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Black Friday and loadshedding: Retailers need to be ready

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Media briefings and updates from Eskom and the Government last week seem to indicate that South Africa is set to experience load shedding for the foreseeable future. Power interruptions (whether planned or unplanned) can have a detrimental effect on any business’ ability to trade, especially with the busy Black Friday and Festive Season shopping periods ahead.

“If retailers haven’t done any contingency planning up till now, it will be essential that they consider how load shedding will impact the customer experience during this peak season trading period,” says Thomas Pays, CEO and co-founder of Ozow.

Having a generator or inverter on site is a common solution to survive load shedding, but many retailers are still unprepared, leaving their point-of-sale systems offline at crucial times when they need them most. This is where alternative mobile payment solutions that don’t require any device or card machine can act as a convenient alternative, Pays points out.

Pays explains that customers will also be looking for businesses that have somehow managed to find a way to deal with the rounds of power interruptions so that they can still buy the products they want.

“Importantly, many have turned to eCommerce channels to avoid any frustration that could be caused in-store during this period. The biggest challenge, however, is that retailers often neglect their eCommerce channels as an alternative for their customers who may opt to shop online instead,” he says.

Pays points out that online stores are also vulnerable to blackouts.

“Systems can go down, support centres can be affected, and an increase in online traffic putting strain on hosting servers can easily create a negative customer experience. So, it will be important that plans are put in place to handle this.”

It’s not just about ensuring that eCommerce sites stay online when the power goes out.

Pays says that many online stores may be set up perfectly to get a shopper to find the latest deal, but often fail to create a seamless checkout and payment process.

“For many South Africans who don’t have access to a credit card, alternative payment options are crucial. There is no need to fill in any credit card details, as customers can pay directly from their bank account without having to wait for the money to clear. This also has the potential to expand a merchant’s customer base to a much wider audience,” he adds.

“Understanding that this Black Friday and Festive Season will be largely driven online and with mobile devices, it will be critical that retailers are fully prepared to manage any potential disruption that could impact the shopping experience for consumers,” says Pays.

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