Lots of our clients and prospects are asking questions along the lines of: I want to optimize before the Holiday rush, but I don’t want to introduce too much change at such a critical time.
A valid question/concern, to be sure. Our answer is, of course, “It depends.” However, here are a few approaches that we’ve seen work:
Extreme Effort Until a Certain Date
Look at your previous year’s analytics and the upward trend of conversions closer to the holidays. When did it start to trend up in a consistent manner? Mid-October? November? Late-November? Based on last year’s trend line, pick a date after which you’ll stop optimizing and stabilize your site for the Holiday rush. Then, free up all the budget and resources you can to work on an optimization to-do list from today until your stop date. After the Holidays, you can finish everything that didn’t get finished before your stop date.
Optimize the Checkout Process
Another approach is to focus solely on the checkout process from now until the end of the Holidays. This means leaving the homepage, landing pages, content pages, etc. alone until 2010, and just test and optimize the cart pages to squeeze every last conversion out of those folks you’ve persuaded.
Merchandise for the Holidays (a.k.a. Deck the Halls)
Some clients want a site-wide approach that ties in with Holiday shopping and gift-giving. This is less about optimization and more about seasonal relevance, but it’s still a valid approach that could lift your Holiday conversions. Many sites simply throw a Holiday-themed graphic on their homepage and call it “done,” but the world-class sites have little touches throughout the site to put their prospects in a shopping mood. eBay has done some nice, subtle things to dress their site up around the Holidays, and I’m sure they have something up their sleeve this year. One of our clients last year used empty real estate throughout the site, including the shopping cart, to display some Holiday messaging and graphics. They also updated their checkout through the last week of the Rush to indicate how many days were left to have gifts reach recipients by 12/24, creating a nice sense of urgency as well as being informative.
Split Your To-Do List
A fourth approach is to simply brainstorm every optimization you think could impact your conversion rate. Then, use various criteria to split the list into “pre-Holidays” and “post-Holidays.” Commit the resources and intensity to get the “pre” list done, then leave the “post” list until everyone is back in the office and the 2010 budget is approved . This is probably the easiest approach, but carries with it the risk that you’ll implement some low-impact optimizations, when you could have implemented the high-impact items. In this case, we recommend outside help to prioritize that list!
We hope these ideas help everyone find an approach they’re comfortable with, execute well, and reap the rewards!