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Why Launch A Member-Only E-commerce Store?

This is why you should launch a member-only e-commerce store in South Africa.

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With so many ecommerce platforms available, starting your own online store can be quite simple. Making your first sale is very exciting. It also marks the start of great things to come.

There are a number of models you can choose from to launch your ecommerce store. All of them will require you to find your customers, convert their interest into a sale and then retain their information to market to them in the future again.

However the difference between making a sale to a one-time customer is very different to selling to a client who has bought into your brand and supports you year in and year out.

Out of all the models available to sell your goods and services online, one of the top trends in 2017 is the members-only or subscriptions based model.

How does it work?

While some stores invite customers to browse without any sign up to a newsletter, others require an email address or a subscription fee for a set period of time. The member only model requires a monthly membership fee to gain access to discounted goods or services.

The monthly membership fee is automatically renewed making it an excellent way for retailers to predict future income. However, the terms and conditions of the renewable fee must be clearly communicated to avoid any confusion.

Related: 5 Ecommerce Myths That Are Sabotaging People’s Businesses

E.g. recently launched South African sporting gear and apparel brand, Commander HQ’s charges a monthly membership fee of R50 for which members have access to all the products in their store (latest ranges as well as end of ranges) at discounted prices of between 40% and 70%.

When a member signs up they’re debited immediately and then, unless they opt out of the deal, are automatically billed monthly.

What are the benefits of this model?

online-shopping

For retailers it offers far more predictability in terms of income and future revenues. It helps to smooth out demand so you manage your operations more effectively.

Knowing how many members you have means you can adjust stock levels and you also don’t risk having a pile of unsold inventory.

The benefits of tracking customer engagements translates into better customer communication and an overall improved customer experience, two key elements for a successful member-based model.

Says Carey Mol, owner of Commander HQ: “This is such a great way for us and our customer’s to benefit. We charge R50 per month which equates to two cups of coffee and results in, for example, R1326 discount off our Columbia Bugaboo Interchange Jacket valued at R3550. The cost of the membership is covered by the discount received 

How do shoppers benefit?

  • Customers have direct access to top quality international designer brands they might never have considered buying otherwise.
  • Customers receive massive discounts and deals that never expire
  • Customers can spread the costs rather than making a single big ticket purchase. This is a huge benefit because as the cost of living soars, consumers have less disposable income to spend on luxury items.
  • When times are tough, shoppers can cancel their membership immediately.

Related: 5 Basics To Success When Starting An Ecommerce Business

Key factors for success

Transparency. You must be upfront about the cost, delivery, returns, refunds and payments. Because shoppers are more trusting of making an online transaction, you need to give them an easy opt out option, especially when they are debited monthly for a membership fee.

A number of big ecommerce stores in the USA like JustFab, Blue Apron, Adore Me, and Kate Hudson’s athletic wear shop, Fabletics have, in the last two years, faced big lawsuits because of not openly disclosing how members can stop their automatic payment renewal.

According to World Wide Worx, CEO Arthur Goldstuck, transparency is not only essential for your business to succeed in building trust and customer loyalty. It’s also the quality of service you offer, the cost of your products or services and the ranges available as well as the overall customer experience that as a whole will differentiate you from your competitor.

 

Carey Mol spent most of her career alongside numerous reputable corporates in the mobile, digital and tech industry. She continued honing her skills within her current role as MD for Cellular Media Distribution (CMD), a digital agency based in South Africa. One of the key products that has been in development for the past year at CMD is Commander HQ, the membership-based online lifestyle and sporting apparel store that gives members incredible savings, on top international branded sports gear and apparel. Commander HQ, which still has other elements in development, is ahead of the curve in this country, though South Africans are becoming more adventurous, confident and open minded when purchasing online retail products and services.

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Techniques

Why Does Good Client Service Matter For E-commerce?

Remember, bad service is remembered for much longer than any products that have been purchased. And if you provide a positive experience, you will have a loyal customer base and can use the insights gathered from interactions.

Clarissa Fleischer

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You might be scratching your head a little at the notion of an e-commerce store (yes, an online store) worrying too much about client service. After all, customers are using your website to purchase goods and avoid interacting with salespeople, right? But client service, or customer support as it is also known, is vital to running a successful e-commerce business. This is because consumers still expect the same level of care as they would from a brick-and-mortar store.

You will need to devise an e-commerce digital marketing strategy that can enhance your client service offerings. For example, you’ll need to put together an e-commerce email marketing customer base so that you can easily send out promotional emails, newsletters and reply to complaints. Your e-commerce website design should focus on the needs of the customer, so be sure to invest in a design that caters for them. Read on to find out why good client service is vital for e-commerce.

You can sell hundreds of products…

but bad service will always be remembered. For e-commerce in South Africa and around the world, client service is one of the major touchpoints that you have with your clients, meaning that you need to provide the best experience possible.

