Expected to make up around 25% of the total sales generated in 2012, this year’s holiday season is going to be one of the biggest in history in terms of revenues for retailers. Here’s the first of a three-part guide on how to increase your sales during this promising holiday season. In part one you’ll learn what improvements you should make to your online shopfront before investing your money and time in marketing campaigns.

Getting Started

Your online shopfront is your website through which customers can view products and purchase them. Having an attractive shopfront is crucial before doing any kind of marketing. If your shopfront is poor, all the potential customers that your marketing efforts direct to your site will never buy anything.

So, how can you improve your shopfront?

  • Showcase your hottest products and bestsellers on your homepage, making sure they can be quickly added to cart and purchased. If you enable product ratings, include on your home page your best-rated products.
  • Ensure that product images and descriptions are of high-quality and relevant. Expand short descriptions, abridge lengthy ones, correct any typos and inaccuracies.
  • Place your social media liking and sharing buttons conspicuously. These buttons should be added not only to your homepage, but also to every product you’re offering. They enable customers to share their favorite products with their friends, and this can boost your sales. It’s much easier for buyers to click a Tweet This Product button than to open Twitter, copy-paste the URL, and write a product description.
  • Make sure your hottest promotions and discounts are featured prominently on your homepage. If you offer free shipping, ‘buy 2 and get 1 free’ deals, or major discounts for certain product types, use banners or sticky notes on your homepage to inform users of these.
  • Organize your products by suggestive categories such as Gifts for Children, Gifts for Her/Him, Gifts Under $100 and so on.
  • Add special holiday effects to your web pages. Simple effects like falling snowflakes, animated Santa, gift-wrapped presents, and the like are must-have additions to your site during this time of the year. Depending on the content management system you’re using, implementing these can be as easy as installing a plug-in.
  • Use multiple calls to action. Add calls to action in the headlines, in the product descriptions, and when possible, in links as well. Also, place big and colorful Buy Now/Order Now buttons on every page that sells something. Make these buttons stand out.
  • Simplify the checkout process. Make it possible for customers to buy products without having to register an account. In other words, provide a quick checkout option with as few steps as possible. Don’t require email confirmation. Don’t limit payment methods to credit or debit cards – use e-wallets as well. Dispatch products immediately after they are ordered.
  • Optimize your shopfront for search engines. Make sure your main keywords are present in the product headlines, descriptions, and in the ALT tags of the images that accompany them. Ensure your theme is SEO friendly, and that all your product pages are indexed by Google and other search engines.

Once you do all these you are ready to start marketing your products online. Begin by devising holiday specials that will attract the attention of customers and encourage them to share your offers through word of mouth and social media. Find out more in Part Two.

About the Author:

Kevin Gao is the founder and CEO of Comm100 Live Chat, a leading provider of live chat software for business. As a software developer as well as a small business expert, he’s always ambitious to revolutionize the way of online customer service and communication. Find Kevin on Google+ to find out more about him.