I’ve seen it time and again with my clients: as soon as the holiday season (sometimes even the beginning of the 3rd quarter) arrives, they begin to discuss putting a hold on their optimization efforts. I always ask WHY? I have at least three reasons why you should optimize during the holidays:
No matter what your reservations, a good conversion rate optimization (CRO) program flexes to adjust to your current circumstances and goals. Here are a few of the top reasons I’ve heard for not optimizing during the holidays, and our take on them.
Challenge #1: “We get such a large influx of ‘atypical’ clientele during the holidays, and we don’t want to optimize for a client base who will be non-existent come January.”
Our take: Remember that a truly data driven organization doesn’t make assumptions, but lets numbers do the talking. If you suspect you get a lot of visitors during the holidays who aren’t surfing your site during the rest of the year, create a holiday persona/demographic and run a few simple tests to verify this. You can do this by creating holiday themed banners, special “hot holiday gifts” links, or promoting free gift wrapping.
What you more than likely will find out is that a lot of visitors click on those options at this time of year, regardless of whether or not they are your typical customers. The more important factor in getting visitors to convert is their intent. It could be Suzie, your regular customer, who is such a big fan of your dance shoes that she’s ordering shoe bags for her entire performance group, and having them gift-wrapped. Or, it could be Suzie’s sister who has two left feet, but really wants to impress Suzy with a holiday gift that shows how well she knows her.
The approach of the holidays creates a sense of urgency for customers, and a larger proportion of your visitors are likely to be late stage buyers. Certainly holidays can attract those who are not your ideal or typical clientele, but focusing on buyer intent, and optimizing for those who are ready to buy, will benefit all of your customers, regardless of the season and whether or not your visitors are regulars.
Challenge #2: “We need to focus on marketing efforts.”
Our take: Just because you’re focusing on marketing, doesn’t mean you need to stop optimization. In fact, your marketing efforts are the first step of the buying scenario for many of your potential customers, so naturally optimizing efforts has to be a part of your overall strategy to make your website better. I’ve seen significant increases in conversion from a simple test done on a single email campaign. Companies typically increase the frequency of email campaigns during the holidays. The more frequently you email, the more hypothesis you can test, and the more quickly you can reach a conclusion. (Just remember not to bombard your recipients’ in-boxes to the point of pushing them away!)
Although some people take advantage of holiday deals to shop for themselves, many holiday shoppers are looking for a specific item on little Johnny’s list to Santa. They are looking for the perfect gift and want to get it right. This means they often search using very specific, or late stage, keywords. Subsequently, the holidays can be a great time to bid on late stage keywords. Late stage keywords are very specific (think of the branded name for a toy, or even a model number), and with the large inventories of many e-retailers, it would not be economical to bid on keywords for every item in stock. Competitors are likely to bid on keywords for their best-selling items, or the season’s hottest items, decreasing the likelihood that you are bidding on the same word, lowering the cost of certain keywords, and increasing your chance for positive ROI.
Challenge #3: “We don’t want to test during the holidays and jeopardize potential sales since we rely on the revenue from the holidays for the rest of the year.”
Our take: Most companies who test regularly have tests they’ve held back on implementing because they either are on lower-traffic pages or because the ROI won’t be that significant. The holidays is the perfect time to test these hypothesis without compromising conversions. The more traffic you have, the more quickly tests complete, so you can run less aggressive tests and still get valuable data in a short amount of time during the holidays. It’s the perfect example of how good CRO flexes with you, so you can always be working toward a better website.
Do you have other reasons why you’ve put holiday optimization plans on hold? Tell us about them. Maybe there’s a solution you haven’t thought of. But the next time you consider pausing your optimization efforts, remember that the most effective conversion rate optimization efforts are continuous, with a multitude of ways to optimize even during the busiest time of year. Happy Holidays!