Businesses are facing the Christmas crunch and while you’re likely flat out managing the expectations of customers, it still pays to get the basics right online.
No matter what sector you’re in, customers and clients tend to decide on a store or service after an initial online search. If a business’s details are incorrect or misleading, the result can be a lost sale and a very annoyed customer.
Too often SMEs set up Facebook pages and online listings and then forget to review these, instead focusing on overall digital strategy, says social media expert Catriona Pollard.
“I think what happens with social media is quite often small businesses set and forget – they don’t have any mechanisms in place to go and change it,” she says.
“But customers use those sections of your ‘about’ page and opening hours as a way of deciding to buy [from you].”
Over the past few weeks, customers have taken to social media platform to complain to big shopping centres about the opening hours displayed on central websites, claiming it’s confusing to establish the trading times of individual retailers when a broader retail centre or venue may still be open for Christmas trading.
Pollard says that the easiest way for businesses to avoid cranky shoppers is to sit down and make a detailed list of everywhere your company is listed online, and then audit this information ahead of key trading periods to avoid any inaccuracies.
“List every place online where your details are and make sure you’ve got it right,” she says.
Googling your business is a good first point of call, because in most cases a customer will hit that before your Facebook page, for example.
“That’s what comes up instantly – so if you’ve got opening hours there and you want people to come to you, take the time to have the correct information online.”
There’s no shortage of digital locations that could reflect your business information, but many of the most popular platforms are easy to change. Make sure you double check the following.
Facebook’s “About” section
It’s easy to edit this information on your own company page by editing the sections for opening hours, phone number, address and business description by selecting ‘Edit Page Info’ in your profile.
Make sure you sign into your Google business account to update trading hours, which can include adding in special trading hours for the festive season if you want to highlight special events. Google provides an explainer here.
Landlord or shopping centre management
Each year customers take to social media to vent about arriving at shopping venues only to find smaller tenants are not open late, while big supermarkets and department stores are. Business should remember to check their details and Christmas trading hours with centre management if they rent space in a local centre or a strip of shops that has a council or retail association advertising their hours on a third-party website.
Sales platforms and review websites
Café review sites like Zomato and delivery services like Menulog display information to customers including phone numbers, opening hours and menus. Make sure you review your business accounts with these platforms.
Along with not updating online listings, one of the biggest digital marketing opportunities missed by small businesses at this time of year is not using the silly season to leverage interesting campaigns for customers, Pollard says.
“The biggest thing is not understanding the power of social media over Christmas and key periods – it’s a prime selling opportunity,” she says.
Over the past few months businesses have told SmartCompany about the power of their own personal email lists to get in contact with customers and potential buyers at key periods of the year. This direct communication can also be a link to the client base for updates on trading hours, as well as special deals and opportunities run over this time.
“Put campaigns in place, whether they are organic and programmed,” Pollard says.
“People are in their prime buying position for most things.”