual communication. With 3+ years of experience in content marketing, Aamina is driven by insights, inspirations, trends and creativity. She loves to travel, eat khowsuey, sip coffee, and watch mysteries.