The holiday season is coming fast: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Thanksgiving, Christmas. It’s one event after another! And with them comes a huge surge of customers. Is your online store ready for the rush?

Today we’re going to share with you some unique ecommerce strategies that you can implement right away on your WordPress site. Hopefully, you’ll find something in here you haven’t seen before and it can help you get those record-breaking sales for the 2019 holiday season!

Ready to start?

Retail Continues to Die, Ecommerce Booming

Black Friday and other Q3/Q4 shopping seasons have traditionally been associated with physical store chains. You probably imagine long lines and frenzied customers battling over limited space and resources.

But more and more consumers have opted to stay at home, skipping the potentially violent crowds, and turning to online stores to get their holiday merchandise. In 2018, Black Friday made a record $6.22 billion in online sales, many of them coming from mobile devices. And for brick-and-mortar stores, their Black Friday net sales fell 4 to 7 percent. That number is only expected to grow as the entire world begins to prefer shopping on their smartphones.

Investing in online ecommerce during the holidays is likely to pull in huge sales for your business. Focusing solely on your physical stores is a huge mistake.

And it’s not just during Black Friday. Some of the biggest names in traditional retail (walk-in) closed more than 5,000 stores in 2017 alone due to declining sales and increased competition from online sellers like Amazon, which in 2018 held 49% of all ecommerce sales. Over 7000 more store closures are happening in 2019.

While traditional retail continues to die, luckily, ecommerce sales are booming! According to a 2019 eMarketer report, US retail ecommerce spending will rise 13.2% to $135.35 billion and forecast that total US retail sales will break the trillion-dollar holiday season mark for the first time ever with a 3.8% increase to $1.008 trillion.

Ecommerce holiday season sales growth

Ecommerce holiday season sales growth

And what about the WordPress space?

Typically when people are researching ecommerce options, two big ones come to mind: WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads. This market is also growing at a rapid pace. Todd Wilkens, Head of WooCommerce, estimated that WooCommerce stores will have collectively generated more than $10 billion in sales in 2017 and says the figure could be as high as $15 billion. Owler currently estimates that it makes $12 billion annually so these claims seem to have been accurate.

It’s also interesting to take a look at the BuiltWith data for both WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads:

  • As of November 2019, there are now over 3.8 million sites using WooCommerce, up from 2.2 million in 2018.
  • As of November 2019, there are now over 43,000 sites using Easy Digital Downloads, up from 40,000 in 2018.

If we take a look at Google Trends, we can definitely see steady growth around the “WooCommerce” search term over the past five years. Unfortunately “Easy Digital Downloads” still doesn’t have enough market share to make much of a blip here. But rest assured, both are grabbing more users every day.

google trends

Google Trends for the term “WooCommerce”

Many don’t even realize that both of these are actually still just plugins for WordPress. Because really they have turned into full-blown ecommerce solutions. They each have their own entire ecosystems of add-ons, extensions, payment gateways, webhooks, online communities, and more. However, popularity is not always a good thing. Due to the fact that anyone can easily now launch their own store, online competition is harder than ever!

Especially this holiday season, you’re going to have some big competition and your business needs to be ready to handle it.

13 Strong Ecommerce Strategies and Hacks to Boost Your Holiday Sales

No matter the size of the business or team, everyone is always looking for more ways to optimize their ecommerce sites and increase their conversion rates. These ecommerce strategies below can be applied for large online WooCommerce stores or even on a small EDD site who is just starting to sell their first premium WordPress product.

No matter the size of your store, you need to be ready for the incoming wave of customers. Hopefully, some of these recommendations below will put you a little further ahead of your competition!

1. Focus on Emails

Email marketing is key to the success of any business. Whether you’re creating a newsletter by hand or pouring big money into huge campaigns, every successful business of any size has done some amount of marketing.

And with a ROI of 122%, it’s one of the best places to put your money. A return on investment that high means that every dollar you put in is doubled… and more! Plus it’s cheap to get into and easy to start. Brand new startups and long-running giants both use email marketing for good reason.

Plus, customers love it. Welcome emails can have up to 91% opening rate and 26.9% clickthrough rate. Think about the lead-generating opportunities with numbers like that. Convince people to subscribe to your newsletter and keep them engaged with a constant stream of special discounts and offers, and you’ll build up a fanbase of loyal customers.

With all the customers coming this holiday season, make sure your email marketing campaign is ready to receive them.

Automate Holiday Email Campaigns

In the frantic holiday rush, it’s absolutely essential that you have automated email marketing in place. During Cyber Monday 2018, email drove 24.2% of revenue. In other words, nearly 25% of your traffic could come just from an email campaign.

Automation essentially takes all the work out of email marketing. All you need to do is create your email templates, set up what triggers cause emails to be sent to users (time elapsed, product purchased, sign-up, etc.), and define user segments based off activity and demographics. Make sure to check our guide on how to get started with Mailchimp, one of the best email marketing tool out there (we use it here at Kinsta).

The program sends out emails to your customers whenever they activate these triggers. Think about it: that’s not something you want to be doing manually during the holidays. Let automated software greet your new seasonal shoppers, lure them in with discounts, and target them once the holidays are over.

