While there has been concern that ongoing economic uncertainty and cyber-weary consumers may combine to temper this year’s holiday shopping season, many factors now point to an expected surge in online holiday sales, with a projected increase of more than 35% from 2019 to a whopping $190 billion in holiday eCommerce purchases.

With many big-box retailers foregoing their 4 a.m. doorbusters due to Covid-19, and other brick-and-mortar shops already heavily reliant on digital channels for day-to-day sales, eCommerce is the odds-on favorite to dominate the days and weeks following Thanksgiving. 

With that in mind, now is the time to make sure you and your website are ready for what may be a coming tide of traffic and transactions. The last thing you want is a potential customer who can’t find what they’re looking for, can’t load their shopping cart correctly, or even worse, can’t access your site at all. 

To help you get your eCommerce house in order, we’ve compiled some high-level tips you can focus on right now, and we’ve included a wide list of resources throughout, which you can put to use over the coming days and weeks to optimize your website for what looks to be a busy holiday season. Let’s get started!

Focus on site performance first. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re new to the world of eCommerce, or if you have a well-established online business in place—site performance matters, and it’s one of the first things you’ll want to assess when preparing for a potentially busy holiday season. 

If your site loads slowly, or if you’re not sure how it might respond to the stress of many users trying to access it at once, it may be wise to take a step back and address overall site performance.

WP Engine hosts some of the fastest sites on the web. Check out our plans.

One quick way to way gauge site speed is with WP Engine’s Speed Tool, which will test the speed of your WordPress site, including desktop and mobile versions, and provide you with actionable recommendations to make it faster.

Another way to test site performance is by performing a load test, which simulates high traffic on your site to help you determine how many visitors it can accommodate at once, and how it will respond at various traffic levels.   

While load testing can help site owners assess many things, including scaling capabilities, security risks, automatic code deployment, and target tracking, you can choose the parameters you wish to test for. See this informative whitepaper for more detail. 

Outside of testing, there are a number of fixes—such as optimizing images or making your site mobile responsive—which you can get started on now to help enhance site performance.   

Check out this helpful support article for a list of some technical best practices for eCommerce sites, as well as this article from Layout, which offers a trove of insights for web designers and small agencies looking for eCommerce best practices specific to them. 

Tap into the amazing ecosystem of WordPress themes and plugins.

While site performance is crucial to eCommerce success, so is the overall functionality and ease-of-navigation users encounter when they visit your site.   

Here is where the vast ecosystem of plugins and themes that WordPress is known for really comes into play. Updating your site using a Genesis theme, for example, can completely refine the look and feel of your site, while adding SEO and other performance benefits. 

Check out WP Engine’s Solution Center to find some of the best plugins and themes for WordPress.

Furthermore, using plugins for various eCommerce and other site functions is a great way to quickly add elements to your site that will make it more appealing to online shoppers. From search to shopping carts to everything in between, there are literally thousands of plugins you can choose from to add needed functionality to your site. 

Check out this guide for a rundown of some of the best themes and plugins for eCommerce sites built on WordPress, as well as this article, which will walk you through some of the more popular eCommerce integrations, including WooCommerce and Shopify, which are preferred by WordPress users today.  

Put WordPress to work as your marketing engine.   

Now that you’ve gained a better idea of how much traffic your site can handle, and you’ve optimized your site with plugins and themes that make searching and transacting easier for your customers, it’s time to get the word out and bring those digital deal-seekers to your doorstep. 

One of the best ways to do that is through a holiday marketing campaign, which will help you spread the word about your products and services to a wider audience.  

Maybe you have specific holiday deals or a holiday product bundle to tell potential customers about. Decide which channels you want to use to get your message out (blog, social media, etc.), and then put a plan in place to blanket those channels with messaging that brings people back to your website.

WordPress is certainly your friend here and can integrate with robust marketing tools including HubSpot, which will help you plan, execute, and track your marketing efforts effectively. 

Additionally, there are a wide variety of marketing-specific plugins you can use to build and track effective email campaigns as well as retargeting and customer segmentation efforts.   

Dive in deeper with our library of eCommerce resources. 

While the above areas are great places to start as you prep for the holiday rush, there are plenty of other things you can do to improve website performance and provide users with a better digital experience that will help you increase online purchases. 

Check out these additional resources for more information, and put your WordPress site to work this holiday season:  

The Ultimate Guide to Ecommerce on WordPress

How to Use WooCommerce: A Tutorial

3 Ways to Reduce Cart Abandonment This Holiday Season

10 Ways to Make Holiday Sales Jingle 

How to Create a WooCommerce Loyalty Program in WordPress

Experience Driven eCommerce—Rise to the Occasion

5 Myths About WordPress-Based eCommerce Sites Debunked

WooCommerce vs. Squarespace vs. Shopify: How to Choose the Best eCommerce Platform

Team up with a managed WordPress provider that knows eCommerce. 

While many of the above efforts are solutions you can implement on your own, nothing beats working with a managed WordPress provider like WP Engine. We know WordPress inside and out, and we help customers with eCommerce challenges large and small every day. 

Find out more about eCommerce on WP Engine’s platform or talk to a specialist now who can answer your questions.