How to Boost Your Ecommerce Conversion Rate for the Holidays

by Gwen Carrington | eCommerce, eCommerce Fulfillment, Holiday Fulfillment


rec·ord-break·ing (adjective):
surpassing a record or best-ever achievement

Are you ready to break your revenue records this holiday season? Rakuten Super Logistics is here to help. We want to see you succeed — but first, you have to believe it. Then you’ve got to put a plan in place that helps you achieve it.

That’s why we’re so excited about our new guest blog post.  A few months ago we partnered with cutting-edge inbound marketing agency Vital Design and began a major overhaul of our website. (Stay tuned, because big changes are coming soon.) We’ve been so impressed with their work, we asked them to write a guest blog post detailing the latest tools and technologies that can help eCommerce retailers achieve ground-breaking success this holiday season.

We hope you enjoy the post and come away with a clear vision to achieve your goals.


Vital Byline Crystal

Are you ready to make the most of the holiday shopping season for your ecommerce store? Well, that’s good to hear, because we’ve got a whole bunch of proven tips to boost your online sales this year. Website and online shopping trends are constantly changing, so let’s take a look at the biggest things you can do to make sure your ecommerce business is all set to handle the coming boom!

Here are six ways to boost your ecommerce sales conversions:

#1: Great Product Photos

Even if you don’t have a ton of budget, surely you can spare a table or corner of your warehouse or storage space to make a tiny photo studio. Check out Wistia’s helpful post on creating a down and dirty lighting kit. Note that your photos should be at least 1600px wide to enable zooming function on most product pages.

According to ebay, listings with high photo quality are 5% more likely to sell. And if you want to take your photos to the next level, Internet Retailer reports that 360-degree spin images increase conversion by a whopping 27%. For more tips on improving your product photography, check out this article on BigCommerce’s guide to product photography.

#2: Product Videos

Photos are great, but videos go the extra mile. Internet Retailer reported: “a consumer who views a product video is up to 144% more likely to add that product to her cart than a consumer who watches no video.” A great example of product videos that are really effective at showing off products are Zappos’ product videos. And don’t worry, arranging a simple lighting setup for product videos is easier than you might think. Check out Wistia’s tutorial on setting up lighting on the fly.

While shooting a video for every product might not be realistic depending on your product line and number of SKUs, you’d definitely be wise to shoot some simple videos of items that you anticipate being big sellers during your holiday rush.

#3: Abandoned Cart Remarketing

Let’s be realistic here — have you ever put an item (or five) into a shopping cart and then decided to not to complete the purchase? Maybe you were sidetracked, maybe the checkout process became confusing, maybe the shipping cost scared you off — or maybe you just decided you really didn’t need that item. We’ve all abandoned online shopping carts. And that’s where major opportunity comes in.

The average abandon cart rate in most retail is around 70%, according to a Sales Cycle report. That’s a TON of missed opportunities. Remarketing emails (emails sent to people who have already become a lead on your site but might not have converted into a sale) get a 36% higher open rate than traditional emails. Considering that the average open rate is closer to 20%, that is a very significant increase. Of those clicked remarketing emails, about 30% convert into a completed sale. Instead of spending all your marketing dollars getting new prospects, make sure you’re also investing in a crowd that is, statistically, already that much closer to spending their money with you.

#4: Product Reviews

Social proof is a big deal. We’ve written about this on our blog before — 70% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase. It’s really one of the only ways you can offset not being able to hold the item in your hand or fiddle with the knobs in person. And overall, reviews can create a 74% increase in product conversions.

There are plenty of ways you can add reviews to your site. Third party services such as Trust Pilot, Revoo and Bazaarvoice can handle reviews for you, or you can implement user-generated customer reviews into your site — if you’re using Shopify, BigCommerce or Magento, there are plugins that can handle this easily.

We suggest offering an incentive, such as a discount on a future order, to recent customers to leave reviews, so that come holiday season, your shoppers will already have some testimonials to push them towards the “buy” button.