Check out our comprehensive list of email marketing software recommendations with key features listed for each one. You’ll definitely find one you like there. Or if you want to focus on recapturing lost users, we have some recommendations specifically suited for abandoned cart recovery.

Recover Abandoned Carts and Automatically Capture Lost Sales

These next few months are going to bring the highest abandoned cart rates you’ll ever have to deal with. During Black Friday in particular, 75% of shopping carts are abandoned. That’s a lot of lost revenue!

Come holiday season, customers are probably checking out all sorts of stores, comparing prices and seeing what everyone has to offer. But in the flurry of new products and open tabs on their computer, they might lose track of the cart they filled up on your site. If they forget to check out, chances are, they’ll never return to it.

What you need is email marketing software that targets those abandoned carts and brings them right back in, all without you having to lift a finger.

If you need a quality email retargeting tool that works with your WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads store, we recommend Jilt. While it also serves as an email automation tool all through the ecommerce lifecycle, one of its best features is the ability to automatically recapture lost sales. Just do a little setup, and it handles everything behind the scenes.

ecommerce strategies: Jilt

Jilt (Image source: Jilt.com)

Jilt is created by the team over at SkyVerge, who are no newcomers when it comes to ecommerce optimization and knowing how customers think. In fact, we did an interview with their product lead, Beka Rice. Jilt essentially hooks up to your ecommerce site and sends automated emails when someone abandons their cart.

You can even have it dynamically create unique discount codes for you, which is a great way to reel those erratic seasonal shoppers back in. A customized message and a special discount code might be the push they need to complete their purchase. This can give you a huge competitive edge.

Here are a couple of great examples below of companies using this strategy, along with clever messaging.

abandon cart email

Easy Digital Downloads discount code

abandoned cart example 2

Fontspring discount code

abandoned cart example 3

An example of a Google Store discount code

Time is of the essence, so make sure that during the holidays, you run a more aggressive cart recovery campaign. Black Friday to Cyber Monday is only a 3-day period, so don’t worry about sending one email a day to lost customers. And don’t hesitate to push out those lucrative discounts a little bit earlier.

Here is an example of a campaign you might set up for Black Friday:

  • Automatically send an email after 3 hours titled “[first name], did you forget something?”
  • Automatically send an email after 1 day titled “We’re still holding your items — don’t miss out on this Black Friday discount.” In this email, have Jilt automatically generate a 15% discount code.
  • Automatically send an email after 3 days titled “Complete your transaction now for a huge Cyber Monday discount!” In this email, have Jilt automatically generate a 20% discount code.

During the less fast-paced December shopping season, you can spread out your emails over 5-7 days.

Jilt also provides all the reporting and data analysis you need to see how much extra revenue is earned by reaching customers you would have otherwise lost. And while this service isn’t completely free, their pricing model is probably one of the most flexible on the market, as you pay only for the customers that you reach through your recovery campaigns. Both the WooCommerce and EDD versions of Jilt’s WordPress plugins have a 5 out of 5-star rating on the WordPress repository.

Check out some of these reviews it’s been getting from reputable figures in the space, such as WP Mayor, OceanWP, and Macho Themes.

jilt reviews 1

WordPress plugin reviews

You can email between 0 – 25 customers per month for free. So for small shops just starting out, essentially it can be completely free to get started. And their pricing then goes up based on how many emails you send. The great part about this model is that the product pays for itself! You probably would have lost these customers before, and now you can pay for the service while you gain more sales.

There are many other great abandoned cart recapturing services to consider too. Conversio is one you should definitely try. Like Jilt, automatically generates discount coupons to quickly get that user’s attention. But one of its better features is how it takes advantage of social proof, providing customer screenshots and product reviews to convince them to try again. This social proof has given them a recovery rate of 12%.

conversio abandoned cart recovery

Conversio

You could also try Abandoned Cart Lite, a free WooCommerce extension that enables you to track and recover abandoned carts, including guest carts, and personalize them with customizable templates. There’s also a pro version with extra features like automatically generating coupon codes and advanced analytics.

ecommerce strategies: abandoned cart lite settings

Abandoned Cart Lite

Whatever tool you choose to automate your holiday email campaigns, those months are going to bring many browsers and a lot of abandoned carts. You’re going to need help re-engaging them, and software like this will be an invaluable asset.

2. Take Advantage of Your Email List

If you have an existing newsletter (this is the Kinsta newsletter), it’s time to take advantage of it to drive sales. Your users subscribed to you because they’re loyal to your brand, and they’re interested in seeing what you have to offer. Reward them with plenty of discounts and freebies.

If you don’t have a newsletter set up yet, get started right now. You’ll still be fresh in your subscribers’ minds come seasonal shopping too, so this is a great time to put together an email list.

kinsta newsletter

Kinsta newsletter signup

Every email should come with an incentive to click. Whether it’s early access to sale pricing or a redeemable gift, open every email strong and your engagement rate will skyrocket. Give your subscribers exclusive offers as well; it’s both a great way to say thank you and something to dangle in front of those who haven’t signed up yet.

Create a clear schedule of emails to send, perfectly spaced out to match the pace of the holiday season. Use segmentation to send offers to those most likely to click them.

mailchimp email segmentation

MailChimp segmentation

Remember the best-performing Black Friday subject lines so you can get a higher open rate. Your subject lines are the most important part of an email — a bad subject line will get ignored entirely.

