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Testing Your Site For the Holidays
By: terri
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    Next month, most people will begin their holiday shopping in earnest. Are you ready for it? More importantly, how will you approach it? With a lot of money riding on it, you could go with what you think is tried and true, but you risk leaving money on the table.

    A better approach, according to Paras Chopra, writing for Search Engine Land, is to try out new things. “My personal preference is to always keep testing new ideas and strategies even during the holiday season because trends change from year to year and what may have worked in 2010 may not necessarily work in 2011,” Chopra explained. Add to that the fact that many websites make almost a quarter of their money in November and December, and it's clear that you'll want to get as much out of holiday season shopping as you can.

    So how do you work your tests around the holidays, without going crazy? Well, you can start by going mobile. Lots of shoppers are making good use of the smartphones and tablets they received as holiday presents in previous years to do their shopping this year. So make sure your site looks good on mobile devices. You might even consider building a separate mobile-friendly website. If you want to add a little fun, you might even look into making a holiday-themed app or game to attract visitors and potential customers. “Your e-commerce store should be seen where most eyeballs are, and these days they are hooked on mobiles,” Chopra notes.

    Let's move from the technology through which visitors view your website to the site itself. Do you do anything special with it for the holidays, or do you leave it alone? If you go with a holiday theme, you might want to split-test the response to it against your regular site. If you don't change your site, you might try split-testing against a holiday-themed version of it. Sure, it sounds like a lot more work, but how do you know which one will gain you more conversions (and more lucrative conversions) if you don't perform the test?

    Moving on from your site as a whole, how do you entice visitors to actually make a purchase? Everywhere you turn on the web, you will find special offers, whether they're discounts, rush deliveries, free shipping, etc. You can make these offers, too – and they're another area ripe for A/B split testing. “One of our customers found out that a next-day shipping offer outperformed a $5 discount offer or a free shipping offer, and ultimately increased sales by 41%,” Chopra explained. That's the kind of data you need if you're going to make the most of the holiday season, and you're not going to get it if you don't test for it.

    Sometimes it's the little things that can make a difference. A sale can be all in the details. For instance, the purchase buttons on your site probably say something like “Add to cart” or “Buy now.” With so many people shopping for gifts, you might consider testing this against something like “Gift now,” “Add to your Santa list,” or some other creative phrase. Entertain your visitors with something that makes them smile, and they'll be more likely to buy.

    Finally, if your website runs a personalization platform, and has been running one since last year, you may be a bit ahead of the game. “If you kept track of what a particular visitor bought last year, you can use that information to personalize and recommend new items this year,” Chopra notes. And if you didn't? “Try showing different items on the homepage depending on whether the visitor uses MacOS or Windows, visits during work or in the evening, arrives from Facebook or a search engine.” There are a ton of variables you can use for split-testing. Play around with it, and you just might find some hidden gems of data that will add up to a more profitable bottom line. Good luck – and happy holidays!

    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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