By Sue Chapman

Last week, we talked about managing delivery schedule expectations, offering some tips to clearly communicate order cutoff dates and shipping timeframes to ensure your customers can get their holiday purchases on time.

Today, we take a look at testing. Site testing should be nothing new to anyone, but the importance of testing every element of the customer’s buying journey through every touch point with your brand is critical to a successful holiday shopping season.

To ensure your site is ready for your holiday shopping traffic, I offer you my Testing Commandments:

  1. Test ALL promotions – Holiday promotions are fiercely competitive, so in addition to planning your entire season in advance, you should also test the promotional strategies you plan to run in September or early October to see what your visitors respond to. Be sure to also test all Q4 promotions to ensure discounts are calculating correctly both in the cart and where they will be advertised, like on the home page, category page and PDP. A final point, consider using a site preview functionality to ensure the promotions turn on and off at the appropriate date and time.
  2. Thoroughly QA your pricing – Check all of your grid pages to ensure full prices and discounted prices are showing up correctly. This goes hand-in-hand with testing your promotions.
  3. Test and tune top search terms with site search, SEO/SEM – Anticipate what shoppers will be looking for by revisiting what they searched for last year. Test last year’s top site search and SEO terms as soon as your holiday online catalog is ready to ensure you are optimizing your gift assortment.
  4. Test common navigational paths – When shopping for gifts, visitors tend to browse more than search. Be sure to test how they will navigate through your site to ensure they can find the products they may be searching for, too. As I mentioned earlier, make sure you optimize your gift assortment by changing your sorting rules to push gift items to the top of grid pages. And remember to test your search refinements every step of the way to ensure shoppers can narrow down the results to find the perfect gift.
  5. Test and optimize your product detail pages – This is where you should be able to close the sale. Be sure all promotions are displayed and decision making criteria, such as warranty, key product details, size and color, are listed above the fold. Check images and pricing for accuracy and clarity.
  6. Check all steps of your holiday checkout – This final step can make or break the sale. Make sure you provide customer service numbers in case shoppers have a last minute question, and give your customers the option to save items to a wish list. If possible, consider extending your cart life since many shoppers may not be ready to purchase but would like to return to complete the transaction later.
  7. Educate your customer service department – Don’t leave your customer service folks in the lurch. They need to know way in advance what promotions will be running, what products you will be merchandising and if there may be any out-of-stock concerns. You are all one selling team, so organize well to execute superbly.
  8. Consider remote usability testing – Even though browsing your site may be simple and user-friendly to you, will holiday shoppers agree? You should consider doing some usability testing when your holiday catalog is ready in a staging or development environment to ensure it’s as easy to navigate as possible. There could be some concerns you may have overlooked entirely!
  9. Review technical stats to ensure the site is ready to handle added traffic – Even if you have done everything you can to merchandise your site for holiday, it will all be for naught if the back-end can’t support the additional traffic. Work with your IT team to set up and schedule load testing to prevent downtime during the most critical holiday shopping times.

The key takeaway: Test your site readiness before your customers do.

On that note, stay tuned for our next tip: Giving your loyal customers the VIP treatment.

And stay up to date on our full Get Holiday Ready blog series: