HostGator Blog Web Hosting and Marketing Tips for Entrepreneurs Fri, 21 Sep 2018 17:42:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 151369968 How to Sell Products Online in 6 Easy Steps Fri, 21 Sep 2018 15:51:31 +0000 The post How to Sell Products Online in 6 Easy Steps appeared first on HostGator Blog.

Deciding to start an online business and begin selling products online can be an exciting experience. However, this excitement can...

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Deciding to start an online business and begin selling products online can be an exciting experience. However, this excitement can soon be replaced with overwhelm if the proper process isn’t followed.

There are a lot of considerations and research to be done if you want to learn to sell products online the right way.

Below you’ll learn the proper steps to take before you launch, during launch, and how to set your online store up for long-term success.


1. Decide What to Sell

Choosing the right products to sell will make or break your success online. As a result, you should spend a lot of time during the research phase.

It can be helpful to choose a product or market that you actually care about. With more and more competition every single day, choosing a market you have passion about will give you a leg up, as you’ll be willing to go the extra mile.

Ask yourself:

  • What kind of products would I love to sell?
  • What would be my dream niche to serve?
  • What industries do I have experience and knowledge in?
  • What pain points currently exist in the market?
  • Do my products provide a practical solution?

This should give you a list of products or markets that you’d love to serve.

With this in mind it’s time to get a better picture of the existing market, so you can decide how to compete and position yourself.


2. Research Your Market

You probably already have an idea of some of the competitors in your space, but now it’s time to take a deeper dive.

You’ll be looking for companies that sell similar products, what makes their approach unique, the methods they use to market themselves, and how they speak to your target market.

Find your top competitors and make a list with the above elements in mind.

This will not only help you better understand how to market and sell your products, but you might be able to uncover an underserved portion of the market hungry for your products.

Beyond having a deep understanding of your market, you’ll also want to thoroughly understand your customers. This will make the sales and marketing process much easier. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How old is my customer? Where do they live? What’s their gender?
  • How much money do they make? What’s their occupation?
  • What other interests do they have?
  • How do they spend their time?
  • What are their beliefs about the world?
  • Why do they buy products like yours?


3. Decide How to Ship Your Products

With an idea of what you’re going to sell, the existing market, and your buyer preferences, it’s time to think about how you’re going to ship your products to them.

The first is hiring a manufacturer to create your products for you. This can lead to a more custom product, higher quality control, and less cost per unit. But, you’ll have to spend more time creating your product, working out manufacturing issues, and figuring out shipping.

The second approach is relying on dropshipping. With this approach, you’ll be purchasing other people’s products and selling them through your online store. The drop shipper will also fulfill and ship orders on your behalf. This approach will have lower overhead costs, and less work overall. However, you may have to operate on slimmer margins and will have less quality control over the final product.


4. Build Your Online Store

Now it’s time to start building your online store. You’ll have a few different approaches to take. You can build your own online store through WordPress and a tool like WooCommerce. You can sell products through an existing platform like Etsy, or Amazon. Or you can use an eCommerce website builder to easily build your store and manage your products.

For the sake of this tutorial, we’re going to assume you’re using a website builder. This approach will give you the freedom of customizing your own site while helping manage all of the technical details for you.

With an eCommerce website builder all you have to do is select a theme, customize it to your liking with the drag and drop builder, upload your products, and press publish.

You’ll also be able to manage your inventory, handle tax, and shipping rates, and even integrate a payment processor.


5. Craft a Marketing Strategy

Simply publishing your site online isn’t enough; you need to craft a marketing strategy to help get the word out.

It would be impossible to cover every single aspect of marketing your online store in this post, but here are a few questions and considerations to get you moving in the right direction:

  • What marketing approaches will you take? Social media? Content marketing? Paid advertising? Influencer outreach? Guest blogging?
  • How will you get customers to buy from you again? A royalty program? Subscriber discounts?
  • How will you convert traffic to buyers? Regular promotions? Product and upsell suggestions?
  • What will make your strategy successful? Rising traffic? Conversions? Email list growth?

As you can see you have a lot to think about when it comes to marketing your store and ensuring it’s success over the long run.


6. Launch and Execute

The day has come to finally launch your online store and start sharing your products with the world. Even though it probably feels like your work is finished it’s actually only just begun. All of the preparation work, research, and website building has been leading you up to this point.