And since you’re going to have a big influx of new visitors, remember to optimize that welcome email and offer a discount on future purchases or some other gift. You don’t want to get thousands of signups only for them to go inactive. Keep giving them incentives to engage with your brand.

Don’t just rely on random visitors. Keep those promotional emails flowing all through the holiday season and use your existing email list to get more sales.

3. Use Social Proof to Facilitate Purchase

Consumers don’t have time to do research when they’re racing the countdown sales, but that doesn’t mean authenticity doesn’t matter to them. They’re going to choose the company they feel at a glance is the most reliable. You need a way to communicate, fast, that you’re the store worth choosing.

One way to convince users of that is by using social proof. According to Wikipedia:

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.

You’ve seen it in action before. It’s why so many stores display testimonials on their front page or allow customers to review products. Users trust other users, so knowing that people are buying from you is often enough to convince them of your authenticity.

72% of users won’t take action before they read reviews, and according to that same source, online product reviews can increase its conversion rate by 270%. People want to see feedback from other customers before they’re willing to make a purchase.

Tip: reviews with pictures have been proven to do better! Here is an example below of one we use on our Kinsta site. Notice we don’t just use a picture of the site, but actually get a picture of the employee at the company. This gives it a much more personal feel that you can connect with.

social reviews

An example of reviews with pictures

Some of you might have also heard of the term FOMO. This is the “fear of missing out.” By leveraging social proof with a sense of urgency, you can boost your conversions!

Defined as a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent, FOMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing. – Science Direct

If you want to take advantage of FOMO, we recommend HollerWP. It’s is an awesome lead generation tool that comes with quite a few cool features like lightbox popups and faux live chat, but the star of the show is the sales notification popups. These are fully customizable and appear whenever anyone on your store purchases a product, thus convincing new visitors that you’re trustworthy and worth buying from.  And yes, it fully integrates with WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads.

ecommerce strategies: social proof purchase 1

HollerWP

Nobody likes being last to the party, and if they see lots of sales being made during an event like Black Friday, they’ll be quick to jump on the bandwagon before you run out of stock.

Another example of FOMO in action is a 24-hour Cyber Monday sale, advertised with countdown clocks on your site and through urgent emails sent to past customers. Combine that with a feed of incoming purchases on a limited-stock item, and people will be scrambling to checkout.

HollerWP is developed by Scott Bolinger, who also created the popular AppPresser plugin. We love plugins from developers devoted to the WordPress community, and Scott is one of them! In fact, we also did an interview with him.

And if you like FOMO, you might also want to check out WPfomify. It was developed by IdeaBox Creations to allow site owners to better leverage social proof. Like HollerWP, it also has integrations with WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads, and can display customer purchases or show time-limited offers.

wpfomify

WPfomify

Last but not least, use social share numbers for the networks that are popular with your customers. Sites for Profit did an A/B test on their page to determine this. They essentially tested a button with no counters, one with a zero share counter and one with over 1,000 shares. And guess what? The button with the 1,000 shares had a 60% higher click rate compared to the one with a zero count.

Social Warfare has a great post about social share proof and share buttons. In fact, they found that showing no share counts is better than showing low share counts.

We dove into some of the best social media plugins for WordPress which you can use on your site to boost traffic, shares, and conversions. Most of the plugins listed have the ability to show share counts.

Remember that social share counts don’t have to just be for blog posts, they can be utilized on your WooCommerce and EDD products! Share counts on a hot product can let potential customers know that this item might be running out soon. Driven by FOMO, they’ll be more likely to pick up this item before they lose the chance.

People care a lot about what their friends and peers on social media are purchasing. By leveraging social proof and social sharing, you’ll generate a lot more interest.

4. Increase Visibility on Your Coupons/Discounts

Everyone knows that a great way to generate more sales during the holidays is to create promotions along with a coupon or discount. However, where a lot of ecommerce sites fail is when it comes to promoting the coupon itself.

Just like with good content, you need to spend time promoting! Little tricks can go along when it comes to getting more eyeballs on your coupons.

One of our favorite ways is to temporarily use a notification bar at the top of your ecommerce site. You can run this during the period of your holiday promotion. Come up with clever messages to create a sense of urgency, such as “10% off for a limited time” or “30% off from now through Black Friday”. Also, make them clickable to your sale.

We encourage you to run your own A/B tests, but you would be surprised how many clicks bars at the top of sites generate! Gift shoppers are also not going to pay as much attention; you’ve probably got a flash sale running and they need to get to checkout fast. But a CTA bar is hard to ignore, and it makes important information like coupon codes and holiday announcements impossible to miss.

perfmatters top bar

Perfmatters example

It’s also very lightweight and doesn’t bloat your site down with extra scripts and popups.

There are a couple easy ways to add notification bars to your WooCommerce or Easy Digital Download sites. We recommend the following plugins as they provide easy ways to customize the look of your notification bar, create CTA buttons/links, and create filters and rules for where and when the bar should show up:

  • WordPress Notification Bar: Developed by SeedPro, who is known for his Coming Soon Page and Maintenance Mode plugin for WordPress. There is both a free and premium version.
  • WP Notification Bars: Developed by MyThemeShop. There is both a free and premium version.
  • HollerWP: We mentioned this plugin above. Besides FOMO, it also includes a way to create discount header banners. It’s an excellent premium solution.

