Led by kalahari.com, the oldest e-commerce site in South Africa and still the favourite, online shopping in South Africa is showing phenomenal growth of between 30 and 40% annually*.
According to Christelle Briedenhann, head of Marketplace at kalahari.com, “Online shopping in South Africa is maturing fast with demand increasing for a wider range of products. Our market started with low risk, predictable purchases like books and electronics but has moved on rapidly into fashion accessories, toys, kids and clothing. It is a great time for businesses to get online.”
Briedenhann oversees the component of kalahari.com that allows companies of all sizes to sell their goods via the online shopping site, offering them access to a huge audience of online shoppers.
She says business owners with an existing bricks and mortar business should not be intimidated by the thought of expanding their business online.
Here are her eight simple tips for taking a business online.
1. Work with an expert
Self-study and research can only take you so far. Employing the skills of an ecommerce website developer or ecommerce consultant can go a long way towards helping you set up your offering as effectively as possible. They will help you decide on your online strategy.
For instance, you may want to add this capability to your own site or alternatively you may consider using a route such as kalahari’s Marketplace. Here your products are listed on a large bustling site, you are given help with your product descriptions and all payments are taken care of for you – safely and securely.
All you need to do is ship your products on time to your buyers.
2. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Selling online via your own site is only one way to go about selling online – and in fact it is not essential. Starting your e-commerce capability via existing high traffic site, like kalahari Marketplace or one of the online classified sites is also a very good option.
These sites have huge existing traffic and perform extremely well on search engines so half the work is done even before you get started!
3. Understand who your audience is, and connect with them
The worldwide web is an incredibly vast space, so refining and targeting to reach the right people is vital. Do your research and ensure that any online marketing initiatives you undertake are carefully crafted to reach people with the demographics in the right geographical areas.
Here marketing tools such as paid search or targeted social media advertising can be incredibly effective.
4. Take marketing and traffic very seriously
It goes without saying that you face far stiffer competition online than in the real world. It is absolutely essential that your business and goods are ‘findable’.
A tight marketing strategy which includes components such as how to drive organic, direct and paid traffic to your site, search engine optimisation, a content plan, social media, email and traditional ‘real world’ marketing is vital.
As well as helping you get discovered, you can gather a solid database which you can target for education and specials about your product. Another advantage of listing on an existing successful site is you get access to their ‘best practice’ in terms of marketing and SEO.
5. Decide on your ‘promise’ and stick to it
When selling online it is very important to decide what your ‘promise’ to clients is and make sure this promise is practical and realistic. This includes the number of days you will deliver within and your returns and refund policy.
It is also critical to set up good communications channels between your business and your clients. So if anything goes wrong in the delivery process, you can keep your clients updated every step of the way.
Most customers accept that things do go wrong and are happy to wait a bit longer if they know how long the delay will be for. But not meeting a delivery deadline and not hearing anything from the company is likely to lead to very angry customers and possibly no repeat business.
6. Staff up correctly
Make sure there is someone in your business trained in e-commerce, in particular in the customer service aspects. Whether this is a new and experienced employee or a trusted staffer who has been on an appropriate course, it should be someone’s responsibility to make sure your business fulfills its online promise to the highest possible standards.
7. Embrace your limitations
It is perfectly okay to put some restrictions on your service. For instance, if the fact that you can’t deliver outside your geographical area is putting you off going online, then add this as a condition in your online promise. If anyone outside the area wants your product badly enough, they will make a plan to get it.
8. Dress your products up in their finest
You know how wonderful your products are, but your prospective clients don’t. Spend time getting your products professionally photographed and writing beautiful, punchy descriptions to ensure they are shown off at their absolute best.
Also, think carefully about cross-selling opportunities. So, for instance, if someone is browsing bed linens, make sure that scatter cushions or bedside lamps are also visible on the page to hopefully increase your sales.