Continue to execute and experiment with your marketing strategy and optimize your site based on user feedback, analytics data, and the kinds of products they’re actually buying.

Selling products online is a journey and you’ve just taken your first steps. Hopefully, you’re now better equipped to create and launch a successful online store. Get your store up and running quickly with the GATOR website builder.

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Best WordPress Themes for Blogging Wed, 19 Sep 2018 21:37:03 +0000 The post Best WordPress Themes for Blogging appeared first on HostGator Blog.

If you want your WordPress blog to succeed you’re going to need a great theme. Of course, choosing a solid theme...

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If you want your WordPress blog to succeed you’re going to need a great theme. Of course, choosing a solid theme is important, but you also need a place to host it, too. For the ultimate WordPress hosting experience, we recommend WordPress managed hosting.

Even if you write incredibly captivating content, and spend hours perfectly crafting and formatting each post, your readers won’t stick around if your site is designed poorly.

The look and feel of your site have a greater influence than you think. If your site is distracting, crowded, or uses a low-quality font your users won’t stick around to actually read what you’ve written.

This is where your WordPress theme comes in.

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10 Best WordPress Themes for Blogging

Your WordPress theme should flawlessly highlight your words in a way that makes readers want to spend hours on your site. Luckily, you don’t have to spend time looking for the best WordPress theme for your new blog.

Below you’ll find 12 of the best WordPress themes for blogging.


1. Smart Passive Income Pro Theme

smart passive income theme

If you’ve been blogging for any time at all, then you’re probably familiar with Pat Flynn of Smart Passive IncomeWell, this blog theme is modeled after his website.

It’s designed to provide an easy reading experience while offering you plenty of ways to monetize your website. The homepage is equipped with three different preset layouts and templates, along with eight different areas for widgets.

If you’re a blogger who’s looking to monetize your content or sell products and services then this theme is a great choice. Plus, it’s built on top of the trusted Genesis framework and is fully responsive for all desktops and mobile devices.


2. Typology

typology theme

Typology is an incredible minimalist design theme for bloggers. It features rich and eye-catching colors, contrasted with white space and clear typography. The obvious focus of this theme is stunning typography.

It also offers some cool features like showing the time it’ll take to read each post, along with stunning quotes, and various typeset theme options.

You’ll also find five different homepage customization options, which include the ability to add background images, highlight your most recent blog posts in slider format, or include the popular parallax scrolling effect.


3. Divi

divi theme

Divi from Elegant Themes  is one of those rare themes that can basically do anything. It’s equipped with nearly endless possibilities. The built-in drag-and-drop editor makes it easy to create your own layouts, pages, and templates.

It’s equipped with over 46 different content models that you can plugin into different pages or even blog posts. For example, you’ll be able to add things like a portfolio element, pricing table, email forms, audio players, and a lot more.

Plus, it has a cool duplicator feature that enables you to set up an element and push that out across every page on your site. Talk about a time-saving feature! 

If you want ultimate freedom when building out your site, then Divi might be the blog theme for you.


4. Magnus Photoblog Theme

magnus theme

If you’re a blogger who relies on photography to help get your message across then Magnus is the perfect theme for you.

The theme is heavily image-focused, which means you better have some high-quality photography to back up your words. The home page acts as a portfolio page for your images and headlines. Plus, it’s equipped with a cool hover effect to make your site seem cutting-edge.

Once you click through to one of your blog posts the image will be highlighted at the top of the page, full-screen, with your text appearing underneath in a stunning and readable font.

If you’re looking for a blog theme that places a focus on your images, as well as text, then Magnus is worth a test drive.


5. Hemingway

hemingway theme

If you don’t want to spend any money on your theme just yet, then Hemingway can be a great choice. This free theme for WordPress is simple and offers plenty of whitespace.

Since it’s a free theme you won’t find a ton of customization options or features, but it will be incredibly easy to get your blog online.

It’s equipped with a 2-column layout, a large custom header image, and even the fancy parallax scrolling feature. When creating blog posts using this theme you’ll also be able to choose between 4 different blog post formats.

For bloggers on a budget, this simple design is one of the best free responsive WordPress themes to check out.


6. Authority

authority theme

Authority is a theme that’s modeled after Matthew Woodward’s six-figure blog. It’s a clean theme that highlights your blogroll on the homepage, along with a sidebar where you can showcase an opt-in box, welcome message, most popular posts, and more.

If you’re a blogger who’s looking to monetize their site, then this theme will make it easy. It’s built to help make creating affiliate content and review content easier. Plus, it’s Google AdSense ready, so you don’t have to deal with adding any custom code to your site.

This theme for WordPress is feature packed and perfect for site owners who want to turn their blogs into an online brand.


7. Hero Theme

hero theme

Hero is a minimalist and responsive theme that’s focused on design. One thing is for sure, this theme looks good.

The home page has a parallax banner that you use to tell visitors what your blog is about. Beyond that, you’ll be able to highlight your recent projects or blog posts. The blog page is quite simple but provides a clean and easy reading experience.

This theme is simple, but if you want a theme without all the frills, that lets you get down to writing, then check out this theme.


8. Modern Studio Pro Theme

modern studio theme

Modern Studio Pro is an elegantly designed theme built on top of the Genesis framework. You can opt for a classic blog layout with the sidebar on the right, or have your posts take up the entire screen.

The focus of this theme is soft and readable typography, along with plenty of whitespace. If you’re tired of cluttered websites, then this theme might be perfect for you.

You can easily customize this theme through the built-in theme customizer, and get your blog up and running very quickly. There aren’t a ton of additional features for this theme, but it truly does shine in its simplicity.


9. Eleven40 Pro Theme

eleven40 theme

This theme is a StudioPress classic. It’s been around for quite some time, but its fully responsive design has withstood the test of time. The core focus of this theme is on highlighting your words.

You can choose between multiple different sidebar arrangements, along with a customizable field that’s directly below the header.

Since this theme is so simple it looks good on any screen size and always manages to place the readers focus on your content. If you want a simple, yet flexible theme, the give eleven40 Pro a try.


10. Candor Theme

candor theme

Candor is designed for bloggers who intend to build a business around their writing. The homepage is clean and elegant, and you have the option of integrating an email sign up box above the fold.

It doesn’t have a ton of different customization options, but it does offer you four different layouts to choose from that will give your site a unique feel.

Overall, this responsive design theme is easy to use on both computers and mobile devices and offers your visitors a solid reading experience, while still giving off some creative flair.


Which WordPress Blogging Theme Will You Choose?

Having the right WordPress theme for your blog is extremely important and will set the standard for what users can expect to see on your site. The best theme for your blog is completely personal but remember, this is how users will recognize your brand and interact with your site. Hopefully, the themes above will point you in the right direction and you’re getting help you get closer to finding the perfect WordPress theme for your blog.

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How to Set Up an Email Drip Campaign for Your New Small Business Wed, 19 Sep 2018 21:05:04 +0000 The post How to Set Up an Email Drip Campaign for Your New Small Business appeared first on HostGator Blog.

The early days of running a small business are typically the hardest. Getting your name out there so you can...

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The early days of running a small business are typically the hardest. Getting your name out there so you can start earning your first customers is a big hurdle when starting from scratch. And all the work you do to raise awareness of your business goes to waste if the people who hear about you once promptly forget.

One of the most important things you can do for your new business right now is to start building an email list.

An email list is one of the most powerful marketing tools a small business can have. Email marketing is nearly 40 times more effective than social media channels at turning leads into customers and delivers a much higher ROI than many other marketing tactics.

Someone that takes the step of subscribing to your email list is showing an active interest in your business — that’s meaningful.

But for email marketing to really pay off, once you’ve gotten someone to sign up, you have to work to keep them. Setting up an email drip campaign is a good strategy to do that.

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What Is an Email Drip Campaign?

An email drip campaign is a series of automated emails sent at set intervals after they’re triggered by a specific action. Most frequently, that action is someone signing up for an email list.

But you can also set up drip campaigns triggered by someone downloading a piece of content, signing up for a free trial, or making a purchase — to name a few examples.


Why Your Small Business Should Use Email Drip Campaigns

You’re busy running a new small business. To add a new marketing tactic to your to-do list, you need to be sure it’s worth your time. There are three main reasons for a small business to consider using email drip campaigns.  


1. They’re easy.

Any good email marketing software makes it easy to set up a drip campaign. Because the emails are automated, once you write and design the emails in your drip campaign once, your software takes care of sending them out to your subscribers at the right time moving forward.  