You could also easily create a notification bar, like the one shown in the screenshot above, without any plugin at all. Simply add the following code to your header.php file, right below the </head> tag.

<div id="dabar">Your website message.</div>

And then add the following CSS to your theme’s stylesheet. If your theme doesn’t have a way to add CSS, you can add it in the WordPress customizer or with a free plugin like Simple Custom CSS and JS.


#dabar{
background: #2c3644;
color: #fff;
font-size:16px;
top: 0px;
left: 0px;
width: 100% !important;
padding: 10px 0px;
text-align: center;}
#dabar a {color: #ffffff; border-bottom: 1px dotted;}

Another approach you could take is to implement what some call a “social reward.” This is a strategy where you give the customer an additional discount on their purchase in exchange for a share on Facebook or a tweet.

According to a study by Neil Patel, 54% of shoppers will purchase products left in shopping carts, if those products are offered at a lower price. So give customers a way to lower the price. You get a sale and some free social marketing!

ecommerce strategies: social sharing reward

Social Reward

This can be a great way to dramatically increase your engagement on social media without lifting a finger. You’ll probably see that everyone is happy to share something if they are instantly saving money on their purchase.

Here are a couple of WordPress plugins we recommend checking out that can help you implement social rewards on your ecommerce site:

Need some more ideas? Check out some of these additional WooCommerce promotion tips to drive more sales. Don’t let your event coupons go to waste — market them well and you’ll bring in hundreds of interested customers.

Create Massive Holiday and Seasonal Coupons

You know the drill when the holidays roll around: every store on the market is offering ludicrous deals like “Up to 95% off”. Stores that refuse to mark down are going to miss out on a lot of traffic because there’s almost certainly a better price elsewhere.

ecommerce strategies: huge sales

Coupon example. (Image source: WPExplorer.com)

Now’s the time to put together a big promotion. Huge discounts, free gift cards, loyalty points programs. Do whatever you can to capture interest and drive those sales.

Of course, you need to find a balance between practically giving away your store and losing a lot of customers due to a lack of discounts. But even if you’re not planning on making everything in your shop 50% off, it’s a good idea to make at least a decent coupon code and spread it through various channels.

promote coupon

A Coupons.com tweet

The holidays are a great time to create a massive coupon to encourage sales, but it won’t be of much use if no one ever sees it. Take the time to advertise on social media, display it prominently on your website and email your newsletter recipients about the great deal.

Remember to use FOMO and remind them that this coupon is temporary. Send a nice gift card to your existing subscribers to reel them in and offer an even bigger discount on their next purchase if they promote you on Twitter.

5. Use Affiliates to Boost Holiday Sales

It’s never too late to start an affiliate program. Affiliate marketing practically pays for itself; your affiliates post links on their social media and websites, and you pay them when you get clicks or sales. That way, you’re only paying once you have a potential customer’s interest. And during a large promotion, that can cause quite a bit of traffic.

Even if you’re launching your affiliate program last-second, a big coupon code can be an effective motivator just before the online crowds hit in full force. Use your affiliates to advertise special products or big sales and drive that traffic to your online store. Give them the massive coupon code you created and you’re sure to see people pouring in to use it.

These months are a crucial time for your affiliate marketing program. Give your affiliates a freebie, discount code, or gift card to work with and watch your traffic quickly rise.

Launch an Affiliate Program

Affiliate programs are an excellent way to quickly get the word out about your brand or products. Everyone knows that word of mouth is one of the best ways to increase sales, and affiliate marketing can be seen as a form of word of mouth. Affiliate programs can drive up to 30% of a company’s revenue.

Kinsta affiliate dashboard

Kinsta affiliate dashboard

However, another interesting fact from AM Navigator is that in most affiliate programs only 10% of affiliates are responsible for 90% of activity. This is most likely due to the fact that you’ll get a lot of people signing up with ideas or dreams to make money, but in reality, they’ll never follow through.

Typically a large majority of ecommerce site’s affiliate sales come from a small majority of higher quality affiliates. There are definitely good affiliate marketers and bad ones.

But that shouldn’t prevent you from moving forward. One of the best reasons to launch an affiliate program right away is that it’s free promotion! There are usually no or little costs involved in running it, other than some time. Let bloggers help spread the word about your brand or products.

Over time, you can really hone in on this as you develop relationships with higher authority figures in your industry who generate a lot of traffic.

We have an affiliate program here at Kinsta, which is free to join! We have full-time developers so we went the route of creating our dashboard and entire system from the ground up.

However, for most, this is not possible due to costs in outsourcing or time. In that case, we highly recommend the premium AffiliateWP plugin.

AffiliateWP

AffiliateWP

AffiliateWP is created by the same developers as Easy Digital Downloads. But don’t worry, it works great with WooCommerce as well! And if you’re worried about the complexity of it, don’t be. We’ve set it up ourselves multiple times and you can literally be accepting new affiliates in a matter of minutes.

6. Give Push Notifications a Try

If there’s one ecommerce strategy that has been shared to death, it’s probably that “the money is in the list”. Don’t get us wrong, you should be grabbing your customers’ emails as they purchase, as it’s a very low-cost way to communicate with them.