Online shoppers will likely have no physical contact with your brand, making client service the best chance to show customers that you truly care about them. Remember that customers want more than just a place to shop. They want an e-commerce business that is going to provide them with information that is relevant and help that truly solves a problem. You need a dedicated email address, Twitter handle, Facebook page or a live chat option where clients can contact you easily and efficiently.

Trust builds client relationships

By providing good customer support, you will be building trust between your customers and your brand. For example, if you provide personalised emails with product recommendations to loyal customers, they will see that you are taking note of their preferences and value their input.

As an e-commerce brand, you need to do more than brick-and-mortar stores to generate trust, which is where client service comes into play. You should look into building a customer support strategy that allows you to meet consumers at every touchpoint of their journey. This will show customers that you are a brand that is taking note of what they need. The reason for building trust is that, in the online shopping world, customers do not have to go very far (just a few clicks, in reality) to find another store with another shopping cart to fill. Focusing on what your client needs is a sure-fire way to improve consumer trust in your brand.

You will gain valuable insight

Client service is not only good for the customer, but can be good for your business too. You can gain valuable insight into the wants and needs of your customers as well as issues that you might not have known existed in your business.

Feedback that is constructive can help you to make changes in your business to improve client service and will allow you to introduce new systems for dealing with complaints and queries. If customers are repeatedly asking you if you will be offering new or different products or if they are asking about specific products that your competitors offer, you can use this information to meet their needs and keep your site up-to-date with trends and products. Even transactional emails can be helpful, as these will allow you to improve or enhance your checkout process.

It can make (or break) your brand reputation

Reputation is important, whether you are a physical store or an online one. And in the age of social media, can you really afford to offer bad client service? Today, people take to Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram to share their experiences with brands, whether their experience was positive or negative.

If your customer support is bad or inconsistent, customers will likely head to your Facebook business page or write something on their own profile for the world to see. And how you deal with this is also a part of your customer support. Be sure to always strive to provide customers with a positive interaction no matter the situation. Even if the customer is not always right, they should never have negative connotations with your brand.

Clients come first

Client service is one of the most important aspects of any e-commerce business. While you might think that all your consumers want is a place to shop without having to deal with crowds (an introvert’s dream), they expect the same level of client service they would receive in an actual store.

Remember, bad service is remembered for much longer than any products that have been purchased. And if you provide a positive experience, you will have a loyal customer base and can use the insights gathered from interactions.

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Techniques

3 Ecommerce Trends You Must Prepare For In 2019

The ecommerce explosion continues, but there’s also an element of evolution. To take your ecommerce presence to the next level, take advantage of these emerging trends.

Tiffany Delmore

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Retail ecommerce sales continue trending upward, and consumer confidence has reached an 18-year high. Conditions are ripe for brands with an established ecommerce presence, but that doesn’t mean business as usual will always suffice. Instead, the organisations that excel will be those with a forward-thinking approach to ecommerce.

Ecommerce is thriving because enough companies have kept up with changing technology and consumer expectations. For example, as mobile purchases increased in popularity, ecommerce retailers began specifically catering to this shopping avenue. Mobile purchases constituted the majority of ecommerce sales in 2016, and eMarketer estimates that 72.9 percent of online purchases will be made on a mobile device by 2021.

Device preferences aren’t the only thing in transition – search methods are also quickly evolving as technology becomes more sophisticated. According to predictions from ComScore, 50 percent of all search queries will be made via voice by 2020. And it’s likely that more people will be audio searching for buyable goods soon: Devices such as Google Home Hub and Amazon Echo Show are integrating voice and image search so that shoppers can see what they’re asking to buy. Ecommerce retailers that can’t cater to a voice-activated future (Read: optimise for natural language search) will quickly lose ground to their rivals.

Ecommerce companies are also partnering with payment processors to make online purchases as frictionless as possible. By offering payment options such as PayPal, Venmo and Amazon Pay at checkout, customers can leave their credit cards in their wallets, so buying becomes even easier.

No matter how mature your ecommerce presence might be now, you need to keep looking ahead to ensure future success. To elevate your ecommerce efforts in 2019, take advantage of these three emerging trends.

1. Sell your wares on social

Effective marketing is about optimising your messaging to appeal to your target audience, but messaging won’t matter if the audience never sees it. Meeting your audience members where they spend their time is crucial, and here’s a tip: If your customer base is online, it’s on social media one-third of that time.

If you’re not selling on social media, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Most social media platforms now support integrated buy buttons that transfer users to your website to complete a sale, and apps such as Instagram and Snapchat offer shoppable stories, too.

Retail brands like Jordan have also capitalised on event-related social commerce opportunities. For the 2018 NBA All-Star Game, Jordan partnered with Snapchat to offer access codes to an exclusive sale of the special edition Air Jordan III Tinker shoe. Users could only receive a code if they were near the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and the sneakers sold out in 23 minutes.

Related: 6 Steps To Building A Million-Dollar Ecommerce Site In 60 Days

2. Remix the buyer’s reality

Mixed reality technologies have yet to see mainstream adoption, but they have made huge strides in that direction. Vertebrae’s launch of its AR/VR ecommerce platform Axis aims to prove that the tech is much more than a novelty, and IKEA’s Place app provides shoppers with an AR-powered glimpse into what IKEA products would look like in their own homes.