2. They build a relationship with your customers.

When you’re browsing your inbox and trying to decide which emails are worth opening, what’s the main deciding factor? For a lot of people — 64%, to be precise — it’s recognizing who the sender is.

For many consumers, all the work marketers put into crafting the perfect email subject line ultimately matters less than whether or not they remember who you are when your email lands in their inbox.

Setting up a drip campaign for your new subscribers ensures that they hear from you a number of times within the first few weeks after they sign up.  Instead of being a business whose website they landed on once and then forgot about, you become a business they’ve interacted with enough to now see as familiar. That makes a big difference in how they’ll view all the future emails you send.  


3. They’re effective.

Drip campaigns get results. Various studies have found that open rates for drip campaigns are 80% higher than single send emails and they generate 50% more sales-ready leads.

Drip campaigns nurture your leads. They’re your opportunity take someone from a mild interest in your business to a strong understanding of what you do and why it matters.


How to Create Successful Drip Campaigns

Before you start setting up email drip campaigns for your business, take a little time to learn some basic best practices.


1. Clarify your goals.

Every email drip campaign should have both an overarching goal, as well as specific goals for every email included. Before you start on your emails, sit down and figure out what you want your drip campaign to achieve. Then figure out what you want each email to achieve on the path to that overall goal.

Your overall goal in a drip campaign will often be to get your subscribers to make a purchase, but you don’t want every email to make a hard sell. You wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who asked for a favor every single time you saw them, so don’t be that guy in your  emails.

Some good (non-purchase) goals to have for specific emails in your drip campaign include:

  •      Education (less about driving action than building a relationship)
  •      A click through to a piece of content
  •      A download of a piece of content
  •      Getting a response with feedback

Choose a mix of goals to focus on for your individual emails that all support your overall goal of gaining new customers.


2. Make sure your emails provide unique value.

Your email subscribers are extremely valuable. Your emails should reflect that.

Don’t just send them the same content and offers that every visitor to your website gets, find ways to provide them with unique value. That could mean creating exclusive content for your drip campaigns that only subscribers get or providing a special discount code or a free gift with purchase for subscribers only.

Think of ways you can use your drip campaign to give your subscribers the VIP treatment.


3. Segment your lists.

Getting a new email subscriber is a big deal. The last thing you want is to lose them soon after they’ve signed up. If a visitor to your website signs up for your emails because of an interest in content about dogs and your first few emails are all about cats, then they’re not getting what they expected and are more likely to unsubscribe.

why people unsubscribe to business email marketing

Receiving irrelevant content is the third biggest reason for unsubscribes. But if you own a pet supplies store that sells items for both cats and dogs, what can you do?

Email marketing software like Constant Contact makes it possible to create a number of different email lists so you can better target your emails to the people interested in them. You can either let people select which topics they’re interested in when they sign up, or make sure they’re put on the right list based on how they signed up. For example, the person who signed up by downloading a guide on dog training would go on your Dog People email list, rather than the Cat People one.

Make sure the drip campaign you create is relevant for the specific list people join. And just as importantly, make sure that the way you describe and promote your email list to future subscribers accurately communicates what they’ll get. When your subscribers know what they’re signing up for, they’ll be happier with what they get out of it.


4. Use a consistent design.

The emails in your drip campaign are all part of a series. You can signal their connection to each other visually by making sure they all have a consistent design. Make sure the style of your emails fits in with the style of your website. Include your logo and go with a similar color scheme.

Many people are visual learners and will more easily be able to associate your different emails with each other and your overall brand if they’re all linked with a familiar style.  In most email marketing software programs, you can create templates you can use when creating each email to keep them within the same general style and structure.


5. Include CTAs.

We already covered the importance of making sure every email you write has a clear goal. Anytime the goal of your email is for the recipient to take an action, explicitly ask them to take that action.

In each email, include a CTA to help your subscribers know the next step you’d like them to take. Even if the goal of a particular email is to raise brand awareness, you can add in a CTA like “Contact us if you have any questions” to provide an option that encourages further engagement. But make sure each email is focused on only one CTA — you don’t want to confuse your list or muddy your focus.


6. Make sure your emails look good on mobile.

People frequently use smartphones to check their email. About half of all email opens now occur on mobile devices. For the emails in your drip campaign to achieve their goal, they need to work at least as well on mobile devices as they do on desktop.

mobile vs desktop email open rates

Design your drip campaign with mobile in mind. Test out the emails on your own mobile devices to make sure they look good and the links are easy to click on. If you have employees or friends that own different types of mobile devices than you, ask them to check how it looks on theirs as well.

