As the annual Black Friday shopping craze looms, a website might not be the only place where consumers are searching for a good deal.
Social media platforms and shopping apps are starting to gain an edge over retail websites as a primary point of sale.
Joshua Shimkin, Head of SME Growth and Marketing at online payment gateway Peach Payments, says that it is critical for online businesses to take a dedicated and deliberate approach to build trust across the various channels where their customers might browse or make a purchase.
The 2023 South African Customer Experience Report notes that organisational websites are the third channel of choice for 83% of respondents for online shopping.
The report indicates that “a full 93% reported that they engaged with brands via apps. This was closely followed by social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook (92%).”
While advertising on these channels has become de rigueur, businesses should note that “social shopping” is becoming the norm for many consumers, says Shimkin.
“Legitimate businesses need to bring greater customer confidence to these less obvious sales channels.”
He adds that these touchpoints include:
1. Your website (still!)
Websites remain one of the key touchpoints for consumers who want to know that their personal data, especially credit card information, is secured when they transact on your site.
For this reason, online businesses should offer payment methods that require a one-time PIN or banking app authorisation (known as 3D Secure).
“Furthermore, using a payment gateway instead of integrating directly into a single payment method offers many benefits. For example, this can ensure that newer payment methods use established security protocols before making them available to business owners,” says Shimkin.
Consumers also continue to rely on reviews to establish a company’s legitimacy prior to making a buying decision.
Across almost all metrics, survey respondents say they conduct significantly more due diligence before they shop than previously.
Ensure you keep track of these reviews and always respond, Shimkin adds. “This is especially important for SMEs,” he says, “as it helps customers to feel noticed and important and adds a layer of legitimacy to the business.”
2. Your social media channels
This year, consumer trends indicate that social media trumps all other channels, with 56% of respondents starting their journey on these platforms, according to the report.
“It’s becoming more important than ever to have an active social media presence. Whether a potential customer is starting their discovery journey or intending to make a purchase, businesses need to address consumers’ immediate concerns,” Shimkin says. These include secure payment options, assurances around deliveries and responsiveness to direct messaging as well as a well-monitored company webpage.
More consumers are checking out social media mentions, while savvy users might post on community groups to ask for reviews or experiences with advertisers. Active engagement, here, won’t go amiss, he adds.
“A business’s legitimacy remains a “social shopping” concern. Fake accounts abound, and the threat of scams is very real. Integrity through the entire buying cycle needs to be reflected in your responsiveness, ease-of-contact and working links to your website that reinforce buyer confidence,” he says.
3. Your apps
According to the report, apps lead the way when it comes to parting with cash, with half of the respondents using them to complete transactions. Websites still play a significant role in the customer journey, but apps account for high transaction volumes.
Shimkin advises that consumers feel more confident with apps that can be downloaded from official sources, such as app stores or your website. Implementing best practices in your app development will also ensure a glitch-free user experience.
Make sure that it’s easy to accept payments in your apps. Payment choices and a simple check-out will result in high transaction success rates, he says.
“Consumers are becoming more accustomed to the convenience of shopping wherever their devices are. Your service needs to be as responsive as your interface to offer a trustworthy experience that reflects your business values. This transparency needs to carry through all your key customer channels,” he concludes.