The days from Black Friday through Christmas pull in 50% to 100% more revenue compared to days throughout the rest of the year for retailers. That means your site needs to be ready for the holiday season.

Just look at the increase in revenue over the holidays for 2014:

Revenue for 2014 Holidays

The biggest spikes come from Black Friday/Cyber Monday and mid-December (a week or more before Christmas). For 2014, Cyber Monday was the most popular shopping day of the year, reaching 13 million page views per minute, up 16% from 2013. With each passing year, more holiday shoppers flock to ecommerce sites, which means that your store needs to take advantage of the influx of traffic by converting more.

Time is closing fast for you to optimize your site in time for the holidays. Begin to plan strategies to develop and execute tests now in order to win the holidays later. Specifically, you’ll want to get ready for these days:

Holidays to Look Out For

Optimizely 2013 Holiday Stats

Shoppers want better buying experiences. Provide that by noting these effective trends in recent years used by the top retailers and see how they apply to your store.


Highlight Benefit of Shopping Early Sales Online in Copy

A trend that has become increasingly popular with users is the early sale. Many online shoppers are customers simply because the convenience of buying on the desktop or mobile versus offline. A user can buy wherever and whenever – why wouldn’t they want that for holiday sales? Many retailers are now eliminating the time constraint of having one day reserved for a huge sale. Start your sale a week early or offer a preview sale of certain products that makes more sense for the online shopper.

See how Walmart didn’t have an early sale before 2011 and has since emphasized it more every year.



Emphasize Name Brands from Sales in Hero Images

Many users are excited about your huge Black Friday sale so they can score that coveted deal. Often, users believe they’re getting the best deal when it’s a discount on an item from a well-known brand. These are the items you want to feature or highlight for your sale in hero images and banners to attract users. Testing this will help you determine how effective it is to move users down the holiday sales funnel.

Sears did this wonderfully last year during its Black Friday week, but let’s go back to 2010 first to see how they got there.


  • Identify the brands that your customers love to buy
  • Call out those brands using images, logos and copy in your hero image and CTA to create anticipation for quality shopping


Set Your Sale Apart with Alternative Time Ranges

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are essentially made-up “holidays” by retailers. So there’s no need to follow rules strictly when it comes to these sales. Think of creative ways to differentiate your sale and make it stand out from all the noise. Some retailers do the typical sale during Cyber Monday but also follow up with another sale when everything has died down.

See how Walmart and Amazon used this approach:



Call Out Discounts or Pricing on Category Images & Links

Shoppers are drawn into a category page from the homepage when there is a amazing deal available. Show this early in the funnel by adding callouts to your category images and links so they’re encouraged to explore. For example, some of your cameras are up to 30% off – the category image for that could have a sticker with a tag that says “Save up to 30%”.

  • Test various callouts such as “Items as low as $2.99” and “Save up to 30%”
  • Use colors for that callout that contrast from the category image

Let’s look at Walmart again to see how they began use this tactic:



Provide Gift Ideas for Specific Price Ranges

Don’t forget that the holidays are about actually giving! Sure, many users are scoring deals for themselves, but just as many need to secure a long list of gifts. Cater to these users by providing easy access to a category pages with great gift ideas in a certain price range. For example, gifts under $10 are great for gifts to casual friends, while gifts under $100 are more appropriate for close friends and family.

Both Eastbay, a retailer for athletic gear, and JCPenny has done this before in the past:



Display a Sale Countdown

Urgency does wonders for conversions and can help greatly to drive your users to purchase. To remind shoppers that your sale only lasts a limited amount of time, show a timer or the number of days remaining. This will push them to make their purchase sooner rather than later. Test various ways to present this by having a live countdown by the second, by the hour, or a general one by the day.

Newegg, an electronics retailer, leveraged urgency for its sales throughout the years:



Show Days Left to Order for Arrival by Christmas

For the final week leading up the Christmas, most users are in a frenzy about buying gifts in time to get to their friends and family. Facilitate their purchasing behavior by alerting them of the days left to order in time for items to arrive in time. Similar to a countdown, show the remaining days and the available shipping methods that guarantee their gifts’ delivery. Shoppers will be urged to buy before it’s too late for fear that they’ll miss out.

Sears has done this throughout the years by emphasizing days left to get items before Christmas this near the top of their site.



Offer “Perfect” Gift-Giving Advice to Make Buyers Confident

Coming up with gift ideas are tough when you have a big list of recipients. Often, shoppers find it easier to purchase when they’re suggested quality items. A curated list of the “perfect” gifts for your users should be tested to help your users add awesome items to their cart without the need to rack their brain. This list could be done a number of ways; leverage user reviews, popular purchases, or a staff-created list. This way, users have a much smaller portion of your products to browse and they feel more confident about their purchased gifts.

Crate and Barrel, among many ecommerce stores, have done this for awhile:



Remember to Push Gift Cards to Uncertain Gift Shoppers

Gift cards are very popular during the holidays because they are a convenient way for shoppers to give without the need to browse for a perfect, specific item. Others will also use buy them as supplementary gifts or stocking stuffers to round out their purchases. Either way, your store should remind users they have this option readily available to add to their cart.

We’ll take a look at how Zappos.com does it time and time again, starting in 2010.


  • Test placement of your gift card CTA throughout your page
  • Iterate different versions of copy to sell gift cards as an ideal option

You Can’t Afford to Go Into the Holidays Without Optimization

Because the holidays are such a high-traffic time period for retailers, it is also the most competitive. Many ecommerce stores are finding that a sale with great items is only the price of admission. Unless you’re Amazon, who owns 23% of the online retail market share, your site needs to provide an optimized experience. With 75% of the top 500 retailers already A/B testing and 61% of those companies scaling it by the end of this year, your store can’t afford to start the holidays without improving your testing process. Only companies who are testing to their potential for the season and making the holiday shopping UX better will win – will you be one of them?

For tips and suggestions for the rest of the year, check out our previous post with A/B tests to try on your ecommerce store.

If you’d like to know how Experiment Engine can improve your A/B testing and prep you for the holidays, request a demo.

About the Author

Ray Loyd - Passionate about conversion rate optimization and A/B testing. Loves engaging content that provides value and enjoys connecting within the community. Also a movie nerd.