Your emails need to provide a good experience on mobile or you’re alienating a lot of your audience and could lose subscribers over it.


7. Pay attention to your analytics.

Because it’s automated, a drip campaign is in theory something you can create once and then leave on autopilot. But if you care about the results you get, you need to commit to tracking the analytics that show how people interact with your drip campaign so you can make it better over time.

Your email marketing software will provide analytics on the number of opens, clicks, and unsubscribes you get with each email.

Analyze what’s working and where there’s room for improvement. Test out different approaches in your drip emails. Try out different CTAs, wording, and images. Or see if shaking up the order you send them out in makes a difference. The more data you gain, the stronger you’ll be able to make your drip campaign.


Engage Your Small Business Customers with Email Drip Campaigns

When your small business is new, getting those first followers and customers is hard. An email drip campaign will help you develop a relationship with the leads you gain in your early marketing efforts, so you can begin converting them into your first customers.

For more tips on email marketing for your small business, check out these email marketing best practices.

Are you a HostGator customer? Learn how you can save on email marketing from Constant Contact!

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5 Best WordPress Security Plugins Mon, 17 Sep 2018 19:59:52 +0000 The post 5 Best WordPress Security Plugins appeared first on HostGator Blog.

If you’re wondering, “Do I need a WordPress security plugin?” The answer is yes. WordPress is the most popular CMS...

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If you’re wondering, “Do I need a WordPress security plugin?” The answer is yes. WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world. That popularity also makes it a popular choice for hackers.

Now, WordPress has regular updates to patch any new and existing security holes. But, security as a whole is a reactive process. Patches are only issued once a security vulnerability is known.

At its core, WordPress is incredibly secure. But the massive ecosystem of plugins and WordPress themes makes it more vulnerable to security holes.

To protect your WordPress website against these security risks, it’s always a good idea to use a WordPress security plugin. Below we look at five of the best WordPress security plugins and highlight both free and paid options.

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Why You Need a WordPress Security Plugin

WordPress has some pretty solid security measures in place, but if you’re looking to take that security even further you’ll want to utilize a security plugin.

By using a WordPress security plugin, you’ll get access to additional features that WordPress doesn’t have right out of the box, including:

  • Site, file, and malware scanning
  • Protection from brute force attacks
  • Regular security scans, monitoring, notifications
  • Site firewalls
  • Overall security hardening

Sure, you can get by without having these in place, but why would you risk it? Sadly, a lot of site owners don’t think about security for their WordPress website until it’s too late.

Once your WordPres site has been compromised, there’s not a lot you can do besides notify your visitors and try to clean up the mess. If only there was something you could’ve done to prevent this.

Good news: there is. It’s using a WordPress security plugin.


The Best WordPress Security Plugins

For anything related to WordPress you’ll find dozens of popular plugins to install. Going through every plugin yourself can be tedious, which is why we created this list.

Below you’ll find five of the top WordPress security plugins that are both free and paid that help to protect your site against security vulnerabilities.


1. All In One WP Security & Firewall

all in one security

All In One WP Security & Firewall is one of the most popular WordPress security plugins. It’s very easy to use and you can configure this plugin pretty easily, even if you don’t have any tech skills.

It’s equipped with a unique grading system, so you can see which areas of your WordPress site are protected, and what you need to improve upon. Since it’s visually based it’s easy to see and correct any areas of your site that might be weak.

The main ways this plugin will improve your security are by protecting against blue force login attempts, securing your user accounts, creating a website firewall, protecting your WordPress databases, and even allowing you to blacklist certain sites or IP addresses.

Plus, it has a built-in security scanner so you’ll know that your site is always protected against hackers.

All In One WP Security & Firewall is a completely free plugin that you can download here. You also won’t run into any annoying upsells, or having to upgrade to unlock more features.


2. iThemes Security

ithemes security plugin

iThemes security is a feature-packed WordPress security plugin. It’s available as both a free and paid plugin for WordPress sites. The paid version will unlock more detailed security measures.

The free version has some decent features, but if you really want to protect your site, you’ll want to consider the pro version. It will not only unlock some stellar security features but it’s also affordable, at only $80 per year.

