Small business at the holidays: 4 ways to boost your online sales this season

If you own a small business, the holidays are an exciting time. The National Retail Federation says we can expect to see overall holiday sales increase by as much as 4.2% this year, thanks to job growth and higher average wages. That means shoppers are ready to spend more — you don't need to rely on sales, discounts, and promotions to meet your holiday sales goals. Instead, you can focus on streamlining online purchases with a quick website tune-up. 

We have a few ideas that you can implement ASAP — let's dive in! 

Arrange a technical website review

Your online sales platform is going to get much more traffic this holiday season — especially on Black Friday and Cyber Monday — than it has all year. And shoppers have zero patience for slow loading speeds, errors, and site crashes; a one-second delay can cause as much as a 7 percent drop in conversions. So, you need to make sure you're ready for the digital stampede. 

If you have the time and basic technical skills, you can DIY a technical audit and tuneup in a few hours. Simple steps include optimizing images using, removing plugins you no longer use, and maybe even switching to a new web host. 

Or, if you’d rather have a professional take care of it, there are plenty of hosting and development agencies available to take a quick look under the hood. They’ll make personalized suggestions, provide additional support, or quickly switch you over to a better web host if your site needs it — and they can often turn around changes in just a few days. 

Add or refresh automated messages and popups 

If you shop online, you've probably had the experience of a promotional message suddenly appearing in a chat box or website overlay. Many of these messages are just gimmicky and annoying, but occasionally, you get one that offers the exact deal or recommendation you need to settle on a purchase. That's what you want to emulate on your own website!

There are two types of automated promotions to consider: 

  1. Automated live chat messages are greetings that appear in your website chat box when a visitor performs an action or meets certain conditions. They typically show up in the bottom right-hand corner of your site and do not block the page or interrupt browsing. 
  2. Popups are messages that block the rest of the page. They can be small boxes or take up the full screen. They’re good for grabbing attention because users have to manually close them to continue to the rest of the website — but they can also be an annoying interruption, so use them sparingly! 

Now that you know the difference, here’s how to optimize them both: 

  1. Make a list of all market segments you serve and which ones you’d like to target over the holidays. 
  2. Come up with 1 or 2 primary goals for each segment (e.g., maybe you want them to take a specific action or try out a limited time offer). 
  3. Create targeted messages and popups that encourage each segment to complete the goal you set for them. 
  4. Once your messages and popups are live, you can try out different designs and copy through A/B testing.

Use localization tools to convert international traffic

Localization tools detect and translate live chat messages, web copy, and pop-ups into the user’s native language in real-time. This is incredibly helpful if you have people from all over the world doing their holiday shopping on your site, or even if you serve a multi-lingual local market. 

Here are a few free or low-cost tools that you can use for localization: 

  • Lokalise automates translation for websites, apps, and files in a way that takes context into account — a major plus for retail brands looking to create a casual and friendly tone when communicating with online customers. 
  • The Live Chat Translation PowerUp is Olark's built-in localization tool. It’s great at capturing sales leads as well as quickly detecting and translating languages within the chat window in real-time. 
  • Smartling translates things like website text, marketing emails, and video subtitles. 

Build suspense and create urgency 

Last-minute shoppers just need a little extra push to get those orders in; you want them to feel like it's “now or never”. To build suspense and create urgency, you just need two things:

  1. A deadline or event to build towards. You can focus on specific days (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc.) as well as the entire holiday shopping season. 
  2. The right tools. To get the word out about your deadline or event, you can use an email newsletter marketing platform, social media marketing apps, and tools for making promotional videos or blog posts. Once shoppers are on your site, try simple touches like countdown timers, text message reminder opt-ins, cart timers, low stock warnings, and competition meters. 

Bottom line: it's not too late to tune up your website for the holidays! Take a few hours to optimize the technical points, add popups or automated messages, and create urgency with emails, site copy, and simple tools. You don’t have to slash your prices to be ready for the most wonderful time of the year.

Check out relevant topics on: Sales and Conversions, eCommerce and Retail

Maria Waida

Read more posts by Maria Waida