The holiday season is a time of e-commerce: According to current estimates from the Bitkom industry association, approximately 22 million Germans will buy presents on the internet this year. e-Spirit, the provider of the content management system FirstSpirit (www.e-Spirit.com), has compiled a list of six tips that can help online retailers get their website into shape for the final sprint in the holiday business race:
6 tips for successful e-commerce during the holiday season
• Highly attractive – Display windows are decorated for the holiday season in order to attract customers. The same applies to online shops: an attractive page with a clear layout invites visitors to linger, browse and buy, while images and videos liven up the content. It is also important for online retailers to quickly position their current bestsellers at the most attractive locations on their site. A professional content management system (CMS) offers templates that facilitate the straightforward and intuitive redesign of a website. This allows employees in specialist departments, for example the call center, to optimize a website quickly without the need for programming skills. Images and videos can also be integrated easily with a few clicks, for example from a catalogue system. A live preview within the editing environment even allows them to test their changes prior to going live.
• Easy to find – Even the most beautiful online shop is of little use if nobody finds it among the many other sites on the web. Here the magic word is SEO (search engine optimization), which allows retailers to bump up their website in the search engine rankings. Including the right keywords in headlines or subheadings is the most basic method. Ideally a professional CMS also supports the storage of additional metadata in the form of search terms related to the content. This allows interested customers to find the page or a specific product even if the search term isn’t part of the visible page content. Furthermore, if the CMS is not tied to a specific platform, the integration of corresponding keyword databases is seamless and the metadata can be centrally managed in the editing environment.
• Website stability – If the desired flood of visitors finds its way to the online shop during the festive business season, website stability is essential. In order to ensure stability, the content should be generated in advance and transferred to the live server. This means the “online” processing of content is limited to the essentials, while editorial content that doesn't change all the time only needs to be generated once. On the other hand, dynamic content is delivered live – this strategy is a key advantage in the light of aspects such as resource requirements, scalability and the response behavior of the system, even under conditions of high traffic. Only then does information result in conversion, turning website visitors into buyers.
• Content for various communication channels – As a communication platform, the internet offers numerous channels to address customers. Examples include newsletters, mailings, microsites for festive promotions, mobile output channels and social media. With a content management system as the central content administration tool, any content that has been prepared can be centrally managed and reused for various output channels. This allows retailers to address specific target groups while saving time and reducing costs. Mobile channels are of particular importance in this context, since many customers use smart phones, mobile phones or PDAs for online shopping and quick price comparisons. This is why retailers should be sure that they can optimize their websites for access from mobile devices. Professional systems offer the required functionality.
• Multi-lingual – The holidays involve various celebrations in many parts of the world, making them an ideal time for online retailers to woo international customers. This is why website content should be available in English as a minimum and, if required, also in other languages. A professional CMS supports the management of text, images and media in any number of languages. This is important since even the images associated with the holiday season differ between regions. Retailers are therefore able to provide content in various languages across all output channels without a lot of additional effort. Multi-site management functionality also allows components such as page elements or microsites to be centrally stored. These are then readily adaptable to local requirements.
• Integration of additional systems – the holiday season is a time of returns and exchanges. This is why the content management system should be easily integrated into existing shop, inventory management or ERP systems in order to assure e-commerce success. Integration is particularly straightforward if the CMS works with open interfaces. Additionally, a system that is not tied to a specific platform supports all web, application and portal servers for the live system, permitting the integration of the CMS as the central platform in a heterogeneous system landscape.
“The HDE trade association estimates the online holiday business for 2010 at nearly six billion Euro. Naturally, every retailer wants a piece of that pie. An attractive, flexible and stable website is a key prerequisite,” says Oliver Jäger, Director of Marketing & Communications at e-Spirit AG. “Professional content management solutions not only help online retailers achieve short-term success in their business, they also support the implementation of a long-term online marketing strategy. Retailers who invest in content management are investing in the future of their company: after all, the growth of e-commerce is more rapid than that of virtually any other sector.”