While the term “Black Friday” originated in America, had a major impact in worldwide retail markets. A recent report by Eurostat cast a very interesting light on European online spending habits and in particular, growth in Luxembourg. This will come as no surprise to those who follow the online market as websites improve functionality, security and widen the range of products. So, where does Luxembourg stand with regards to online shopping and what does the future hold? Most importantly, where does your website stand and how can you benefit from holiday shopping? Let’s find out…
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The growing popularity of online shopping in Luxembourg
The Eurostat report revealed that Luxembourg has one of the strongest online shopping sectors across the European Union. The figures confirm that while on average 60% of people across the EU admitted to shopping online over the last 12 months. This figure recently increased to 72% in Luxembourg. Only Denmark (84%), UK (83%), Netherlands (80%), Sweden (78%) and Germany (77%) have a more active online shopping sector. Overall we have also seen a significant increase in the number of women shopping online and the age group 16 to 24 posted the largest increase over the last decade, up from 40% to 72%.
When you consider that online shopping giant Amazon has its HQ in Luxembourg, employing more than 2200 people, it is perhaps no surprise that online shopping is now second nature in Luxembourg. In many ways, this local and international acceptance of Amazon as an online retail portal perfectly reflects the changes of late in the minds of consumers. That said, it is still the responsibility of online business owners to provide the correct services, products and content to grab the attention of would-be customers and retain their interest.
So, how can you optimize your online store to attract and retain the highest number of visitors possible?
Tips to optimize online stores for holiday shopping
The first thing to consider when looking at any online business is whether your hosting package reflects your business needs. You can have the best website in the world, the most eye-catching products and great value for money services, but if nobody can find your website then you have wasted your time, money and effort. Let’s check out important optimisation techniques to ensure your site is as visible as possible and more importantly user-friendly.
1. Your Web Hosting package matters
Here at Luxhosting.com we offer an array of web hosting packages but one perhaps more interesting to online entrepreneurs is the business hosting package. Using servers located in Luxembourg, offering added security, you can sign up to a business hosting package which offers flexibility and reliability. These accounts take in:-
- Control Panel
- Free server backups
- Free anti-virus/anti-spam software
- One click software installation application
- Free webmail
- Free logs and daily stats
As you will see from above, the business package covers everything from backups to security, webmail to antivirus as well as free logs and daily statistics. The vast majority of e-commerce entrepreneurs tend to look at virtual private servers (VPS) which offer an experience somewhere between shared hosting and a dedicated server, with all of the benefits. The flexibility, guaranteed resources and ability to upgrade and downgrade as and when required make this package extremely useful.
As an added bonus, Luxembourg-based companies are able to deliver their e-commerce services to Luxembourg customers from a local server. This allows more efficient and speedier delivery of your website to online visitors – vital, remember the 2 second rule?
It is very important to monitor your web hosting requirements on an ongoing basis and make adjustments where you see a change in traffic trends or an impact on load speeds. There is a balance between a cost efficient hosting service and one which delivers an optimum experience to your customers.
It is sensible to leave some headroom with regards to resources/traffic requirements when setting your hosting parameters to ensure that you can accommodate periods of peak traffic – like holiday shopping on Black Friday.
2. Dry run your e-commerce sales process
If you have an e-commerce business it makes perfect sense to monitor your web speed and purchase process on a regular basis. Those companies that standstill in the hope that they will always be one of the leaders are very often the first to fall. Indeed, just a few years ago Amazon created a report which covered the potential cost to business of a slow loading website. Amazon estimated that an additional one second delay would cost the company a staggering $1.6 billion in lost annual sales. This shows why it is very important to monitor page load speeds and maximize optimization.
When it comes to Black Friday and holiday shopping, it is common knowledge that resources are pushed to the limit and many websites will miss their target reaction times. There are ways and means of maximizing your website sales with many online store builders incorporating the latest in SEO tools and other optimization procedures. Those who fail to monitor their website load times will often see a slowdown in sales growth.
As with any online website, if you fail to satisfy your customers then quite simply there’s a good chance you will lose them to one of your competitors.
3. Don’t over-complicate your website design
Finding a balance between an easy to understand website and an eye-catching website can be challenging for even the most experienced e-commerce entrepreneurs. There is a temptation to add relatively large images, videos and other prominent visual effects. However, when it comes down to good old-fashioned online sales we know that load times anywhere upwards of two seconds will see businesses start to haemorrhage customers.
