Well, it looks like winter is officially here. The holidays are rushing towards us – faster every year, it seems! Are you taking advantage of the upsurge in e-commerce, either as a buyer or as a seller?

During the run-up to Christmas, with Black Friday sales kicking off a swell in online purchasing, e-commerce site traffic typically increases by a big margin.

As a buyer, apart from great prices, you want fast loading pages, multiple shipping options, secure payment methods, streamlined checkout processes. You aren’t likely to wait around for heavy page loads or be willing to click through several pages of forms in order to get what you want.

As an online seller, keeping your site optimized and efficient is essential to providing a great experience for your visitors, and that in turn will lead to more sales. Take a look at your site and try to see if there are any ways to simplify the buying process for your customers – without jeopardizing security, of course!

Images of your products are essential to creating sales. First of all, use images of your actual products, not something you grabbed off the web that “looks just like” what you are selling. This sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many e-commerce site owners balk at having professional photos of their products taken, usually citing the expense. I encourage you to look at it not as an expense, but rather as an investment in your ongoing success online. And be sure to make certain that your site administrator has optimized all the images on the site. Properly optimized images will speed up the page load speed.

If you stock many related items, consider using composite images as an initial draw for customers. Show the products in relationship to each other (a room layout, for example) and when the customer clicks on the image, have them taken to a page that displays each product with its details – sizes, colours, prices, etc.

And don’t forget to add a little holiday décor to the site, if possible. A bright red bow, some snowflakes, a couple of nicely wrapped packages (this lay is especially useful of you offer gift wrapping as an option).  You can dress up your site for the holidays with a few small visual additions that will not interfere with the overall layout of the site.

Is your site ready to go mobile? More and more people are accessing the web using tablets and smartphones – you don’t want to lose that audience due to a less-than-lovely mobile rendering of your site.  Check the site in as many devices as you can, to make sure it is displaying well on all of them.

Last, but certainly not least, have your call to action prominently placed on your pages – and tailor it to the content wherever possible. A nice general “Shop for the Holidays” is fine for a landing page or a page with special holiday pricing – whereas a more specific CTA, for example “Give her the gift of Cashmere” will work very well for internal pages spotlighting that product.

Online shopping can (and should) be fun, convenient, and easy. If you pay attention to these basic guidelines, your site will provide just that kind of experience to your customers.