As Christmas can be one of the most lucrative times of the year for any store, an important step in your preparation is to ensure your foundations are ready.
Before making any changes to your Zen Cart store in preparation for Christmas, ensure you know exactly how to do a backup of your store database and files. Then make sure you do a regular backup. How often you back up is guided by how busy your online store is and also on how often you add new products or make other changes. It is definitely well worth the time and effort to backup your store prior to making any changes to the database or store files. Most changes in Admin can be reversed easily but sometimes even small changes to the database or a php file can be catastrophic. And leading up to Christmas is the worst time to have your store down for business. Backup, backup, backup!
Is your Zen Cart store up to date? Have you applied all the latest security patches and bug fixes. Remember that they are not included in the latest download so you will have to install them separately at this stage. While you are looking at these, don’t put off changing the name of your Admin folder any longer.
Check that you have adequate stock levels to take you through the Christmas / New Year period. With suppliers and manufacturers closed during the holiday period, it may be difficult to arrange additional deliveries.
Conduct a stocktake against your Zen Cart records and make adjustments as required. You don’t want to disappoint your customers with Out of Stock or On Backorder notices. Ensure you can deliver on completed sales in the expected time frame.
Product Titles and Descriptions
When people shop online they tend to search in one of these three ways: generic product (eg camping stove), brand-name product (eg MSR Simmerlite Stove) or solution based (eg light, multi-fuel stove for camping). Which type of search suits your products? Are you easy to find online? How does your Zen Cart store rank in the search engine results using these different search terms?
Review your product titles and product descriptions to make sure you have included the search terms you are targeting. And remember, your product titles need to make sense on their own, not only in the context of your categories. Make your product descriptions unique, don’t just rely on the manufacturer’s description of the product or on copying the other products in the series. If you are selling art work or other hand-crafted pieces, customers like to know a little back story on the creation of the piece and the search engines will also love the additional content.
You may also want to tweak some product descriptions to suit the Christmas period – for example including ‘great gift idea for Dad’ or ‘imagine Christmas dinner with this beautiful table linen’.
Remember, shoppers will generally search for product names rather than store names.
Meta Keywords and Descriptions
While not as significant as natural content on your Category and Product pages, the meta keyword and description fields provide additional information for search engines. The meta descriptions in particular may be used by search engines as the summary under the page title in the search results. Select key sections from your Product Description to include in the meta description field. Look at how your competitors are listed in the search engine results for products and amend your meta information if required.
Shipping and Returns Policies
You may not have reviewed your shipping and returns policies since you first set up your Zen Cart store. If you offer a range of shipping options, are the differences in delivery time they can expect clearly outlined? Do your customers understand the conditions in which you will accept a return?
Are your shipping and return policies easy to find from the Home page?
A sure sign of an unfinished Zen Cart store is visiting a page and finding sample text such as “To remove this section of the text, delete it from the Define Pages Editor” or “A few words about the approximate shipping time or your processing policy would be put here”.
Out-of-date information on define pages is also a sign that the online store may not be maintained and this will also erode customer confidence in your store.
Zen Cart Email Communications
The Welcome Email forms part of your store’s first impressions. The Zen Cart emails are an important part (and sometimes the only method) of communicating with your customers. It is vital you know the contents of the email messages sent from Zen Cart and that they display correctly. If you have HTML email as an option, have you updated the email templates to include your store’s logo and to reflect the color scheme of your online store? Do they portray a professional image?