It's that dreaded time of year:"Code Freeze." While it’s always important to have your website running flawlessly, it’s even more critical during the holiday shopping season. An hour of downtime during the busiest days of the year can cost thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
Traditionally the IT departments that support online retailers insist on setting a firm date for a code freeze, after which no changes
could be made to a website. It's understandable, considering there's always risk associated with implementing any sort of software change. But there's also the reality that opportunities for improving the customer experience and increasing sales emerge during a busy season.
Thankfully with the right tools, merchandisers can still make adjustments to the site without introducing unnecessary risks to the business.
What to Change During Code Freeze
Of course, you don't want to make changes just for the sake of making a change, but if you identify an opportunity to improve the customer experience in a way that will increase conversions and/or AOV, it's worth evaluating.
Search & Browse Merchandising — Keep an especially close eye on search query and navigation data during the holidays. Making minor adjustments can be one of the easiest ways to have a positive impact if you have the right tools in place. Keep track of:
- What search queries are people using?
- Promote popular items from popular searches on the home page or key category pages.
- Are there search queries that return too few or too many results?
- Create landing pages for queries with too few results and redirect the search to the landing page.
- For pages with too few search results, make sure all of the product is showing up and consider promoting related categories on the product list page.
- Which results are users clicking on?
- If they're not clicking on the first few results, it's an opportunity to reorganize the products.
- What facets are they using to navigate?
- Make the most popular ones more prominent (unless you have to put in an IT request to make this happen)
- Are a high number of out-of-stock items being searched for?
- Offer alternatives and match the promotion.
- Can you identify larger segments of customers that share a persona or other demographic information, such as location?
- Dial up the personalization for visitors with different personas or might be clustered in a certain geographic area
Website Messaging — Monitor customer calls and inquiries over email and through social media. If you see trends emerging, such as frequent mentions of customers being confused about shipping cut off times or details about promotions, review and update your messaging. Even if it's system-driven messaging, changing the words (not the underlying logic) is a pretty safe change to request and implement.
There's a limit to what should be changed during the busiest time of year, but these tips are a safe way for you to improve the customer experience without bringing the site down.