There are seemingly countless things to feel uncertain about right now, but we can be sure of one thing – online shopping will continue to be a big part of most Americans’ lives. We can also be sure that the holiday shopping this year will be unlike any we’ve seen before. Is your online store ready? Whether you’re peddling pet clothes, furniture, or even medical essentials, you’re going to see a surge in orders as the pandemic holiday crush arrives. Here’s some easy-to-digest advice on shoring up your online store before the winter rush.

Make It Easy, Make It Clean

Regardless of how long your ecommerce solution has been live, there is probably an opportunity to smooth some rough edges. Double check to ensure your order process is simple, quick, and seamless. Go through the process yourself to make sure the road to check out is less than four clicks. Make sure all the information your customer needs, like photos, specs, and reviews are skimmable on one page. Choose the product, add delivery or pickup address, billing information, and you should be at the end.

If you’re currently asking customers to sign up for an account or email list, or bouncing them in and out of their cart every time they add an item, you’re likely to lose a chunk of potential sales. Make setting up an account or opting in to emails a one-click situation at the end of the process.

After you have done a gut check, check the data. At what point are customers bouncing from your site or abandoning their cart? Give those bits a closer look, and if the issue isn’t obvious you may want a review by a user experience designer.

Reassure Your Customer at Checkout

There are some simple ways to reassure your customers that you’re legit even if you’re a new brand.. PayPal and Visa both offer checkout options which you can add to your website. These payments are processed and backed by huge companies, ones which most people recognize immediately. Additionally, computer security companies like Norton can provide digital seals for your checkout page, as can the Better Business Bureau. Small logos and confirmations of steps taken can lead to a trusted relationship between the user and the checkout process.

Consider a Subscription Service

Everything from household goods to whiskey flights have adopted the subscription-based model. Monster brands like Amazon rely heavily on committed monthly refills of goods like toilet paper and soap, while smaller companies like coffee and pet food providers are starting to see the benefits of subscribed customers. Not only can it lower the costs for both you and your customers, it can help predict future income and give your business valuable insight into your own inventory needs.

Upgrade Your Server Capacity

We’ve all been there. You go through all the steps to grab your favorite on-sale item, get to the check out, and are hit with an error message. It’s not uncommon these days for websites to collapse under increased demand. Some customers may try a second or third time, but many will give up after the first. Check with your website host and see if there’s other tiers you can upgrade your service to. Often you can pay more to accommodate increased data usage and processing power, and you can quickly cover that cost by creating a shopping experience your customers are happy to repeat.

Provide Support During the Holiday

Ok, so you’ve made sure your warehouse is stocked, upgraded your server, and provided a seamless checkout process for your customers. No matter how much work you put in, something will eventually go wrong. Be sure to provide access to customer service for your customers, whether that’s an easy-to-find phone number, a designated chat bot on the website, or contact information provided with the order confirmation email. Even if something goes wrong, a helpful and eager solution can actually enhance the customer’s perception of your business.

Who’s Doing It Right?

There are plenty of companies, both large and small, who are getting it right when it comes to e-commerce. Their websites look awesome, their checkout processes are seamless, and they have excellent customer support. If you’re looking for some inspiration, take a gander at websites like Casper, Chewy, Warby Parker, and our client, Accu-Chek. While some require a few more steps to customize the order (Warby needs your prescription, Chewy has a bespoke subscription service), they all offer amazing customer service, simple pathways to checkout, and easy-to-navigate websites.

Mike Metz is the co-founder and CEO of FATFREE, a full service digital marketing agency providing lean solutions for businesses of all sizes. Since founding the agency in 2005, Mike has developed a talented team of innovators that guide clients in deploying digital strategies that have a meaningful impact on business. Personally involved in FATFREE clients’ success, Mike helped the Accu-Chek brand become one of the first consumer-facing life sciences companies to embrace the possibilities of online education and social interaction, and he has collaborated closely with Ingersoll Rand, Omnicell and CEB, all while driving the firm’s strategic direction. If you would like an evaluation of your e-commerce site to be sure you’re ready for the holiday shopping season, email [email protected]

Holiday online shopping stock photo by bbernard/Shutterstock