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10 tips to prepare your Magento storefront for the holiday season

Consumers restlessly wait for it, merchants both await and dread it. The holiday season is approaching fast. It accounts for half of all annual sales, but also represents a huge traffic spike for online stores, and Magento stores are no exception. While the holiday season presents an enormous opportunity to reach consumers online, the smallest mistake — including an outage or lag time — can harm a retailer’s bottom line.

To make the most out of the season, merchants must consider all the stages a product (‘the gift’) passes through before landing with its recipient, including Search and Discovery.

To learn how to optimize the other parts of the journey, check out Magento’s 2019 Holiday Guide, “The Journey of a Gift” and discover all the opportunities to create delightful experiences for your customers—and ensure your eCommerce site stays firmly on the ‘Nice List’.

1. Ready all the components of your Magento store to handle the charge.

Just like any other day, shoppers will expect a Google or Amazon-like experience on your store. But more than any other day, the cost of failing that expectation is gigantic.

Your competitors are spending just as much money and effort in acquiring customers as you. According to McKinsey & Company, a user will abandon bad sites for competitors after 2 to 3 seconds. This means that every additional delay on your website will lead visitors to your competitors and cost you revenue.

Typical culprits that cause friction are page loading time, payment system availability–but did you know that your Magento search can also be a major cause of downtime? To give you a sense of the craziness during Black Friday 2018, some of our customers experienced 3,000 search queries per second for hours, if not days, with peaks over 10,000 queries per second, compared to 700 search queries per second on a normal day.

Whether you handle your own Magento search infrastructure or trust a search provider, you should make sure your systems are ready to handle such load increases.

2. Keeping Inventory Up To Date

While creating scarcity is a powerful strategy to accelerate the purchase decision, showing products that won’t be shipped to your shoppers before the end of the holiday season will cause users to bounce. It also wastes screen real estate for products that won’t generate any sales.

magento stock management

So make sure that wherever you display products on your Magento store, whether in your category pages, landing pages, or search results, you have the option to not expose out-of-stock items.

Considering the volume and frequency of transactions during the holiday season, it sometimes means millions of updates to your product database every day. Every system needs to pick up on these changes, and this requires a very large scale, agile system.

3. Anticipate your shoppers’ wishes

Your product offering is of course one of your greatest assets, so make sure it answers your customer’s needs. Use your Magento search analytics to discover what articles your shoppers are searching for ahead of the holiday season, and most importantly, what they are searching for but not finding. Use those insights to adapt your catalog and plan deals, or to improve your advertising and SEO strategy.

magento analytics

4. Leverage your content

You generate valuable content about the products you sell, including blog posts and guides. This content can influence the purchasing decision of your shoppers, and position you as a knowledgeable seller, so don’t hesitate to surface it on your Magento store, alongside product pages — or even in your search results.

magento cotent search

5. Be proactive with your merchandising

Unlike brick-and-mortar stores, you have the luxury to re-organize your Magento store front in one click, or even automatically. Use it! Shoppers will look for the best deals, so use the discount rate in the ranking of your search results. Create scarcity by ranking products with limited sales time first. You have a doorbuster offer, but still want to preserve your margins? Rank this doorbuster first for relevant queries, and then add your post-discount margins in your ranking logic. The parameters you can play with are endless. The important thing is to be able to configure the ranking logic of your Magento search according to what matters to your shoppers, and you.

magento merchandizing

6. Optimize your Magento category pages

Looking at your analytics prior to the holiday season, you probably uncovered categories of products, and even specific products within those categories, having growing performances. Leverage those insights to optimize your category pages for those trends. Make sure your shoppers will find the products that fit their needs -and is the most interesting for you to sell- first when they navigate your Magento store through category pages.

magento category merchandizing

7. Create new landing pages to acquire more traffic

During the holiday season, competition for traffic is at its climax, so any opportunity to acquire new traffic and better convert the traffic landing on your store is to explore. One of those opportunities is to create dedicated landing pages combining relevant products from your catalog with short editorial content to put behind new paid keywords, paid ads or an email campaign, or to better appeal to and convert shoppers already landing on your store via your existing acquisition channels.

magento merchandizing

8. Adapt to the unexpected

Whether you like it or not, you will miss some trends and discover high selling offers that you wish you had more promoted. It’s not too late! Tweak your search results ranking logic to promote your best selling products, and capture even more sales.

magento merchandizing

9. Analyze!

Through your site search, your shoppers literally speak to you. Leverage those invaluable insights! What were they looking for that you did not offer? What search results converted the most? How did people navigate your store?  Did they filter by a specific brand when looking for TVs? All this data can help you improve your offering and the way you surface it to your shoppers next year.

10. Turn first time shoppers into engaged customers

Throughout the Holiday season, you will acquire new shoppers, thanks to your unmatched offers on specific products, and increased advertising efforts. Chances are, if they like the overall experience, they’ll return to your store. So when things calm down, reflect on what went well and what did not, and start planning long-term investments for your user experience. Studies report that every $1 invested in UX yields a $2 to $100 return.

We have more tips and best practices for your Magento search and discovery – if you’d like to speak to a search specialist, click here. Meanwhile, we’d love to hear your tips for holiday site search. Leave a comment or tweet to us.

Search and discovery is only one part of the journey. Read Magento’s 2019 Holiday Guide – The Journey of a Gift to discover the best solutions to optimize Magento store’s payment processing, shipping, customer service modules and many more.


About the author
Matthieu Blandineau

Sr. Product Marketing Manager


Supercharge your online store for the holidays

Tips and checklist tactics you still have time to implement.

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Matthieu Blandineau - Senior Product Marketing Manager
Image of Matthieu Blandineau
Matthieu BlandineauSenior Product Marketing Manager
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