Posted by Brenda Timm, Vice President – Strategic Communication & Online Services

As the holiday ads begin to roll and shoppers start checking items off their to-buy lists, businesses need to be at the top of their game. Now is the time to evaluate and fine-tune the in-store and online purchase processes as both of them – with added growth expected on the mobile side – will be big this season.

So what are some tips for getting people through the door and on your website? Consider these essentials:

Simplicity – The end goal is to make the holiday shopping experience as simple and stress-free as possible, right? To achieve that, make sure items are clearly marked on shelves and easy to find according to store layout. For web, do some testing to ensure that products come up when searched and online ordering is straightforward with clear instructions provided.

Convenience – With so many stops to make in just a few weeks, no one wants to deal with long lines or time-consuming returns. Is your store stocked and staffed accordingly? Have you considered extended hours to accommodate those peaks in traffic? How about helpful extras like gift boxes or custom wrapping services?

Fulfillment – Last-minute shoppers will be looking for the latest possible order-by dates that will allow them to buy online and still get their goods shipped in time. Have you set a realistic cutoff date and can you deliver on it? What about other options like in-store pickup?

Value – Customers want the most value for every dollar. Are you selling your products and services at competitive prices? Do you offer price matching? Shipping costs have become another consideration as shoppers tally their totals. Free or low-cost S&H can make or break a sale. Other incentives (percentages off, buy one/get one offers, etc.) can have great impact this time of year, too.

Service – A happy customer often becomes a returning customer! Be sure your team is focused on exceptional customer service during the holiday season. Have a plan in place that assures customers will receive prompt response to any questions or complaints.

Holiday spending is expected to reach a new high in 2015. Are you prepared to meet your customers’ growing expectations? Whether in store or online, consider the many factors that add up to a great buying experience and deliver on all that you possibly can.