The festive season, stretching from the end of November with Black Friday through to February with Chinese New Year, typically marks a critical time for small retailers to maximise their business opportunities and boost sales. For some, these months can generate the profits needed to cover operations for the year. According to the Singapore Department of Statistics, last year saw an 8.6 percent increase in Singapore retail sales in February, which was mainly boosted by Chinese New Year spending.

With this year’s season just around the corner, this is how small retailers and SMEs can tap into e-commerce, m-commerce and social commerce opportunities to augment sales:

  1. Prepare the business for online and digital transactions

Think mobile first – Given the convenience afforded by a smartphone, the device is fast-becoming the platform of choice for shopping. According to PayPal’s Cross-Border Consumer Research 2018 report for Singapore, mobile commerce will grow 32% this year. By 2020 it is estimated that half of online spending by Singapore shoppers will come via mobile spend which includes smartphone and tablets. Hence, it is important for businesses to ensure that their websites are optimised for mobile devices.

Ensure the security of the website – According to HubSpot Research, 82% of online users would shy away from a site that their browser has flagged as “not secure.” Hence, it is essential that businesses ensure that their websites are secure and they operate in compliance with any applicable local laws of their target markets.

Offer a range of payment options – Many customers will simply abandon a transaction if they can’t use their preferred and trusted form of payment. PayPal’s research found that two-thirds of online shoppers say they will only purchase from a website using an online payment option / brand that they recognise.

Consider tokenized payment options – A way to provide customers with a seamless experience is to eliminate the tedious process of making customers fill in multiple fields of data. Tokenization technology not only minimises keystrokes, it also enables payment on mobile phones or any connected device. This technology has been used by payment providers like PayPal to ensure that merchants can provide a range of payment options for their customers.

  1. Plan marketing strategies

Choose the right channels – Each social media channel attracts different demographics and interest groups. It is important for businesses to find the channels with the right target audience for their products. If the product is visually appealing (such as cupcakes), a channel like Instagram would be a more suitable marketing platform than a channel like LinkedIn. If the business sells mainly to other businesses, then LinkedIn would be a better fit than Instagram.

Enhancing Search Engine Optimisation – Businesses should do everything that they can to help online shoppers find what they need on their sites easily, such as reviewing keywords and descriptions of products on the sites to optimise the search for their customers. User-friendly sites go a long way in attracting and retaining an online user.

  1. Put in place after-sales service and follow through

Have a seamless process for returns and refunds – Many businesses now offer a “no questions asked” return policy, often with free return shipping services. In fact, by promoting such a policy online, businesses can encourage sales by providing customers, especially new ones to the site, a peace of mind because they are assured that they won’t be out-of-pocket should a purchase not work out. The return policy should be easy for shoppers to find on the website.

By knowing how to effectively use online and digital channels to sell, small retailers and SMEs can make the most out of the festive season and stay ahead of the competition.

Rakesh Krishnamuti is Country Manager, Singapore for PayPal.