#5: Checkout Progress Bar

An often-overlooked conversion increaser in ecommerce is a well-designed progress bar. Progress bars help clarify to shoppers where they are in the process and help them expect what’s coming next (and how soon this least-fun part of shopping will be over). Progress bars can also help reassure shoppers that they aren’t committing to a sale until the last step, in case they’re initially just checking shipping costs before making a final decision.

According to a Forbes article on improving the checkout process, “If the customer can see a clear path towards completion, they are more likely to follow through on the purchase.”  And progress bars were shown in one A/B test by LeadPages to increase conversions 28.89%. Make sure your customers know where they stand in the process, and they’re more likely to complete that process.

#6: A Great Mobile Experience

It’s certainly not news to any modern ecommerce retailer that providing a great mobile experience is not optional. According to a 2014 Shopify report, mobile now accounts for over 50% of all ecommerce traffic — and one-third of all ecommerce sales are happening on mobile. The difference between that half of visitors and third of shoppers is the distance between a good and bad mobile checkout experience. This goes way beyond simply having a generically responsive site — shoppers’ patience with bad mobile UX is shortening every year.

Vital Design Holiday Conversions

Is your mobile checkout experience keeping in mind the “thumb-friendly zone”? How is your mobile payment process? These are all things to consider when making sure your ecommerce store is mobile-shopper-friendly.

Making the Most of Your Increased Holiday Traffic

Cool, so your store and product pages are up to snuff in all the ways listed above — high five! Now, what are you going to do with all that increased traffic?

Holiday traffic is a major opportunity to impress an entirely new crowd. If you get it right during their first experience, many of these shoppers can turn into potential repeat customers. You want to nail this opportunity with an awesome experience from the start and keep exceeding expectations throughout the sales process in order to increase your permanent fan base long-term.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (http://www.census.gov/retail/index.html ), 22.22% of all “electronic and mail order” sales in 2014 happened in November and December — and the percentage might be much higher for your shoppers, depending on the type of products your ecommerce store sells. Jewelry stores report an increase of 28% in sales during the holiday season, according to a 2014 report by the National Retail Federation.

Vital Design Holiday Sales

So how can you make the most of this boost in traffic to your ecommerce store this holiday season?

Here are some tips to maximize that holiday traffic boost:

Gird Your Server Loins!

Can your server scale automatically handle traffic spikes? If a product you sell suddenly gets super popular on Pinterest or is named in a prominent holiday must-have list, you’ll be glad you’re prepared. Even predictable influxes due to the natural increase in holiday shoppers can cause issues with connectivity and load time if your server is unprepared.

We recommend a cloud-based hosting solution or Virtual Private Server (VPS) that can handle sudden fluctuations in website traffic.

Grab Those Leads!

Step one of making a sale online is converting a visitor to an identifiable lead. You want to make sure your visitors are getting entered into your CRM or email marketing process, even if they’re not quite ready to make a purchase immediately. If the product you’re offering typically has a longer sales cycle than a one-time visit, make sure you capture interested visitor’s information on their first visit — perhaps by offering a downloadable comparison shopping guide for the type of products you sell — so you can follow up with them later.

Consider using a pop-up email opt-in message to capture those visitors who might want to hear more from you before making a sales decision. We’ve seen a 97% growth in our email list by instituting an exit overlay email optin pop-up. Once you’ve got their email addresses, you can start sending them your awesome and enticing emails so you can keep nurturing them as a lifetime customer.

Make Your Return Policy Obvious and Easy.

For many online shoppers, return policies can make or break a sale. Make it free if possible. Oftentimes having the promise of free returns can improve your sales rate, according to one study, by up to 357%! The percentage of people who actually take advantage of a free return is often offset by this increase in sales. Internet Retailer reports that in the Top 500 merchants, web-only retailers average a return rate of 3.47%, (overall average return rate was 4.96%)

It is certainly worth trying out free returns, and see if your sales increase as a result. Running an A/B Test in the months leading up to the holidays is an effective way to test the impact on your sales conversion rate.