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 Shopping.com, 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 searches?" 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 -- Shopping.com, 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 Shopping.com, 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 descriptive. -- Use ROI trackers to track sales, cost of sales, and conversion to sale data. About Shopping.com Shopping.com, 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, Shopping.com empowers consumers to make informed choices and, as a result, drives much higher conversion to sale and value for merchants.
SOURCE Shopping.com Ltd.