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Black Friday cheat sheet for SMEs new to e-commerce

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The COVID-19 lockdown forced many businesses online, and for some small and medium businesses, it would have been their first venture into e-commerce.

If you’re one of those businesses, virtual Black Friday is a perfect opportunity for you to reach more customers than ever before. But a word of caution: If your online store is difficult to navigate, requires endless clicks to get through checkout, and doesn’t have a secure payment gateway, it will be a very dark day indeed – for your business.

To grab and retain buyers’ attention this Black Friday, your store should reduce friction, enhance the shopping experience, and engage your customers every step of the way. Importantly, it should pass the “three S test”, which means it must be:

  • Simple,
  • Seamless, and
  • Secure

Here are a few ways to achieve this:

Easy does it

Your customers must be able to find what they want, quickly and easily. This is especially true on Black Friday when they’re switching between multiple online stores. You need an intuitive, mobile-friendly website with excellent search functionality that seamlessly guides visitors through the sales funnel.

Chat to a user experience (UX) designer about how you can improve your site’s usability and engagement. They’ll help you find the balance between design and functionality, and integrate features like geolocation and progress bars to enhance the user experience.

Two birds, one stone

Present all your Black Friday deals in one place to encourage cross-selling and upselling.

For example, a buyer might visit your site with the intention of purchasing a Black Friday discounted beauty treatment voucher. When she arrives in your online shop, she sees the 3-for-2 deal on nail polish and adds it to her cart. Or she might opt for the premium voucher when presented with more options.

Don’t present new offers to customers when they’re just about to checkout. It not only distracts them from the end goal (and yours), but it might frustrate them to the point where they abandon their carts in the virtual aisle for you to unpack.

Speaking of carts…

Nothing will send your customers to the competition faster than a badly designed online shopping cart. It should always be clearly visible and show the total cost as shoppers add and remove items. Be transparent about shipping and other fees, since extra cost is one of the main reasons people abandon their carts.

If you offer free shipping over a certain spend, make this offer clear and compelling. Use phrases like, “Spend R53 more to get free shipping!” I know I’d rather add a R70-item to my cart than pay R60 for shipping.

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Trust: Hard won, easily lost

Clear, transparent communication is the most authentic way to build trust with your customers. Make your contact details clearly visible so customers can get hold of you if something goes wrong or they have questions – and ensure your customer service department is fully staffed to deal with a potential influx of queries on Black Friday.

Other ways to earn trust include:

  • Sharing positive testimonials and reviews;
  • Engaging with your followers on social media and responding quickly to build credibility; and
  • Integrating with trusted payment providers offering a variety of payment methods, such as card, instant EFT, PayPal, and barcode or QR code scanning.

Speed: Get in, get the deal, get out

That’s all shoppers want on Black Friday. Complicated forms and checkout processes cause friction and irritation. They should be quick and painless to complete and only ask for the information you need to complete the transaction.

Optimise the checkout process using form design best practices, like having a “full name” field rather than separate ones for “first name” and “last name”.

Besides, don’t make it compulsory for shoppers to create an account to buy from you. Being forced to create an account is the second biggest reason people abandon their carts. Let them shop as guests – it’s faster and more convenient for first-time customers who you can charm into opening an account through your after-sales service or rewards programme.

At the end of the sales process, thank your customers for their purchase and explain what happens next, like when they can expect delivery, or how to access their e-book or digital voucher.

Holding their hand throughout the process builds trust, encourages repeat business, and could result in a positive review.

Make it easy to give back

For every South African that will splurge this Black Friday, there’s another who doesn’t have the luxury of disposable income.

Provide an option to add a donation to a local charity when they check out, donate a portion of your sales for the day to a cause you care about or encourage shoppers to add a care hamper to their carts, which you can distribute.

E-commerce gives your small business an opportunity to reach more customers and to make an impact in your community this Black Friday. What’s more, it cushions you against the effects of things like COVID-19 because you can trade when under strict lockdown (not to mention the ability to operate 24/7).

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