Over the course of the pandemic years, online retail has grown significantly in South Africa by a whopping 66%. This fast move has created a lot of growing pains for SMEs and these need to be carefully managed so that SMEs can get up to speed with this new frontier in retail. So what mistakes have been made and what's the best way for SMEs to solve them?
1. Having a presence on social media profiles but no website
Social media is a great way to reach your consumer quickly and social media platforms usually offer payment gateways which is really convenient. While this might be a good reason not to invest in a website, this isn’t a sustainable plan. Social media needs to be just one channel, but not your main mode of online communication. A big risk SMEs are taking here is that if their social media profiles are hacked, they lose their online base instantly. So websites are an important way to own and centralise online activity and build your database in a responsible way. Websites also offer an important space for consumers to validate your product, get a sense of your brand, browse your products or service and educate themselves on your policies in a more in-depth and sustainable way.
2. Trying to be everywhere at once
Don’t fall into the trap of trying to be everywhere at once. Rather, choose the correct social media platform and invest time in building valuable content. If you spread yourself too thin across these channels and aren’t maintaining them adequately you risk having outdated or unengaging content and this will create a negative impression of your brand.
3. Using an outdated website
Make sure your website is up-to-date, optimised and offers a streamlined user experience. This is what will bring customers back. There are a host of easy-to-use website generators like Shopify, WordPress and Wix, with clean templates and mobile-friendly interfaces. They really understand how consumers use these platforms and offer simple and affordable ways to build your own website. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to design. This is particularly important in South Africa where most people surf the net on their mobiles and they require interfaces that work well on this platform.
4. Ignoring local SEO
A top priority should be to land high on Google’s ‘near me searches. This can make a huge difference when it comes to being found by customers. This is also key if your business isn’t quite ready to be shipping internationally. There are two simple ways to improve this local SEO search - firstly by embedding a ‘Google Map’ onto your ‘Contact Us’ page, as well as to verify your business on your ‘Google My Business' Page. These details should also be included on your social media profile. Consider your website to be the hub of all your online activities and then link your other channels to it.
5. Forgetting to market online
It’s worth taking the time to understand how to use remarketing tools which come standard with various website builders. These tools help you better understand who your customers are and why they aren’t buying when they visit your store. Here you can also get insight into Google Analytics which is a powerful (and free) tool that empowers you to understand your website's backend and figure out important customer behaviours like how long visitors are staying, what is attracting their interest, and what type of device they are searching on. These insights will in turn help you tweak and tailor your offering.
6. Not checking your online info meticulously
Online pricing mistakes can be, well, pricey. Imagine leaving off a ‘0’ at the end of an expensive product. This happens surprisingly often and should be prevented at all costs before taking a product live. While this seems like a tedious task, the meticulous scrutiny of every product will save you a lot of problems in the long run.
The bottom line
Taking your business online has been a game changer for your business. But like many SMEs out there, you may have gone online in a hurry without really knowing what it entails. E-Commerce has its own set of standards and is a whole new retail environment to master. Rest assured that the hard part was getting online. Now that you are here though, it's important to comb through your system and troubleshoot your processing. By starting with these 6 common issues, you will be well on your way to streamlining your online store and growing your business. To understand how you can invest quickly in your online business strategy, contact Merchant Capital today.