File Image: IOL
File Image: IOL

How SMEs can make up for a tough year this festive season

By Opinion Time of article published Dec 10, 2020

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By Viresh Harduth

Covid-19 has affected how people plan their holidays, and it has impacted wallets and budgets.

It’s been a tough year, but for the small business owner, the next few months are the ideal opportunity to polish up the virtual décor and entice customers online to get the most out of the festive sales.

This is the most competitive time of year, especially for retailers. Even though more South Africans will stay home for the holidays, that doesn’t mean they’ll be offline. You want to make sure your e-commerce platform is visible, enticing, optimised, and relevant so you can cut through the noise and secure the sales.

Do you want to get those festive feet into your online store? Here are seven steps to help you outshine the competition.

Step 1: Easy pay, easy sell

If your site is unwieldy, complicated, or has a difficult payment process that asks people to log in, hand over all their details, and complete multiple forms, you might lose them. Look at sites that are designed to be fast and brilliant with their sales. They have one simple journey that takes the customer seamlessly from purchase, through point of sale, to delivery.

Takeaway tip: Make it easy for your customers to buy what they want, and it will pay off, literally.

Step 2: Optimise, optimise, optimise

Beautifully designed websites that are mobile-friendly and simple to navigate instantly attract attention. Optimise your payment process, but also make sure your site is a pleasure to navigate on a mobile device. Google notes that mobile accounts for more than half of searches on the platform, and that visitors are five times more likely to leave if your site isn’t mobile-friendly.

Takeaway tip: Make sure your site has simple navigation and is easy to use across all platforms and touchpoints.

Step 3: Embrace cloud-based systems

Cloud-based solutions give you and your employees more flexibility to serve customers from anywhere. Your finance and sales team can follow up on payments, order stock, create quotes and process orders, and access all sales information – on the go. What’s more, cloud-based accounting systems automate a lot of these processes, freeing up your team’s time to focus on more important customer-related tasks and services.

Takeaway tip: Invest in software that can track and control your inventory, to ensure you never have too much or too little stock.

Step 4: Be as social online as you would be in-store

Talk to your customers. Pay attention to their reviews. Have a solid and reliable presence on social media. When you listen to what your customers are saying, you’re more likely to catch problems before they flare up. This is a critical step that can change how people respond to you and influence the reviews you receive. Remember, word-of-mouth is incredibly powerful, so make sure the word about your business is positive.

Takeaway tip: If you have social media, be on it. Talk to people, respond to queries, encourage feedback and make sure you’re easy to find.

Step 5: Paid search can pay dividends

While budgets are tight, sometimes a savvy investment into paid search can give your business the right boost at the right time. Consider proven paid search tactics so you know your money is being spent on the right solution and you’re targeting the right audience. Also, invest in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for your site content. Include popular search terms in your content and ask your web designer to optimise the backend through metadata, image compression, and title tags. Both these strategies can move your page up in the search rankings.

Takeaway tip: Spend money to make money but ensure it’s on proven tools that will get you the right results.

Step 6: Turn on the lights

It’s the silly season! Embrace the opportunity to add festive décor to your site. It not only makes shopping fun, but it also makes your site appealing to shoppers. People want to see that twinkle of tinsel in the corner or a happy Santa marking a special offer. This is also a principle that can be applied to any festive occasion, such as Easter, Diwali, and the Chinese New Year, and it can make your customers feel special. Tools like Canva are simple to learn and use, and let you create clever and customised images for your site – for free.

Takeaway tip: Put on the virtual lights, haul out the cheerful elf, and create the spirit of the season with festive designs on your site, just like you would in your brick-and-mortar store.

Step 7: Pay attention to people

It’s been a tough year. People want to escape, and they want to forget the stress of the past few months. Engage with your customers by adding a personal touch to your interactions with them. Consider blending virtual and physical marketing efforts, like adding a little something extra into customer packages such as a cracker, card, or personal note – little things like this add a touch of warmth to the shopping experience and bring people back for more.

Takeaway tip: A personal touch makes all the difference to customer loyalty and engagement.

Viresh Harduth is Vice President of Small Business at Sage Africa & Middle East

PERSONAL FINANCE

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