The Pro version does a lot to enhance security, like providing strong password protection, backing up and securing your databases, protecting against brute force attacks, moving your login page, adding two-factor authentication, and a lot more.

Plus, you’ll get regular website monitoring and dedicated professional support.

You can download and give the free version of the plugin a test drive, or upgrade to the pro version here.


3. Wordfence Security

wordfence security plugin

WordFence Security is one of the top free WordPress security plugins on the market. It excels in protecting your site from brute force attacks, real-time security monitoring, login page protection, and IP blacklisting. Plus, it adds a firewall to your site.

WordFence also has an extensive database of offending websites and IP addresses, which are atomically blocked from accessing your site.

The premium version of the plugin is equipped with additional features to take your security to new heights. That includes real-time threat protection, an improved firewall, two-factor authentication, geographic protection, dedicated support, improved spam protection, and more.

You can download the free version of Wordfence here, or you can opt to purchase the premium version.  


4. Sucuri Security

sucuri wordpress plugin

The Sucuri Security plugin is created by a team of WordPress security experts. This plugin is entirely free and will help both will regular site monitoring, and strengthen your existing levels of security.

Once you install the plugin it will automatically scan your site to look for any infected files or known sources of security weakness. You can then restore or repair your site to ensure it’s in good working condition.

Beyond this initial scan and clean up this plugin will provide you with regular website monitoring and malware scanning. Plus, it will strengthen your existing security protocols to ensure that your site is protected against the biggest threats and vulnerabilities lurking online.

You can install this plugin for free here. There’s also an option to opt for a premium version of this plugin, which will add a website firewall and more security features to your site.


5. SecuPress


SecuPress is a relatively new addition to the WordPress security space. However, it’s seen very rapid growth. There are both free and premium versions of this plugin available.

One of the strongest features of SecuPress is its intuitive UI, which makes it incredibly easy to setup and use. Not only that it’s equipped with a built-in security scanner, which will scan your site for six main points of vulnerability.

If any points of weakness are revealed during this scan, then the plugin will actually fix them at the click of a button. Overall, this is a very solid and easy to use security plugin.

The premium version of the plugin will give you additional features like anti-spam protection, automated website backups in case a restore is needed, and automated website scans.

You can download the free version of the plugin here, or pick up the Pro version for $59.


Closing Thoughts

Website security is complex. It’s continually evolving, and what kept your site secure a year ago probably won’t do the trick today.

Instead of trying to understand all the security threats out there, the better course of action is taking the necessary steps to protect your site, and letting the experts handle and understand the risks they’re protecting you from.

All of the plugins above are great choices when it comes to protecting your website. If you have a smaller site and don’t get a ton of traffic, then you can probably get away with a free WordPress security plugin. But, as your site grows it’s probably a good idea to upgrade to one of the paid options above and look into implementing a website security checker.

Improve the security of your site without having to lift a finger. Upgrade to managed WordPress hosting now, and our WordPress experts monitor your site for threats and take care of security for you, so you never have to worry. 

Improve the security of your site without having to lift a finger. Upgrade to managed WordPress hosting now, and our WordPress experts monitor your site for threats and take care of security for you, so you never have to worry.

With your site’s security taken care of you can focus on the important things, running your online business, and growing your traffic.

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6 Mistakes That Trip Up Online Stores During Holiday Traffic Surges Fri, 14 Sep 2018 17:42:41 +0000 The post 6 Mistakes That Trip Up Online Stores During Holiday Traffic Surges appeared first on HostGator Blog.

The holidays are the most wonderful eCommerce time of the year. They also can be the most stressful if you’re...

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The post 6 Mistakes That Trip Up Online Stores During Holiday Traffic Surges appeared first on HostGator Blog.

The holidays are the most wonderful eCommerce time of the year. They also can be the most stressful if you’re not ready to deal with extra customer traffic to your online store.

Site crashes, unhappy customers, and shipping slowdowns can wreck your holiday revenue projections and thoroughly stress you out.

For a more peaceful and productive holiday sales season no matter how many customers show up, plan now to avoid these common mistakes.


Mistake #1: A hosting plan that can’t handle holiday traffic spikes

Even big retailers struggle with crashes when shoppers overwhelm their sites during Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. But that doesn’t mean that crashes are inevitable, and they’re certainly not good for business.

