Preparing Your Website for the Online Holiday Season: Merchant Tips From

Sep 14, 2005, 01:00 ET from Ltd.

    BRISBANE, Calif., Sept. 14 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- "See your site as
 your customers see it."  That's the in-a-nutshell advice for online merchants
 this holiday season from Iggy Fanlo, president, worldwide field operations for, a leading online comparative shopping service with more than 50
 million unique visitors per month. Fanlo says that preparing for the holidays
 is a two-fold strategy.  "You want a fresh view of how your site looks and
 feels, and you want to step back to see whether you can be 'seen' from beyond
 your borders:  are you visible in the places where shoppers begin their
     Fanlo says that for online merchants, "the holidays are both a test and an
 opportunity.  The higher volumes and less experienced customers means that
 your site must be running as smoothly as possible -- with a clear path from
 your online catalog to checkout completion.  The good news is that the
 improvements you make today will serve you well for the coming year."
     To begin with, start early.  "Like it or not, the holiday season for some
 shoppers starts well before Thanksgiving, so think about posting product
 information and promotions even before you have an item in stock," Fanlo says.
 "Allowing customers to reserve gifts in their shopping cart gives you
 insightful information for managing inventory strategically."
     Another must-do for the holidays is to re-check your shopping cart.
 "That's where you close the sale -- so make sure it is working flawlessly," he
 says.  "Shopping cart abandonment is the single most preventable cause of lost
 sales."  Easy navigation is also essential.  "Historic data on website usage
 is crucial to preparing for the holiday shopping season. So if you haven't
 tracked sales and traffic activity in the past, make your start this year."
     Fanlo says that online merchants sometimes get lost in the crowd because
 their catalog isn't much different than their competitors.  "A good strategy
 for strengthening your identity is to carry some one-of-a-kind items that
 customers can only purchase from you.  The possibilities are endless.  A
 pottery store might commission an artist to do a line of vases, while a
 clothing store might do something similar with a local knitting guild.  During
 holiday times, especially, those select items can help distinguish you from
 the crowd."
     Gift certificates are another useful item for your catalog.  "They are
 often overlooked by online merchants." Fanlo says.  "Historically, gift
 certificates are purchased in December and redeemed mostly in January. This
 extends the holiday season beyond December and can increase your holiday
 sales, so feature them early -- and prominently -- on your site."
     Attracting customers
     No matter how well your website is designed, attracting customers to visit
 in the first place is at least half the battle.  "Holiday shoppers
 predominantly use key word searches for finding gifts online," says Fanlo.
 "So be sure you're listed on the sites they're searching --,
 among them.  In general, online advertising outlets should generate the high
 conversion to sale rate and deliver a balance of quality and volume in leads.
 And when responding to key word searches, be sure to allow for incomplete and
 misspelled queries. Your search tool should be smart enough to snag those
 potential sales, too."
      Fanlo says that "keyword targeted advertising should earn its keep.  The
 holiday season is a good time to invest in those terms that drive most
 sales -- and divest yourself of the rest.  Also, be sure your product listings
 on external sites are updated to include tax and shipping configurations where
 appropriate, which can help consumers understand bottom line costs associated
 with the items they are interested in."  Another way to get the most from your
 advertising dollars is to look for sites that offer ROI trackers such as, which can help identify the online advertising outlets that are
 most profitable for you.
                  A Pre-Holiday Checklist for Online Merchants
      --  Tune your datafeed management platform to sell the right products, at
          the right time, and in the right place.
      --  Improve the quality of the leads by providing tax and shipping
          charges to shoppers.
      --  Provide high quality images for every product.
      --  Trust matters. Having a solid merchant rating will increase
          conversion to sale.
      --  Enhance product names and product descriptions to be clear and
      --  Use ROI trackers to track sales, cost of sales, and conversion to
          sale data.
     About, an eBay company, pioneered online comparison shopping and
 today is one of the fastest growing shopping destinations on the Internet.
 With millions of products, thousands of merchants and millions of reviews from
 the Epinions community, empowers consumers to make informed
 choices and, as a result, drives much higher conversion to sale and value for