Written by Keval Baxi

As Fall turns to Winter, business owners are yet again faced with the task of optimizing their web presence for the fast­ approaching holiday season ­ a task that won’t seem as tedious as it did last year once you’ve read the guide we’ve prepared here at the company I manage, Codal.

Literally everyone is offering the deal of a lifetime ­ so your site better be easy to navigate, quick to load, and attrThe quality of your business’s online User Experience (UX) is always crucial. However, it is never more important than during the holiday season. active to your business’s target audience, or users will head elsewhere for their holiday shopping.

As we outline the best ways, and reasons, to get your business fully prepared for the upcoming winter madness, we’ll have to clarify some important details:

  • Who?
  • When?
  • Why?
  • How?

When?

First, let’s identify exactly when the holiday season is, for those of us that are a little less festive. Traditionally, the season begins on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and continues through December, officially concluding some time after New Year’s Day.

Ideally, you ought to start preparing your site at least a few weeks in advance of Thanksgiving, as the traffic to your site will increase faster than you think. U.S. online spending on Cyber Monday alone exceeded $2 billion, in 2014.

Why?

Next, we ought to explore what makes the holiday season so different from the rest of the year. The differences can be boiled to two key points:

  1. Everything will change.
  2. You could make a lot of money.

To address the former, you may be asking yourself: How many things could possibly change? Depending on the industry, and the type of goods or services that your company provides, everything part of your business model is under the threat of change.

Everything from the range of potential customers, to the types of goods that will interest them, and even the time of day that transactions take place. Did you know that internet shopping traffic increased by a substantial 20%, in 2013.

To address the latter, you may be wondering: Just how much money can I make? Again, it depends on the industry, and the type of goods or services that your company sells, but your gains could be substantial.

So, what’s substantial? Let’s refer to the 2014 U.S. holiday season, when retail e­commerce generated an astounding $53.3 billion in sales. To put this in perspective, sales during the holiday season account for about 23.3% of total U.S. retail e­commerce sales that year, or about one quarter.

Who?

Fundamental to the holiday shopping experience is the perception that everything is tailor-made for each individual user ­ a feat that can only be accomplished once you’ve identified who it is that’s going to be coming to your site or app during the holidays.

Equally as important is whether you are reaching a wide enough audience. A lot of the revenue generated during the holiday season comes from online super retailers, such as Amazon and eBay, which can also serve as excellent platforms for your business to reach more users.

In 2014, Amazon’s annual net revenue in North America alone was $55.47 billion, while eBay generated $8.49 billion.

How?

We cannot stress the importance of mobile optimization through mobile­ friendly UX. At Codal, we have helped countless clients prepare themselves for the holiday season, and fortify their businesses for the coming years, by building them a beautiful mobile solution.

As we approach the latter half of the decade, it is a safe assumption that many businesses already have a web presence. The same can hardly be said about mobile optimization. If your business isn’t mobile-­first, you are vastly disadvantaged in the sales arena.

The prevalence of “mobile culture” in the U.S. has grown so much, that in 2013, 74% of customers surveyed reported consistently using a tablet to compare prices before a store visit. That’s more than two thirds of the population that you may not be reaching with a non-mobile-­friendly website.

Not only is it unbelievably important to optimize the usability of your website in order to make it mobile friendly, it is also imperative that businesses begin to adopt mobile applications alongside their web implementations, so that they can keep up with changes during the holiday season.

In fact, retailer-branded app usage among U.S. holiday shoppers accounted for about 34% of all online shoppers during the ­2012/13 holiday season. Needless to say, the need for a professionally-built mobile application with impeccable mobile UX is unavoidable, especially with the holiday season fast approaching.

UXDs: the holidays are not only a time of the year where your site should be running perfectly, but also a time where you ought to be more creative, in order to show a good sense of humor and happy holiday cheer, even if that means taking a step back from brand design guidelines.