Big companies can cope with downtime because they offer deep-discount deals that customers will check back for. But most small online sellers don’t have that kind of drawing power. If your store has an outage on a major sale day, odds are shoppers will just take their money somewhere else.

online shoppers leave ecommerce websites if they take too long to load

Even if your site doesn’t crash, heavy traffic could make it slow to a crawl. When product pages take too long to load (say, longer than five seconds), your customers will likely move on.

Avoid this mistake: Head off crashes and site slowdowns this holiday season by looking over your hosting plan now. Is there a limit to how much bandwidth you can use or the number of site visits you can have in a given month? If so, is your holiday sales traffic likely to exceed those limits?

Talk to your web host about whether you should upgrade to a hosting plan that includes flexible scalability to handle whatever site traffic your sales bring in.

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Mistake #2: No automated site backups

Traffic isn’t the only thing that can take your site offline. Malware that gets past your site’s security measures, updates that go awry, hackers, and user errors can crash your site or cause problems so severe that it’s better to take the site down until you can restore a previous, uncorrupted version.

That’s easy enough to do if a previous, uncorrupted version of your site exists.

If it doesn’t? You could lose a lot of holiday business while you figure out what’s wrong with your site, fix it, and bring it back online.

Avoid this mistake: If your hosting plan doesn’t provide automated site backups, it’s time to switch to one that does. With an auto-backup plan, you don’t have to remember to manually back up your site and you can easily restore previous versions through your hosting dashboard, so you can get your site back online for holiday shoppers.


Mistake #3: Not enough protection against hackers and malware

Not every holiday visitor to your site may be there to shop. Malware can come from many sources, and people try to hack all kinds of sites for all types of reasons, from data theft to boredom.

You can and should follow best practices on your end like using strong passwords, being suspicious of strange emails, and keeping your hardware secure and your software up to date and patched. Even so, extra layers of protection can reduce the risk of malicious mischief, even when your store is swarmed with visitors.

Avoid this mistake: Find out what security measures your web host takes to protect your data and keep your site online. Look for features like regular scans to detect and remove malware, free SSL certificates, updated server firewalls, and physical security of server sites. Ask your host about upgrades to make your site more secure.


Mistake #4: No extra fraud-screening capacity

Holiday shoppers want their orders approved fast, and there are a lot of orders to approve, especially on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That means the pace of order decisions can be overwhelming, and fraudsters count on that to slip bad orders through.

LexisNexis reported in 2017 that during holiday sales peaks, up to 43% of orders may be attempted fraud. Without advance planning, you may be forced to choose between more fraud losses due to rapid approvals or more lost sales due to slow approval times.

Avoid this mistake: Talk to your fraud prevention team or third-party service now to make a plan. Will you need to hire seasonal analysts and customer service reps? Do you need to update your internal negative and positive files for faster decisions? What will it cost to scale up your fraud screening capacity during the holidays? Find out now.


Mistake #5: Not enough customer service options

Online shoppers already expect immediate customer service via live chat, chatbots, social media messaging, or a real person on the phone.

Responsive customer service is important year-round and especially during the holiday shopping season, because customers are often looking for specific items and are in a hurry to move on to the next sale or item on their gift list. Answer their questions in real time and you’re likely to make more sales.

If all you offer is an email address, you may not be able to keep up with inquiries or answer them fast enough, which means you could lose sales to competitors with better support.

Avoid this mistake: Now’s the time to audit your customer service offerings and plan for an increase in demand during holiday sales. If you only have email support, consider adding Facebook Customer Chat (in beta, but there’s already a WordPress plugin) or a chatbot extension tailored to your eCommerce platform to handle common questions.


Mistake #6: No plan for handling all those extra orders

Making lots of sales is one of the highlights of the holiday eCommerce season. Getting those purchases out the door can be one of the headaches.

When the orders are pouring in—especially when customers are paying for rush shipping—packing and shipping can become a bottleneck that leads to delayed shipments and unhappy customers. If you want those customers to come back after the holidays, make sure you have a plan to supercharge your normal shipping routine.

Avoid this mistake: Order extra shipping supplies now. Running out of labels, boxes, tape, or ink in the middle of a peak sales period can slow you down and cost you extra if you have to place a rush order of your own so you can get back to work.


Fired Up for the Holiday Sales Season?

Use these tips to improve your store before Black Friday shoppers arrive, and get some holiday marketing campaign inspiration.

Find the post on the HostGator Blog

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