In the past, business was relatively simple. Businesses operated either as a single store, as a chain of stores with a local, national or global footprint, or via mail order. Since the advent of the Internet, however, all businesses are given the opportunity to service the globe, allowing them to compete (quite successfully) with franchises that feature physical shops worldwide.
With the right marketing techniques, support and operational strategies, small ecommerce companies can punch above their fighting weight. Businesses that already have a real world presence can greatly benefit from an effective online strategy, elevating the brand’s profile. Yet some businesses continue to pose the question “why does this matter?”
The answer is quite simple; if your business is not online, it will be left behind. The Effective Measure South Africa eCommerce Report, issued in March 2015, further confirms that the use of mobile phones for online shopping has more than doubled, from 23.1 percent in 2013 to 46.5 percent in 2014. Additionally, the South African Shopper 2015 online survey recently revealed that more than 80 percent of South Africans between the ages of 16 and 24 are transacting online. It stands to reason that, as this demographic ages, their online preference will remain and grow. As they become parents or business owners themselves, they will undoubtedly inculcate an ecommerce culture going forward.
This upward trajectory is set to continue indefinitely, meaning that businesses that do not embrace the World Wide Web are compromising themselves, missing sales and brand building opportunities. A small store in Cape Town, for example, would be unknown to anybody that has not visited the Mother City – unless that store sells its goods online, in which case, the potential exists for the brand to be seen by anyone in the world.
The Country Director of Google South Africa, Luke McKend, confirmed the rising ecommerce trend (while acknowledging its challenges) at the recent uAfrica eCommerce Conference. He noted that South Africa will see a 25 percent increase in online spend this year, and will have approximately 29.8 million Internet users by 2016.
Especially in Africa and even with a website that functions correctly, ecommerce comes with some challenges. The two most prevalent obstacles are; how to get noticed amongst the millions of websites around the world, and how to build a trustworthy relationship with consumers, allowing them to shop with the peace of mind that the site they are purchasing from will deliver the goods they have paid for on time, and as ordered. These challenges can be overcome by collaborating with an e-commerce site that offers local brands the opportunity to advertise directly to its extensive and engaged audience, on a top class digital platform. These ecommerce platforms offer access to a large percentage of the population, offering a trusting clientele as well as brand building opportunities.
Of course, once the customer has engaged, it is essential to deliver on the ‘sales promise’ – no matter how good the brand’s online image is, if the customer doesn’t get exactly what they were expecting, a negative brand image will be created.