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November holidays tend to get lost and looked over. Brick-and-mortars roll out Christmas decorations while they’re selling half-priced Halloween candy just three aisles over. Meanwhile, online retailers are finishing preparations for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Green Monday.

The key to being successful this holiday (and all days) is to deliver a great user experience. Great UX is about much more than a pretty website with thoroughly A/B-tested buttons. From shipping speed to site speed, your user’s experience with your eCommerce site is both physical and digital. If you’re not managing both aspects you’re going to fall behind. Luckily there are lots of best practices and tools that can help you make the most of this busy shopping season.

In this blog post we’ll cover three things you need now to ensure successful sales over the upcoming holiday season.

User Experience Monitoring – Especially for Mobile

Slow checkouts lead to abandoned carts, but how do we know how to fix the slow checkouts? The first step is to monitor the transaction from beginning to end. You can’t predict how every user will experience your site, so take the most important product pages (like a big sale item) and track the buying process from search to shipping address.

This type of user experience monitoring is critical. It allows you to identify bottlenecks, see where to improve performance, and receive alerts about slowness or functional problems before they impact real customers. You need to start this now.

In a code freeze? No problem. Synthetic user experience monitoring can be configured with zero installation because it acts like a real visitor, hitting your site from locations all over the globe.

Year round, more than half of all time spent on retail sites take place from mobile devices. 40% of US consumers plan to make at least one holiday shopping purchase from their phone. And, we know that just one second of delay in mobile load time can hurt conversions and cart sizes by up to 3.5%. If right now you’re only monitoring transactions from desktop, now is the time to set up tests for your mobile transaction flows.

Consider this: if your customers are shopping on mobile, they’re probably complaining on social. Set up notifications to alert your support team working on social media. That way, if something does go wrong, your team can be actively listening for disgruntled shoppers.

Tools to Make the Most of Social

While you should be prepared to handle incoming requests from social media, you also need a strong outbound strategy to reach your customers where they are. As more companies are using social to communicate with their customers, more popular social media platforms continue to add more features built for businesses.

Instagram and Pinterest: Visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are ideal for rich ads or posts to “shop the look.”  But, be careful of redirects and slow render times. If a shopper is coming from a native app to your site, it’s critical that you deliver content quickly on the initial page load. Customers may become more tolerant of slowness as they get deeper into the checkout process, but they won’t get that far if the transition from app to online shop doesn’t feel seamless.

Facebook: Tools like Shopify make it easy for eCommerce companies to sell on Facebook. Even if you don’t have a Facebook storefront, consider following Everlane’s lead by using this channel instead of email. You can send promotions, transactional information like shipping notifications, or even offer personalized selling.

Twitter: While Twitter users are typically quick to report issues to eCommerce brands, they may also be eager for discounts. Tweet a product photo with some positive, urgent messaging, a coupon code, and a link to a flash sale page. Just be sure to optimize search results and product pages so that don’t bounce waiting for the page to load.

These are just some ideas, but eCommerce platforms and social media companies are constantly evolving and adapting. If you’re using a platform to host your eCommerce site, start looking now to see what options and integrations might be available for you.

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-4-29-57-pm
Krewe uses Instagram to promote their brand, feature products, and direct followers to their online shop.

A Way to Watch Third-Party APIs

Speaking of integrations, most modern eCommerce sites rely on internal or external APIs to communicate between divergent systems. Here are just a few components of eCommerce sites that could be relying on APIs:

  • Search results
  • Inventory management
  • Product recommendations
  • Personalization
  • Payment processing
  • Shipping calculators
  • Sidebars or widgets for social proof

A slowly performing API can drive customers aways, but incorrect responses from APIs could cost you real money. You could send inventory to the wrong place, sell orders you cannot fulfill, or send the wrong information to customers.

For example, maybe you have a system that automatically sends tracking codes to users via email. You may not be able to monitor your customer’s inbox, but you can monitor the system that passes that tracking code data to the automated email marketing system and verify that those tracking codes are valid.

It’s important to know that your systems are handing off information correctly from one API to the other. Monitor APIs for performance, reliability, and data validation.

Takeaways

It’s not too late to work web performance strategies into your holiday plans. Make sure you have a way to monitor transactions, social integrations, and business-critical APIs. After all, one of the best ways to combat cart abandonment is to get ahead of the issue. Deliver a fast, reliable shopping experience.

We would love to hear what tools you rely on to build better experiences for customers online and offline during the holidays. Let us know in the comments!

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