E-Commerce Centricity Is A State Of Mind

E-Commerce Centricity Is A State Of Mind


A recently published global statistic revealed that 65% of Internet-based enquiries remain unanswered for a period of four days; thereafter only half are answered within 15 days.

These are the all too common experiences of people who try and engage e-commerce. However, having said that, there are organisations whose e-commerce strategies are brilliantly aligned to the customer/market expectation.

The real issue here is the state of mind business has towards this relatively new and bourgeoning sector of immense opportunity. Why is it that so many businesses represent themselves in the Internet/e-commerce domain, attracting customers only to render a poor and ultimately “brand burning” service to the honest-hearted enquiry? In short, it’s simply a state of mind. Many businesses represent themselves in the e-commerce/Internet domain, but fail to have a clearly defined strategy around the business process flows. It seems that while it is fashionable for a business to have a web site, little thought or planning goes into how to deal with the response.

A point of illustration in the simplest form is a business who has a website which has contact details recorded.  What process lies behind the honest evaluation of all interest shown in contacting your business?  A business, whose strategy is clearly defined, would have a dedicated workflow process attached to these contact details, which is not only measuring response, but also the time taken to reply and the quality thereof.

A business whose state of mind it is to utilise the Internet and e-commerce as a dedicated growth opportunity has a business strategy clearly defined and aligned to this process.  Recently, a variety of South African businesses from retail to financial institutions were monitored, and a cross section of responses from poor to exceptional was reported.  However, the one aspect that stands out clearly is that clearly defined strategies are generally not being applied to this valuable source of potential revenue and opportunity.

The world is your oyster

South Africa

To illustrate the extent and reach of the opportunity, let’s on the approximately 8 million Internet users of South Africa, a statistic which will grow substantially in the years to come, especially once the impact of the smart phone is fully understood. Taking the statistics from an average “cold call” marketing campaign and adding a mediocre conversion rate of 1,5% represents 120 000 opportunities. The only difference is that when someone contacts your organisation, it is a golden opportunity and the conversion rate can be up to 60%. Therefore, ignoring enquiries off your website and e-commerce environment is costing your company a small fortune in lost revenue.


Let’s put this in an African context. Africa has approximately 110 million internet users. This is growing so rapidly that whatever figure is quoted can safely be taken as outdated.  For the purpose of this discussion, we will use the 110 million and apply the same mediocre conversion rate of 1,5% which represents 1 650 000 opportunities.  To illustrate what this translates to in financial terms, assuming that you can attract 25 million enquiries with an average spend of $285 (or approximately R2 000 at a conversion rate of 2%), this translates into a turnover of R994 million. If your business only attracted enquiries of 10 million and converted that at 2%, with an average spend of R200 it still equates to an increased turnover of R40 million.

All this represents is growth opportunities no one can afford to ignore.


The table below illustrates how lucrative this market is in the United States, working off an Internet usage base of 240 million.  These represent the audited figures for 2009 and there has been substantial growth since then.

E-Retailer Monetary Annual Growth 2009 % Growth Total Annual Sales
Amazon.com $5.34 Billion 27.86% $24.5 Billion
Apple Inc. $607 Million 16.69% $4.25 Billion
Best Buy $409.5 Million 20% $2.45 Billion
Newegg Inc. $200 Million 9.52% $2.30 Billion
Sony Style $ 52.4 Million 2.87% $1.88 Billion
Netfix $305.6 Million 22.39% $1.67 Billion
Systemax $97.9 Million 9.13% $1.17 Billion

Service Rules!

The E-commerce world is severely competitive. The only real differentiator between sites is what service the customer received. So, if your business is missing the service expectations of the customer, they will shop elsewhere.

This explains why so many South Africans shop with Amazon at the expense of local e-commerce businesses.  There is no reason why South Africa cannot compete.  Again, it returns,\ to our state of mind – always focus on servicing customer needs!

Howard Blake
Howard Blake founded the Blake Group of companies in 1990. Currently operating across Southern Africa, Mauritius, Europe and the US, the success of the Blake Group lies in the constant innovation of new services designed to add value to its clients’ brands and customer experience. Visit his website for more information.