By all means make your website bold and beautiful for the holiday shopping period. However, do not let this negatively impact your load times. Whether you have an online clothes store or any other form of store online the most important thing is to retain as many visitors as possible. As we touched on above, even the best most striking website in the world needs to pay attention to load speed. Otherwise, the majority of your visitors won’t even see your hard work. There are packages and scripts available which can optimise and condense images to ensure they load faster. This is even more important in the world of mobile e-commerce.
4. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)
This may seem like a derogatory term but it certainly isn’t. The term KISS relate simply to “Keep It Simple Stupid”. This means you should not over-complicate your website. One area which tends to be relatively static and often not customer friendly is the checkout process. If you review other websites you will see an array of unnecessary fields, unclear shipping costs as well as complicated sidebars, headers and footers.
Place yourself in the position of a customer; what kind of e-commerce payment system would you like to see? You would probably want to see a system where all costs are transparent and visible, unnecessary fields are removed and the processes made as simple as possible. This is the kind of environment which will give you the best chance of closing a sale. Once a customer has dropped an item into their shopping cart it’s time to close them. No distractions. We have all been there before, you fill your basket, move to pay and then things start to unravel and go wrong.
Keep it simple and keep it to the point but above all try to understand the overall experience of your “average” customer – walk in their shoes for a short while.
5. Website security is paramount
In the modern era, all e-commerce websites should incorporate the latest HTTPS protocol. As the older HTTP protocol is far less secure. When used in tandem with a SSL certificate this ensures that any store online has maximum security and protection for customers. It is worth noting that search engines signal websites which do not incorporate the HTTPS protocol or have an invalid SSL certificate.
Many people sometimes forget that the issue of security also incorporates the security of your web hosting service. On-site security as well as choosing a reliable secure web hosting company is simply essential in the modern era. There is not a lot more to say except, you have been warned!
6. Mobile e-commerce websites
When looking at online store builders you will see the term mobile e-commerce mentioned time and time again. It is in fact, a vital element of any business. We know that more than 50% of search engine inquiries come from mobile devices. Smart phones, tablets and other handheld devices are taking over where desktops and laptops once held the power. It is vital that your website is mobile e-commerce friendly. Today there are more than enough hosting options, software packages and monitoring services to ensure you achieve this goal.
Those who use Google Analytics/Webmaster will be aware that warnings are now issued when your website is not mobile friendly. Google obviously has an ulterior motive in ensuring that your website is mobile friendly, improved search engine rankings, and provides an array of very helpful tips to rectify mobile display/performance issues. It is important that you act on this advice as you can bet your bottom dollar your competitors will.
7. Business essentials for holiday shopping
Aside from the web hosting/website based essentials when it comes to optimizing your online store, when looking at peak sales periods you also need to ensure basic business best practice such as:-
- Take stock of your inventory and ensure that you can deliver on your promises
- Prepare your work colleagues for a busy time
- Make sure that your logistics are in place
- Ensure that your customers feel important
- Consider incentives such as free shipping
While these additional business essentials are common sense it can sometimes help to see them in front of you. There are times you may be tempted to focus on website traffic. Or, you may have an overstocking situation and perhaps neglect your online promotions.
As with any successful business, finding a balance between all of these different elements is the Holy Grail. It’s something which tends to come with experience.
Do not underestimate the power of Black Friday, Cyber Week and pre-Christmas Shopping with regards to your potential online sales. Holiday shopping on these dates has now become a habit for consumers around the world. And any store online today has the potential to benefit from this trend. It is essential that you plan your holiday shopping offers weeks in advance. At the same time, ensure that your hosting and general resources can handle the potential spike in traffic/sales.
In the final two months of 2018 large e-commerce retailers saw a 65% increase in revenue compared to the previous year. While this figure will gradually reduce for smaller operations, even relatively small retailers still reported a 35% boost in sales. One final trend which is very important relates to the use of smart phones on Black Friday, Cyber Week and Christmas Holiday Shopping period. Forecasts suggest that this year, shopping via smart phones will account for 36% of e-commerce sales during the holiday season. This is a 20% share increase year on year which is something you need to consider when you position your business for the future.