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The sidewalks of August sizzle with heat. And as a brand or retailer, your team is setting the stage for a holiday season that will sizzle too. From marketing to commerce and service, we’ve gathered insights from our team of experts to help every step of your customer’s holiday shopping journey.

The first step to ensure your best sales season ever? Get your site ready for peak performance.

No matter the time of year, you don’t want shoppers to hit speed bumps that may prompt them to leave your website — like a slow-loading page or a 404 error. That’s why we urge retailers to adopt a continuous readiness model for strong site performance year-round. If you haven’t already adopted this model, now is a great time to do so. You’ll ensure delivery of the best possible experience for shoppers when it matters most — your busiest shopping season.

Our Senior Technical Architect, Abraham David Lloyd, pulled together a list of best practices to help you not only survive — but thrive — during the peak holiday season. Here are a few of my favorites:

Rev up performance of key experiences and storefront response times
Nearly half of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, and 40% will abandon a site if it takes more than three seconds to load. Even a one-second delay in page response time can result in a 7% reduction in conversion.

Focus on the pages that account for the majority of traffic and make sure runtimes are within your desired range (see chart below). These include the home page, product listings (including details and quick views), shopping cart and checkout process, and placing an order.

Optimize caching strategically
Caching (storing rendered experience for future use) will quickly provide customers with the content they expect. 90% of editorial content, like the home page, should be cached. Aim to cache 50%-70% of product-specific content, including search, product listings, and product details. Performance analytics can help you assess how well your caching is working.

Remember: Caching for the storefront is a fixed resource. You’ll want to maximize it for high-traffic pages and minimize the percentage of caching for unused content. This means you should audit your site to identify your most popular content and calculate the percentage that is cached.

Review third-party integrations
This means following best practices with third-party software providers that can help track analytics, check for fraud, and provide social add-ons. Be sure these integrations can handle the stress of holiday traffic. You don’t want a break in the customer experience. Make sure the integration has proper governance. To see how those add-ons are working, you might check performance just before Labor Day.

Get personal and be helpful
Embrace artificial intelligence (AI); make it an integral part of your site so you can customize content as much as possible. Shoppers who click recommendations spend 5x more per visit. They appreciate when you show you understand their preferences based on their behavior with your brand and then make it easy to find what they want with clear links. Salesforce Einstein can literally be implemented with a series of clicks — no data scientist needed.

And don’t forget!

There’s so much you can do to ensure a successful holiday season. Here are four critical steps of your journey to ensuring the hottest user experience for the coldest days of the year:

  • Dig into data on successful 2017 campaigns and get more shopping insights so you can shape your content planning for the season.
  • Deepen what you know about your customers; start capturing data you’ll leverage this holiday and be ready for this year’s retail trends.
  • Establish a promotion cadence and get approvals for promotions. Meet regularly with both the promotions and ecommerce teams to ensure that your promotional, product, and content pages are performing as expected during the holiday season. Double-check that these teams are aware of upcoming promotions and special offers. This is no time for silos in your organization.
  • Review last year’s SEO and SEM keywords to help you plot your strategy for 2018.

Look ahead to your best season yet with our comprehensive Holiday Readiness Guide, including our month-by-month to-do list. We’ve thought of everything, so you don’t have to.