Creating a newsletter or product feed is a great way to rake in repeat customers, but just remember that you need permission before adding anyone to any sort of recurring email marketing newsletter. Sending people unsolicited advertisements is a good way to get spam blacklisted, so only market to willing customers.

There are a couple of easy plugins you can use to push your ecommerce list to your favorite email marketing software:

Email marketing can be very successful, but push notifications have seen widespread success and high levels of engagement as well.

Push notifications are popups that appear in browsers, messages sent directly to phones, or alerts that appear inside your app. Due to their direct nature, customers are a lot more likely to engage with them.

onesignal push

Push notifications

It takes a little more convincing to get someone to enable push notifications, but your push users are among your most loyal. And unlike emails that can sit unread for days, they’re aware instantly the moment you send out an alert.

You can also send out predefined messages at any time, which is where it really becomes powerful. Your customers can get updates on a big sale that’s starting, or products they’ve watched that have been marked down. Check out our in-depth guide on how to install push notifications on your WordPress site.

If you aren’t utilizing push notifications yet, you’re missing out! Remember, that even if you don’t personally subscribe to notifications, it doesn’t mean that’s how your visitors think. Don’t ever assume when it comes to marketing your ecommerce site, testing is the best way to get concrete data.

We’ve used OneSignal in the past, and we highly recommend it for any online store large or small. It can send notifications to mobile, web, app, and email. And pricing starts at free with unlimited notifications, up to 30K web subscribers, and unlimited email subscribers. There’s absolutely no reason not to try it.

On a brand new site that we added OneSignal on, we had over 140 push notification subscribers in under 48 hours (see below).

onesignal push notification dashboard 1

OneSignal

In less than 3 months of using OneSignal, it was already our 3rd highest organic traffic source! We get very consistent traffic spikes that coincide with our content publishing. And as our OneSignal user base grew, so did our traffic. You can see more stats in our OneSignal case study.

traffic from push notifications

Some stats from our OneSignal case study

While push notifications tend to be used for blog content, you could easily send out notifications about new ecommerce products or a massive sale you have going on for the holidays! Just remember that you’ll need a push plan just like you’ll need an email marketing plan.

It’s important that you don’t send too many alerts to avoid annoying users, and what you do send out needs to be optimized to maximize open rate.

People will also respond well to personalization, which OneSignal can do with its user segments. Personalize based on behavior, device, and location, and people will be a lot more interested.

Before moving onto the next strategy, I have to say this: this method can be a little too intrusive for some store owners. Though they can be a big help if implemented well, some users aren’t a big fan of push notifications. It’s always best to test out how it performs on smaller, less impactful campaigns. Save your big experiments for after the holidays are over.

7. Promote on Social Media

Black Friday and the months after it are big on social media. Everyone’s talking about the sales and the hype, and it’s a great time for you to join in. Push coupons, advertise your promotions, and get people talking about your brand.

To start, you’ll need a plan for your holiday social media marketing. Create a social media calendar that outlines exactly what you’ll post on what days, get it all written out early, and fill it with plenty of diversity. Between promotions and giveaways, engage the community with questions and polls. It’s the holidays, so make it fun!

hubspot social media calendar

HubSpot social media calendar

Remember to reply to anyone who mentions your brand. Always re-share positive feedback on Twitter and Facebook, especially when it’s from influencers with a large following in the space. It can and will turn into new leads and sales for your business. Consider adopting an influencer strategy to get some big exposure, and make sure your affiliates drop links on their social media pages.

Below are just a few examples of feedback that we received about Kinsta and re-shared.

Joe from WPbuff.com

Joe from WPbuff.com

Julien from Craftpeak & Roots

Julien from Craftpeak & Roots

People will be hunting social media for the best deals during the big holiday promotions, and positive social proof can drive them directly towards your store. Do whatever you can to get people talking about your brand.

Take Advantage of Product Hunt

This ecommerce strategy is really more applicable to new businesses, but could also easily work if you’re launching a new product. And that is to take advantage of Product Hunt!

We have seen this work time and time again. It can result in huge traffic, especially if you get featured as product of the day. Take Draftsend for example. This was a new product that recently launched on Product Hunt and blew up! They received over 900 upvotes in 24 hours alone.

product hunt example

Product Hunt

You can almost guarantee this resulted in a lot of signups and eyeballs on their product. And the best part of it is, it’s free to list your item on Product Hunt. It’s definitely something you should introduce into your online ecommerce strategies going forward.

It can be a little bit of a gamble like Reddit, as you don’t know if your product will take off on there or not, but there are things you can do to improve your odds. Check out this complete guide on how to launch on Product Hunt.

8. Consider Managed Hosting

Expecting a big influx of customers this year? If you haven’t already, you should really consider getting managed hosting. If your website goes down during a big rush, it could have a disastrous effect on your sales. Managed hosts are equipped with the systems to handle a lot of concurrent visitors, and the expertise to manage resources and reduce the strain.

A fast host and website become even more important during high-traffic seasonal periods, where your site is going to be under heavy load, and at the same time, you’re dealing with fierce competition. If you can’t hold up, you’re going to lose sales for sure. Customers will quickly take their business elsewhere if they can’t even complete a speedy transaction.