“Augmented reality and virtual reality will be a total game changer for retail in the same way as the internet. Only this time, much faster,” says Michael Valdsgaard, leader of digital transformation at Inter IKEA Systems.

AR might not be everywhere yet, but ecommerce retailers that successfully incorporate AR capabilities into the shopping experience stand to gain a significant advantage over their competitors.

3. Strengthen your Amazon strategy

Amazon has established a pre-eminent place in the ecommerce ecosystem, and Salmon’s “Future Shopper Report” indicates that 68 percent of American shoppers head straight to the site when browsing for products. What’s more, even when customers plan to buy from another site or store, 80 percent read Amazon reviews and check prices there.

Clearly, mastering Amazon is critical. Trevor George, founder and CEO of Amazon marketing agency Blue Wheel Media, says that the only way for sellers to win on the platform is through ads: “The future of Amazon is advertising, and if a brand wants to make money now and into the future, it needs to be able to navigate Amazon’s advertising platforms.”

According to George, that means investing in auto-bidding tools such as Prestozon or Ignite, isolating the right search terms, and incorporating negative keywords so your appliance company isn’t spending money to appear in searches for Easy-Bake Ovens.

The ecommerce boom isn’t waning anytime soon, and capitalising on it requires a thoughtful strategy that keeps your brand ahead of the competition. Keep social commerce, mixed reality shopping and Amazon advertising on your mind through 2019.

Read next: Watch List: 15 SA eCommerce Entrepreneurs Who Have Built Successful Online Businesses

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Techniques

How To Get Ready To Sell Your Business – Advice From Marnus Broodryk

If you’re thinking about selling your business, there are some critical steps you need to make first.

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MAKING THE SALE

A successful transaction will mostly boil down to having a solid business with great systems in place that is making decent money and the starting point for these transactions will be financial information.


Some entrepreneurs are ‘starters’, they like to start a business, get it off the ground and then flog it. Others are ‘growers’, they look for existing businesses and have the ability to grow them beyond their original value. Both will probably get to the same end point: Selling the business.

But entrepreneurs are often misled when it comes to the sale. They have put everything into the business and it is worth a huge amount to them because of it. But buyers are seldom willing to match the price, because what is being sold, and what is being bought, are not the same thing. Sellers see the emotional and financial investments they’ve put in; the buyer mostly looks at one thing: Profit.

Effort does not equal profit. The balance is out.

Related: 20 South African Side-Hustles You Can Start This Weekend

Prepare for the challenges of selling

Once you get to market you will soon realise that there are, unfortunately, fewer buyers than you’d like. Unlike listed companies, you can’t sell shares easily and quickly on a public platform. Instead, you need to find an interested individual or business, many of whom just aren’t buying what you’re selling.

Some of them are, but that doesn’t guarantee a sale. Most SMEs must put their faith in a cash deal, since banks will never finance anyone wanting to buy them. In reality, this means that you may have a genuinely interested buyer for your business, who won’t be able to get finance for it from the bank. So, after a few months, you’re back to square one. After a few rounds of this cycle many entrepreneurs will just sell out of desperation, forgetting what the business could actually be worth.

Selling a business can be very emotionally draining and this will be compounded by many people who will waste your time and mess you around. You spent a large portion of your life building this, but others will not see it the same way you do. Ensure that you prepare and mitigate against all of those issues, and have the stomach for the fight.

Always keep the end in mind

If you are looking at exiting your business, it is crucial to allow enough time to prepare yourself for it. Maybe you’re simply tired of your business and you just want to get out, but, because the business is not in a great state at the moment, you’re too fed up to care, and you simply don’t have the energy to fix the issues.

You’re at risk of letting your business go for next to nothing. All the hard work for hardly any reward.

Related: Selling Your Business To Your Business Partner

If you have the end in mind, and prepare for it, it can be a very different, more lucrative story. A successful transaction will mostly boil down to having a solid business with great systems in place that is making decent money and the starting point for these transactions will be financial information. You need to have proper financial records for your business and you need to be able to show the potential buyer how much the business is making and how it is making it. It sounds so elementary, yet most entrepreneurs don’t have financial information when they want to sell their businesses. If you think you may want to sell in the future, make sure you’re keeping solid records now.

If your business’s financials are messy, start cleaning them up at least twelve months before trying to sell your business. Remove all your personal expenses from the business and ensure that all transactions are properly recorded, and that your taxes are up to date and accurate. Work with your accountant to prepare a sales pack with all your financial information, including details of your clients, employees, suppliers, what your strong and weak points are and how the business could grow in the future. It’s at this stage that you can pick up on issues and resolve them before taking your business to the market, making it a much more attractive product.

With some (more) hard work, you will be in a great position to sell your business, you will have serious buyers and the valuation that you deserve for all your hard work. If you don’t, why bother?

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