With the retail ecommerce sector ringing up a banner holiday season in 2011, we wanted to know just which website optimization strategies contributed the most to this success.

Enter Nathan Richter, Monetate’s Strategic Services Director, who dug through the data and identified three optimization fronts on which the majority of our clients scored this past holiday—as well as the beginning stages of a trend that will play a big role in how holiday 2012 unfolds.

When you start laying out your website plan for this year’s high selling season, keep in mind the following top-performing strategies:

1. Targeted shipping offers.
Marketers maximized sales opportunities by presenting the most compelling, cost-effective shipping offers possible to visitors. Based on visitor geolocation and other data—such as shipping zones, warehouse locations, competitors’ store locations, etc.—they leveraged free shipping and/or countdown clocks for guaranteed delivery cutoffs, as well as shipping upgrade opportunities as it got closer to December 24.

Where marketers could get additional mileage out of this technique, Richter explains, is to go even more granular within shipping zones. For example, if you have a warehouse in Denver, then you could offer shoppers in that metropolitan area a shipping cutoff for ground delivery for longer into the season than shoppers who are not situated near one of your fulfillment sites (or a hub for one of your expedited carriers).

2. Omnichannel coordination.
Every year, we see more and more comfort with retailers acting as one integrated company across all channels,” says Richter. This past season, he states, this comfort level manifested itself in the use of the website to facilitate the store experience and capture sales when shipping costs or delivery guarantees might be an obstacle.

For example, apparel retailers used banner messages to encourage shoppers interested in a product size or color that was out of stock on the website to visit a local brick-and-mortar store. In addition, marketers promoted the store as an option to get that last-minute gift on December 24.

Conversely, says Richter, shoppers who live outside a certain distance from a physical store were informed of the website’s ability to handle returns (in some cases, for free) on purchases made in any channel.

Richter emphasizes the continued need for omnichannel coordination, pointing to Amazon and other online pure-plays that move quickly without the challenge of getting channels to play well together.

3. Affinity efforts.
To solve the dilemma of how to drive sales on holiday merchandise without blowing up your typical website structure for those four to six weeks of the holiday season, marketers implemented quick navigation, reports Richter. They used this temporary navigation to promote special holidays sections, products tagged as seasonal, or service elements related to the holidays. Some chose to present their offerings through sub navigation, while others opted for sidebars or graphic elements. But no matter how they approached quick navigation, it worked.

And now for the trend prediction you were promised
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock since last fall, you probably can guess the hot, new thing that Richter says got a boost during holiday 2011, but whose impact won’t be realized until the coming season. Yes, he’s referring to tablets, which 19% of U.S. adults now own after the buying spree this past December. Most important is the launch of the Kindle Fire, which IHS Suppli recently reported had a 14% share of the tablet market by the end of Q42011—just a month or so after its release. Expect its hold on the market to grow.

Richter advises marketers get ahead of the wave of traffic that will be headed to their websites via tablets. Key factors to keep in mind are screen size, operating system, and user behavior. Now is the time to see where tablet usage fits into the research/purchase lifecycle, he explains, and then determine how to leverage this insight to best complement and optimize it with content and functionality.

To learn the best practices Richter has discerned surrounding how to prep your website for tablet traffic, check out this free webinar from ROI on which he co-presented with Forrester’s Sucharita Mulpuru and QVC’s Mike Madaio.