We offer managed WordPress hosting here at Kinsta, built for high speed even during heavy loads. Our architecture is built is last and totally scalable to match your traffic. We check your uptime every 2 minutes, and if something does go wrong, our speedy support will be there to help you fix the problem.

kinsta features

Kinsta features

Did you know 40% of users abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load? Mobile represented 66% of ecommerce traffic for the 2018 holiday season. And the holidays are likely to make people even more impatient. You need a guarantee of lightning-fast load times or you could lose customers.

If you’re afraid your host may not be equipped to handle all the visitors you’re expecting, managed hosting can take that fear off your mind. We’ll handle everything so you can focus on running your store.

Does your site have a tendency to crash right around the winter months, when customers begin pouring in? Many systems are perfectly sustainable most of the year but just can’t handle the holiday rush. Paying for resources that go unused except for two or three months out of the year would be a waste.

Kinsta offers free auto-scaling for the occasional sudden uptick in traffic, but if you know a big event is coming up that’s going to slow your website to a crawl, look into our temporary surge traffic upgrade. We can safeguard your site against crashes long enough for your big sale to run, and you won’t need to continue paying for the resources once it’s over. Overall, it’s a win for you.

Not sure if you need it? You could try a load test like loader.io and see how your site holds up under heavy traffic. Imagine what will happen on Black Friday or Cyber Monday if your site can’t even stand up to a stress test. If it’s struggling, plan accordingly and temporarily up your resources.

9. Reduce Load Times

While reducing load times is nothing new to anyone (here’s our massive guide on how to speed up your WordPress site), we’re including this because it’s probably the most important optimization you can make for your ecommerce store!

We get a lot of WooCommerce and Easy Digital Download clients that come to us because their previous managed WordPress host was too slow or couldn’t hold up under the load. There should be no doubt by now that the speed of your ecommerce site has a direct correlation with conversions and user interaction. Here are a few quick stats for you:

  • AliExpress revealed in a presentation that by reducing the load time for their pages by 36% they recorded a 10.5% increase in orders and a 27% increase in conversion rates for new customers.
  • Ancestry.com saw a 7% increase in conversions after improving render time by 68%, page weight by 46% and load time by 64%.
  • Portent found that your website conversions drop by 2-4% for every second that passes.
  • 53% of visits to mobile sites are abandoned after 3 seconds according to research from Google’s DoubleClick.

WooCommerce sites especially are very demanding as they generate a lot of data, as well as un-cachable requests, which means you need robust PHP and database resources in place. It is important when choosing WooCommerce hosting that you use a container-based host that is built for scaling, as well as isolated resources.

When you’re running a demanding ecommerce site, you may want to consider switching to a managed hosting platform. Leaving your host in the right hands can seriously optimize your speeds and bring your load times way down. A managed host that knows what they’re doing can make all the difference.

When it comes to high-traffic WooCommerce sites, that is our specialty here at Kinsta. Our knowledgeable support engineers look at each case on an individual basis and are used to working with all sorts of setups, from large WooCommerce solutions to small EDD shops.

Previously we have helped companies such as DartDrones prepare their WooCommerce site for the flood of traffic they were going to get from appearing on the popular television show Shark Tank.

As expected, their traffic skyrocketed right around 8 PM eastern time (shown in EU below). In the heavy 6 hour period after airing, there was a total of 1,263,233 requests with 2 TB cached bandwidth used and only 3 GB of un-cached bandwidth. We were able to provide 100% uptime while delivering faster page load times than their previous host.

shark tank traffic 1

Data transfer analytics

Here are just a few additional ways that Kinsta goes further to find the perfect balance between performance and functionality for ecommerce sites:

  • Fast server-level caching in place with rules to ensure proper WooCommerce and EDD functionality.
  • Being able to provide additional PHP workers on higher plans if needed. Additional PHP workers allow for multiple requests to execute simultaneously.
  • By default, certain WooCommerce and EDD pages like cart, my-account, and checkout, are excluded from caching.
  • Users automatically bypass the cache when the “woocommerce_items_in_cart cookie” or “edd_items_in_cart” is detected to ensure a smooth and in-sync checkout process.

We also utilize New Relic to help clients easily diagnose what might be causing abnormal load time on their sites. Typically this can be from third-party plugins, slow queries, or badly written code.

new relic apm transactions

New Relic

Besides moving to a fast managed WordPress, there are a lot of other optimizations you can make to reduce your load times. Here are some additional steps you can take:

And don’t forget about mobile! More and more traffic every year is coming from mobile devices and Google is now running its mobile-first index.

Beware also of this: not everyone is using fast connections like 4G yet. It’s important that load times are snappy so you don’t lose customers. You have three seconds to make an impression before you lose them, so don’t miss out on potential sales.

All of the above recommendations will also help you increase speeds on mobile or you can look at testing Google AMP on your site. AMP offers a way to serve up a stripped-down version of your current web page at lightning-fast speeds. Some big ecommerce sites are already using it and have seen great results!

We tried Google AMP on our site but were not impressed with the results. And there is currently no SEO advantage (for the moment). You can read about it more in our case study. However, every site is different.

