Traditionally, Black Friday was associated with North American shoppers eagerly filling their carts to make the most of the pre-Christmas sales. Over recent years it has evolved into one of Australia’s biggest in-store and online shopping events of the year too, with November sales growing 42% in the ten years to 2018. And with many of Australia’s small independent retailers spending large periods of 2020 either closed or operating under capacity restrictions, this year’s event could be especially important for them.

At a time when shoppers are more reliant than ever on technology, retailers cannot afford to ignore the importance of having a safe, reliable and efficient website to promote their business, products and offers. Getting your online presence ready well ahead of November 27 is essential in helping to ensure you’re prepared to drive purchases, provide your customers with a premium experience and promote and protect your brand. So, here are a few ways to help build an online presence capable of handling the potential influx of visitors and offer a great customer experience.

Secure your site with SSL

With today’s increasingly tech savvy customers prioritising their security online, it’s imperative to ensure that their data and information is protected on your website. Indeed, GoDaddy research revealed that two thirds of Australians are concerned about cyber security, while one in five have already fallen victim of a cyber breach. Therefore, it’s important to build trust and implement safeguards.

An SSL certificate is a form of data encryption which adds an additional layer of protection for any sensitive data that is exchanged on your website, such as credit card numbers when making online transactions. SSL security also adds “HTTPS” to your website’s URL, a sign that 65% of Australians look for when determining whether a site is secure. This will not only help your customers feel confident that they can trust your site, but also gives you peace of mind that your website has an extra layer of protection for your customers.

Be more visible on Google

While SSL adds security to your retail website, it can also help boost its search engine optimisation (SEO), too. This is the algorithm that determines how high it appears in search results. Specifically, Google factors SSL into its SEO algorithms, with sites that have SSL ranking higher than those without. With customers turning to online channels to shop and compare sales across different sites, boosting your SEO ranking could help direct traffic to your site.

Prepare for an influx of website visits

While physical stores have been closed for long periods of 2020, customers are becoming more accustomed to, and reliant on, online browsing and shopping. To help your site to handle the potential surge in demand, ensure your website hosting is up to scratch. Web hosting is the technology that makes a website viewable to people around the world and, when effective, facilitates fast page load times and no downtime. Slow load speeds can, literally, cost your business customers, so test all aspects of your site – from the homepage and product pages, to the checkout and payment process.

Utilise online analytics

Online analytics tools allow you to gain valuable insight into how visitors are browsing your site, such as where conversions happen, the pages from which people leave your site and your most popular products. Consider setting up new conversion goals for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales period so you can see exactly how your store performed and how it could be improved for next year.

As we approach the end of a year filled with disruption, Black Friday – and the festive shopping season that follows it – could be an important step in your retail business’ ongoing recovery. These tactics can help you for both the short- and long-term – so don’t wait.

Suzanne Mitchell is senior marketing director for GoDaddy Australia