Compared to the rest of the world, the South African ecommerce market is still in its infancy. With ecommerce in South Africa being less than 1% of general retail, now is the time for business countrywide to embrace the ecommerce market to gain a bigger influence and more sales.
In South Africa, there are a few ecommerce platforms which are getting it very right, giving consumers everything they need in terms of convenience and easy online shopping. NetFlorist, South Africa’s largest online gifting service, is one of the ecommerce platforms that is getting it just right.
NetFlorist launched on Valentine’s Day in 1999. Ryan Bacher and his partners Lawrence Brick, and Jonathan Hackner, initially designed NetFlorist as an ecommerce test site, attempting to prove to Makro that they could design and run an ecommerce site.
Lean start-up model
A lean start-up model works really well for online businesses. In other words, get your idea up and running as quickly as you can and then iterate based on your learnings.
The first step to launching a successful online business is to do research. Step two is understanding how consumers are using the Internet in the retail space.
Online businesses in South Africa do not spend enough time at the start, thinking about how they are going to attain customers. Most of their headspace goes into the idea (the product) and the technology around it. An equal amount of time should be spent on ideas around customer acquisition when you are in start-up mode.
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Be tech savvy
Be very careful who you get to build the technology for you. Many start-ups use a “one man show” to build the technology and when he or she goes walk-about in Europe for a year, you are stuck with a system you cannot touch or handover.
Think global, not local
Think global when you begin so that you do not have to correct this at a later stage (your domain name should be .com, for example).
Do not think of yourself as an online business, but rather think of yourself as a specialist in the industry you are going into. As an example, if you are planning to sell goods online, then you are not an online business, you are a retailer, and therefore you will need to learn about retail and possibly hire respective skills for this specific industry.
Even with stumbling blocks in the South African ecommerce market that include high delivery fees, logistical issues and concerns regarding online shopping security, more and more South Africans are turning to online shopping.
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“The key for online business owners is to provide the consumer with fast and convenient shopping, as well as make the consumer feel safe and secure when providing their credit card details online. Creating an exceptional online shopping experience is the key to having repeat customers.” says Bacher.