So we always recommend testing on your own site. Especially if your site is bogged down with ads or third-party scripts. AMP could really benefit you and in some ways, speed up the optimization process! There are new plugins constantly emerging in this new space. Here are a few to check out:

10.  Simplify, Optimize, and Secure

The holidays are a critical time for your sales, and they bring in an unusual set of customers. People are a lot more impatient during a big seasonal sale than they would be normally. Now is the time to optimize your site’s design and add features that can speed up the buying process.

For the best results, simplify everything and make your product pages as easy to access as possible. Overly complex UI can seriously turn off a customer.

Remove or relocate anything that doesn’t contribute to your sales funnel, and highlight links leading to your promotional and product pages. Use images and banners linking there to draw the eye. Ensure that your navigation is de-cluttered and getting around is easy.

Also, consider simplifying your navigation menu. Make it easy to see and access the search bar and your core categories and ensure that the “Add to Cart” button is easily reachable once they get to your products. Eliminate clutter and use clever web design to highlight the links leading your store areas.

From your homepage, users should be able to start browsing a category, choose a product, and add it to their cart in 3-5 clicks or less.

You can have the best prices on the internet, but if your website is a nightmare to navigate, you won’t get any sales.

Don’t forget to take extra security steps as well. This is prime time for attackers to try to steal user info, so you need to ensure that you and your customers are protected.

There are a lot more advanced steps you can take, so check out our guide to WordPress security.

Remove Barriers from the Checkout Process

People are always in a hurry, a lot more than they were 10 years ago. So removing any barriers you might have from the checkout process could drastically increase your sales. If checkout is a five-step process, they’re going to drop their cart.

According to a study, 23% of users will abandon their shopping cart if they have to create a new user account. That is a lot! Here are three recommendations. The first is to create a guest checkout for new customers.

This way can they can quickly add products to their cart, purchase, and be on their way. In a lot of scenarios you can still create an account for them, it’s simply automatically generated instead of prompting them for all the information. This way they can reset the password later on from their email when they have more time.

In WooCommerce, you can enable guest checkout under the “Checkout” tab. In Easy Digital Downloads, guest checkout is actually enabled by default.

guest checkout

Easy Digital Downloads has guest checkout selected automatically

The second recommendation is to utilize social logins for checkout. Some customers might not like this due to security concerns, while others are probably fine with it. The great part is you can offer both to speed up the checkout process for everyone.

The official WooCommerce Social Login extension is actually developed by SkyVerge, who also developers Jilt, the product we mentioned earlier. There’s also the Social Login extension for Easy Digital Downloads.

woocommerce social login extension

Social Login for Easy Digital Downloads

And the third recommendation is for those with physical products, and that is to get rid of those shipping charges! According to that same study, 28% of shoppers will abandon their shopping cart if presented with unexpected shipping costs.

So the best advice would be to either show them right from the beginning what shipping will cost or figure out a way to price your products with shipping included. Have you ever tried free shipping to see how it impacts your conversions?

You could also skip the lengthy checkout process altogether and implement quicker checkout systems using plugins. You can do this in Easy Digital Downloads with a buy now button, or try a WooCommerce extension that condenses the product and checkout page or offers one-click checkout for registered users.

11. Test Everything

This one is simple, but it’s something many people forget. Go through your website and click on everything. Look carefully over each page, click every link, scan over your crucial copy, test out your navigation. Sign up for an account, add products to your cart, and test checkout only stopping short of clicking “purchase”.

It’s common to neglect this step, but you’d be surprised how many tiny issues you’ll spot doing this. A broken link or a typo here, a glitch in the shopping cart there… you want to test early with enough time to correct any issues, then again right before your first seasonal promotion is set to launch.

Test it yourself, test it on multiple devices and browsers, and ask friends to test as well. Even if you don’t find anything, you’ll feel lucky if you caught something that would have damaged many customers’ experiences.

Take Advantage of A/B Testing

When it comes to ecommerce strategies, A/B testing should always be towards the top of the list. This is something that many marketers discuss, but there is usually little follow-through. If you sell products online, the bottom line is that you should be constantly running A/B tests.

Turn this into a weekly or monthly habit and you should be able to see improvements to your sales, CTR, time on site, and even SEO in no time!

ab testing nelio

A/B Testing example with Nelio

A/B testing, also called split testing, essentially pits two-page elements against each other in a head-to-head scenario that tells you which element readers respond to more. For instance, if you want to test a new product title, you can design two identical web pages that feature separate titles and direct traffic to each web page to see which headline results in more page views, time on page, higher conversions, etc.

You then simply take the winner, and rinse and repeat the process. There are also other types of testing, such as multivariant tests you can dive into.

A/B testing becomes especially important in the weeks and months leading up to a big sale. You want to be ready with the element that’s guaranteed to win you the most conversions.

Be careful when A/B testing during the holidays. Running tests during large surges in traffic can be done, but it tends to skew the data. Customers tend to act irregularly, many aren’t from your target audience, and your other sales campaigns can artificially inflate urgency.

Holiday A/B testing is a great time to get lots of results fast, but you need to run the same test once things calm down or you may end up implementing a change that actually damages your business due to skewed data.

