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According to Business Insider, First National Bank revealed that South Africans spent 15% more on Black Friday in 2021 than that did the previous year, and all trends point to year on year growth. Interestingly, payment gateway Payfast reported a 34% increase in the number of ecommerce transactions, speaking to how people are increasingly opting to hunt for deals online instead of running the gauntlet at the local mall.
The outbreak of Covid precipitated a marked spike in online revenue, and in 2022, ecommerce comprises 21% of total worldwide retail sales. That is twice as high as pre-pandemic levels, and while growth has abated somewhat, it is forecast to continue to climb steadily into the foreseeable future.
There is no doubt, Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping days of the year, especially when considered in conjunction with Cyber Monday (the two are often referred to collectively as BFCM). In fact, retailers who haven’t made provisions will miss a golden opportunity to cash in. What is abundantly clear is that ecommerce should form a vital part of every business’ retail strategy.
So what can you do?
DotDigital reveals that in 2021, 94% of BFCM consumers shopped at least partially online, with 38% choosing to purchase both instore and online. This means that if your pricing is not aligned across your on-premise and ecommerce sales channels, customers will notice. By managing your pricing and inventory from a central data source - typically an ERP or accounting system - and integrating it with your web stores, you can ensure that customers see the same deals, regardless of whether they are in your shop or on your website.
In addition, the (hopefully) thousands of orders placed on your web store over this busy period can be synced back to your ERP automatically. This will not only save you a lot of time, it will also eliminate that human error that often creeps into repetitive manual data capture.
Arguably the greatest benefit of integration is that, as orders flow into your central data source (ie your accounting system) and invoices are generated, the resulting stock adjustments are communicated to your various sales channels. This means that even though a product was bought in your store, your website will know about the stock reduction within a few minutes, mitigating the risk of overselling.
According to Finances Online, research done in the US in 2020 indicated that over 60% of consumers planned to avoid shopping instore. The main reasons for this aversion were the crowds, Covid concerns, the hassle and the long queues. “Better deals online” came in at a distant fourth place, illustrating how consumers value convenience at least as highly as a juicy deal.
But people are impatient. Even in the US, where ecommerce shipping is as fast as anywhere in the world, customers don’t want to wait for their delivery. So how do you offer the convenience of ecommerce as well as meet the desire for immediate gratification? The answer is “click and collect”.
By setting aside a designated area in your shop where customers can easily collect items they have already purchased online, you are offering them the ability to skip long checkout queues (convenience) as well as a way to get their stuff now (immediate gratification).
Mobile ecommerce conversions are on the rise, with Shopify reporting in 2021 that 71% of BFCM sales were placed on handheld devices (up from 67% the previous year). It’s therefore vital that your website is optimised accordingly, so that your customers have a good user experience when shopping on their cellphones.
Credible endorsement from your customers matters a lot. In fact, according to Bazaar Voice, just one product review can boost sales by 10%, and 100 reviews can see an increase of as high as 37%. Finding ways to incentivise your customers to review your products is key to a thriving online business.
It goes without saying that access to support is a high priority for consumers, but this becomes a particularly hot topic over BFCM. A sudden surge of traffic on your web store is likely to result in an increase in queries and complaints, especially if you lack the kind of integration that can help you reduce overselling and pricing errors.
During this busy time of year, spend a little more resources on bolstering your support (eg add a chatbot or employ casual staff to man your phone lines). Alternatively you could sync stock and price updates to your web store for more accurate online inventory, and ultimately, happier customers. (Chat to us, we can help!)
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