With fewer than six weeks until Christmas, shopping is in full swings. Consumers are breaking out their credit cards both in store and online, and your eCommerce website can benefit from this fact if you make sure that your website is fully prepared for the holidays! What things will make the holiday season a success for your store?

1. Customer Service

You might go light with customer service during every other season, but you'll want to increase your hours and potentially even your customer service staff during winter. More shoppers means more questions about products and returns. These efforts should extend into the week after Christmas, during which you may experience higher-than-normal returns from people who purchased a gift that didn't go over as well as planned or from recipients with gift receipts. Highly-trained customer service specialists will be able to turn those returns into exchanges! A clear return policy can save a lot of time answering calls, too.

Recommendation: This Guide is a good starting point.

2. Gift Guides

Content marketing is important all year round, but holiday shopping makes it especially easily for you to get people to your website. Gift guides can be separate from your main retail space on your blog, or you can work them into your eCommerce pages. Consider guides for males, females, teens, technophiles and geeks and the fashion-savvy. A couple guides split up by price will encourage shoppers with a variety of budgets. Make this content easily shared to social media, and your products might go viral right before Christmas!

Recommendation: This Template

3. Current Product Listings

Few things are more frustrating to consumers than to have their excitement over a new purchase squashed by an email announcing that an item is out of stock or not longer carried after the fact. So take the time to verify that the stock listing on your site matches up with your warehouse or suppliers. Don't get your customers' hopes up only to dash them at Christmas time. One trick that online retailers frequently use to encourage sales is highlighting how few items are left in stock. If there's only one or two items left, consumers are more likely to grab them in a hurry. A system that shows stock and out-of-stock items automatically is incredibly helpful as the holidays approach. Furthermore, adding a notification method when items are available once more can help retain customers.

Recommendation: Google's guide for getting product listing right online is a good starting point.

4. Working Links

Products come and go. The structure of your website might change, or you might move to a different platform. This leads to broken links that you might not realize are even there. A broken link can be pretty costly to any eCommerce website. Buyers might move on to another website that works properly, and broken links wreak havoc on your search engine optimization. So clean up any potential broken links well ahead of time. While you can't necessarily estimate everything a visitor might due to possibly cause an error, you can make error pages work for you. Consider routing customers to your most popular products, showcasing your newest additions or even providing suggestions based on keywords in the broken URL. This keeps shoppers on your site and converts browsers to buyer.

Recommendation: Bright Edge SEO marketing tools can do all this and more.

5. Active Social Media

We'd hope that you're posting to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest all year round, and there's no reason to stop because it's Christmas. Social media is the perfect way to advertise gift guides, and you can get your community buzzing by suggesting individual products or figuring out what folks plan to buy for everyone on their list. Provide sneak-peaks into your Cyber Monday or Black Friday sales if you have them, and there's not reason not to in 2014! Plus, you can encourage newsletter or email subscriptions with special discounts, which shoppers are sure to grab at their shopping lists become ever longer.

Recommendation: Little Bird’s social tools will point you in the right direction.

Of course, none of these things should be ignored during the rest of the year, but they're especially important during the holiday season!

About the Author: Lindsey Patterson likes spending her time on the internet more than real life. Lover of all things marketing and social media. Sometimes you can catch her in the wild at a movie theater.

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