SA online retailers can avoid the festive slump

Kevin Tucker, CEO of PriceCheck.
Kevin Tucker, CEO of PriceCheck.
Kevin Tucker, CEO of PriceCheck.

Despite several well-documented mishaps and site breakdowns, Black Friday and Cyber Monday evoked the online shopping boon that local e-tailers were hoping for. In line with the global retailing frenzy, local brands and businesses enjoyed a massive surge in traffic to their sites. For leading online price comparison site PriceCheck, Black Friday and Cyber Monday accounted for 10% of traffic and 11% of conversions for the month of November.

Yet as many established online retailers have come to experience, the month of December and festive season celebrations – during which most South Africans take extended leave and go on holiday – can be one of the most challenging and slow, from a sales perspective.

“This is historically a very tough month for local e-tailers, as consumers leave their homes and offices and generally spend far less time online looking for deals,” explains Kevin Tucker, CEO of PriceCheck. “Yet there are certainly ways in which forward thinking e-tailers can harness the momentum gained from Black Friday week and maintain a steady stream of visitors to their websites.”

Ensure seamless delivery

In addition to continuing to offer attractive deals and prices, Tucker says that great customer service is paramount, and should not be neglected during the festive season, regardless of staff taking leave and slower sales. An integral part of seamless customer service for e-tailers is ensuring that products are delivered on time, with the right packaging and contents that are not damaged.

“This is a time when third-party delivery companies are under extreme pressure and can often accidentally drop the ball – so it is critical for e-tailers to partner with service providers who can handle the festive season crunch and maintain top notch standards,” he adds.

Invest in your online shopfront

With regards to the actual online experience for the end user, the Black Friday frenzy revealed that many local e-tailers pay minimal attention to their IT infrastructure, and more specifically, to their payment gateways. Several merchants experienced disastrous website crashes on Black Friday, and many could not sufficiently handle the demand on the payment side.

“The lesson here is that brands and businesses should be continuously testing their websites and looking for ways to improve and streamline things like payment gateways,” says Tucker. “As with physical stores, the digital store also requires ongoing investment and attention. ”

Keep pace with data intelligence and payment innovation

Tucker notes that local e-tailers are missing out on the Big Data opportunity, and points to global online retailers that are effectively leveraging this relatively new boon for the number crunchers.

“An online retailer without data is just a website using a Magic 8 ball as a decision maker,” he explains. “In short, data uptake in South Africa is not as advanced as it is overseas. Using data to plan ahead of, for example, Black Friday, and realistically project is an absolute must for any online retailer. Measurement is now fundamental for brands and businesses in the digital sphere.”

In addition to Big Data, he urges local e-tailers to stay abreast of the digital payment revolution. By paying close attention to the payment solutions their customers are adopting, e-tailers can ensure they retain loyal shoppers and more easily gain new ones.

Have the right conversations on social media

On a final note, Tucker advises e-tailers to continue with their marketing and PR activities throughout December, and highlights social media as a particularly important channel.

“In the silly season, people undoubtedly turn to social media more frequently to share their experiences and celebrations with friends and family,” he adds. “During this time, e-tailers should be participating in engaging and relevant conversations in the social sphere to display their human side.”

Staff Writer