Here are a few of the best A/B testing plugins and tools we recommend checking out. Most, if not all of them have integrations for WordPress and can be used to run A/B experiments with your WooCommerce and or Easy Digital Downloads store.

And remember that no A/B test is too small! Brian Massey conducted a study in which he ran A/B tests on ecommerce site navigation.

He discovered that the words you use on your main navigation may influence your visitors more than the way your main navigation works. For example, he replaced the navigation item “Product Categories” with “Shop Products” and saw a 13% decrease in the sitewide conversion rate.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could simply change a word and see more sales? Well, it might very well be that easy. There is no way to know unless you A/B test, and then A/B test some more.

12. Use Live Chat to Instantly Connect

Sending a support ticket and waiting for someone to get back to you takes an awfully long time. And when customers are scrambling to get presents bought before it’s too late, they’re not going to bother with that cumbersome process.

But if your site incorporates prompt and speedy live chat, it’s a much different situation. Customers are much more likely to contact you if they have a question, and then go through with their sale. If you don’t have any way to instantly get in contact, there’s a chance they’ll just abandon ship.

In a study by eMarketer, 62% of users said they were likely to return to a site that offers live chat. Why? Because customers like to know they can get their answers right away. Does it help with sales? Of course it does.

Drift was able to increase their inbound leads by 200% simply by putting live chat on their website.

We’ve used Intercom since day one here at Kinsta and it’s worked very well for us. Intercom has provided an easy way for us to integrate chat and support tickets (seen below) it into our dashboard so customers know we’re always one click away, 24/7.

Still, to this day we get compliments from customers that are impressed with our chat solution. You can decide on your own situation whether or not you only want logged-in customers to have access to chat, or everyone. We suggest testing both methods!

Intercom at Kinsta

At Kinsta we use Intercom

Thankfully, due to the way chat solutions and plugins work, they pretty much all support WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads in some form or another. Here are a few we recommend checking out:

And if you’re looking for even more to compare, don’t miss our in-depth post with 11 chat solutions for WordPress.

Don’t let sales slip through your fingers just because you didn’t give people an easy way to contact you. Implementing live chat will help you keep up with shoppers’ fast pace.

13. Keep Buyers Coming Back with Marketing Automation

When you’re dealing with thousands of concurrent users, you need a way to streamline the process of recommending products, tracking sales, and applying incentivizing discounts. If you give your customers a seamless experience during their stressful holiday shopping, you can be sure that they’ll come back.

You can take your ecommerce site to the next level by employing marketing automation and AI to convert more customers into revenue. If you have a WooCommerce store we recommend checking out Beeketing.

This allows you to basically put your store on steroids and employ proven marketing tactics with a click of a button, such as recommending targeted products upon adding something to the cart.

target recommend

Beeketing

The Beeketing WordPress plugin has over 700 reviews with an impressive 5 out of 5-star rating. Here are just a few of the other amazing features they include to really fine-tune your store:

  • Add sales countdown clock and low-stock indicator on product pages to create urgency and scarcity.
  • On mobile web version: add a Buy Now button fixed on top or bottom when customers browse.
  • Upsell & Cross-sell related products (support both manual product selection and auto-recommendation).
  • Bundle up frequently bought together products and sell the combo at a value discount.
  • Sales Gamification: Motivate customers to spend more to reach a cart value threshold and receive a reward discount.
  • Offer a cart-level discount, free shipping, or free gift, if customers complete order.
  • Upsell more products after checkout to invite repeat purchases (offer coupons to incentivize).
  • Send cart & browse abandonment emails.
  • Show how many people have viewed and bought products to build social proof.

You should also make an effort to reach out to holiday shoppers. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the December festivities tend to bring in a huge spike in revenue. But many of your new customers are just here temporarily to take advantage of your great deals, they’re not planning on sticking around.

But you’ve already captured their interest, and gotten many of them to sign up for an account. That’s a huge opportunity to retain a fair number of your new customers. Don’t let it slip.

The trick is convincing them to re-engage and at the right time. People tend to spend a lot around the Christmas season, so a campaign that starts too early could be ineffective but if too late you might have lost their interest entirely. Timing is crucial.

However, you time your next promotion, keep the ball rolling and run them through the new year. Get a big event going during one of the early months. It can reignite interest and bring back customers who had a good experience with your brand during their seasonal shopping.

Some smaller ways to re-engage holiday customers are to offer them a coupon for returning, ask them for a review in exchange for something, or use automation to recommend products similar to what they bought. It’s a good way to reach out and remind them that you exist while giving them incentives to return.

With the right strategy, the surge of new visitors in the last few months of the year doesn’t have to be temporary. This is a great time to bring in some permanent customers and turn them into loyal, long-term fans of your store.

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Summary

Every little change you can afford to implement before the holiday season arrives could make all the difference. This is the time of the year where you’re making the most sales, but you need to be ready to accommodate the influx of new customers. With the right approach, you might even be able to convince them to stick around.

But you have to make a good impression. If your website is hard to use, poorly optimized, and constantly going down, you can both drive away what would have been new long-term customers and disappoint your current ones. Make sure your WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads stores are prepared and don’t dawdle: you can be sure your competition won’t!

Did we miss any important tips or do you have another unique one to share? We would love to hear from some fellow ecommerce site owners. Feel free to leave your comments below.

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