Together with the two important November shopping events, the festive season is one of the most profitable times for online businesses, an exceptional chance to receive an increased number of orders. Also, it is proven that the average order sizes tend to be much bigger as well. That‘s why it’s not uncommon for many retailers to make up to a third of their yearly revenue during the festive season.

Once your marketing strategies are in place and running, making sure that your online store is prepped and ready to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience, is key. So, in this blog, we are bringing up some important tips to ensure your eCommerce shop is ready to welcome its customers.

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Analyze and learn

First and foremost, every merchant should make collecting data a priority. Without it, you cannot assess which were the most successful campaigns, what was your most popular product, which days had the best traffic, which traffic source was the most popular and most profitable, what was the average order value, or which keywords worked well.

One of the simplest solutions, but with a tremendous impact, is linking your eCommerce platform to Google Analytics. At the same time, if you run Social Media campaigns, all the important social platforms offer analytics tools that provide extremely valuable information to merchants.

Metrics like time on page and number of sessions are helpful data points to aid you better understand your website’s performance. Magento and Shopware come with seamless integrations with Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel, or Twitter Website Tag, through native plugins and extensions.

However, if you want to go one step further, Business Intelligence for Magento is one of the most complex modules for analyzing data. The module is intuitive with the ability to turn data into visual displays with Dynamic Scatter and Bubble Charts functions. Users can access reports and schedule analysis, making it the right tool to convert and retain valuable customers.

For Shopware, Statistics Professional SW6 provides 39 statistical evaluations like detailed analysis of sales, orders, marketing, products, customers and abandonment analysis. For easy reading of the data, users can change the display type to pie chart, donut chart or bar chart.

Make sure your online store can handle traffic

It is well known that during peak sales there is a sudden surge in website traffic. These spikes can overload the weakest points in your online store and can overwhelm payment gateways. As a result, consumers will get slow website response and loading times, errors and crashes.

If stores do not have adequate infrastructure to deal with this expanded traffic, not only can they fail to deliver the expected level of shopping experience, but they can also lose a lot of money. Stores that use Magento are no exception to the holiday sales crash. During Black Friday in 2020 it is estimated that Magento merchants lost over $1,000,000 in sales due to infrastructure underperforming and failing at traffic peak time. 

The solution is to have in place a hosting infrastructure that can quickly develop upward when needed. Of course, cloud infrastructure can help you deal with such auto-scaling. However, for businesses that want to have full control over their eCommerce platform and opt for keeping away from Cloud, then the answer is solid dedicated web hosting.

Another possible solution to reduce the load on static web pages is to opt for Content Delivery Networks (CDN), a geographically distributed group of servers working together to provide fast delivery of Internet content like javascript files, stylesheets, and images.

If choosing this option, we recommend streamlining Magento’s native Full Page Cache module by using the Varnish cache service for the frontend, Redis cache for the sessions and admin parts, and Rabbit MQ for the correct administration of message queues in Magento.

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Ensure fast page loading speed

Slow page loading can also be a deal breaker, leading to increased bounce rates and shopping cart abandonment.

To counteract this issue during busy shopping events, the Clever++ team has implemented a Magento extension which generates a static HTML landing page in the pub folder. The page contains an index.html, CSS, JavaScript and images resources and can be generated by running a console command. Products are selected from a specific category whose id is passed as a parameter to the console command which generates the page. 

The page behavior is headless, with add-to-cart and minicart actions being accessed via Ajax calls. The search happens on the page, it works via JavaScript and hides or shows product items when a customer types in the search box. 

By avoiding MySQL or PHP processes, especially inserts in the database running in the background when someone accesses this static landing page, allows for a big performance optimization. Regardless of the heavy traffic, the page will be up and running at all times.

Give your shop the holiday feel

We’re not suggesting a full website redesign, but with a few tweaks, you can tailor your store for the holiday sale season. Changing your banners in the headers that promote Christmas sales is a good practice and easy to implement. Adding a countdown timer to the header is a great way to increase urgency. And depending on your resources, you can create holiday-focused category pages like Christmas offers. All these steps can really increase the willingness of your visitors to keep shopping and stay in the “Holiday spirit”. Moreover, for Magento and Shopware, there are plenty of additional plugins and extensions available to enhance your shop visually.

Just bear in mind that when online stores are overflowing with holiday offers, customers may feel confused during the shopping process, so make sure that your navigation is clear and you have a streamlined search function in place. For Magento, the Elasticsearch extension from Amasty is a powerful tool that will help you show your clients the most relevant results instantly. The extension has multilingual capabilities, can be searched by SKU, and can be set up to trigger or ignore certain keywords. 

Shopware features a high-performance search function starting with the Enterprise Edition, which allows you to fully configure it using ‘AND’ and ‘OR’ options. 

If you operate an Adobe Commerce platform, their Live Search function uses AI and machine learning to return the most relevant results. 

No matter what options you choose to enhance your website’s functionality and look, always make sure that it is optimized for mobile use. Shopping experiences are usually cross-platform and you have to make sure everything is up and running and looks good on all devices.

Enhance your website’s security

Every eCommerce webmaster knows that the heavy traffic experienced during these shopping events also brings a surge in cyber attacks. The most prevalent ones are injecting malicious code in a website checkout page to capture payment information, or attempting to compromise the store’s database to steal personal information. DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks, which aim to take your website offline, are also a threat. No matter the form, cyber attacks can be incredibly hurtful to your revenue and reputation.

The platforms we use, Magento and Shopware, are some of the most solid in terms of eCommerce security. They release updates regularly, and the majority of these releases contain important security enhancements. However, due to their complexity, updates to the latest versions are not easy tasks and should be handled only by trained developers. 

Often, due to costs involved, merchants delay updating their Magento platforms. If left for too long, migrating from earlier versions of Magento 2 to the most recent ones can be problematic, because of the consistent differences in code and database. When this happens, divergent paths from the usual upgrade through Composer might have to be taken. One solution is to keep the old database and install a clean Magento, then link to the old database and run a deployment this way. Another solution is to completely give up code and database and install a new Magento with both new code and database, then export attributes, attribute sets, products, categories, customers, orders, sales, invoices, credit memos, etc. and import them into the new database. All these steps will definitely add more to the cost of the upgrade and that’s why we recommend our customers to keep close to each Magento upgrade and not let too much time pass.

Regular updates will make your store more secure, but they also bring optimizations in code. Together with new added features, they have a great impact on your store performance and usability.

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