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How Laudable Takes Online Shopping from Average to Exceptional

Laudable takes online shopping to a whole new level using its customers to spread the word on great products on offer. Here’s how co-founders Ian Marvin and Haydn von Maltitz captured the online market.

Monique Verduyn

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Vital Stats

  • Players: Haydn von Maltitz and Ian Marvin
  • Company: Laudable
  • Est: 2013
  • Contact: +27(0)10 060 5454
  • Visit: www.laudable.co.za

Ask yourself

Have you found a way to bring a fragmented market together that’s simple and user-friendly?

Related: Get Your Customers to Buy More Stuff 

Online shopping portal Laudable, which launched in July last year, makes it easy for consumers to shop by offering thousands of stylish crowd sourced products sold by different e-tailers, all in one place.

You sign into Laudable with your Facebook account, the app accesses your social graph to intuitively present socially relevant products, It intelligently suggest people to follow, and products on offer are curated by your social contacts. What makes it attractive for the retail partners is that they get information on who is buying what, and they also expose their products to a much wider audience.

The business was self-funded and founded by Ian Marvin and Haydn von Maltitz, and at just one year old, it lists 35 000 products from 200 retailers and has a user-base that’s growing by 10% per month.

Engaging content

The portal was launched to much media hype which meant it took off quickly. To maintain interest and excitement critical to growth, content had to be kept fresh, compelling and engaging. This got people sharing the content and saw a quick spike in active users.

“A challenge for online businesses is keeping people interested because it’s so easy to move to the next site. We focus on keeping content interesting and maintaining a site that’s sleek and attractive. Adding to the retail partner base is critical as we constantly offer new items,” says Marvin.

Monitoring user engagement is a critical part of the business as social media data gives Marvin and von Maltitz a rich source of insights about customers, and helps measure the return on social media efforts. “Social listening tools offer insights about engagement, sentiment, reach and conversion,” Marvin adds.

Moving quickly

Laudable

The two also took a ‘release early, iterate often’ approach to the app. “In the online world, it’s essential to take your concept to market as soon as possible, get user feedback and iterate quickly. You can’t wait until you’ve perfected the product, as that will never happen. Responding to what your customers want is the best way to grow,” says von Maltitz.

Letting the community drive the content

Laudable’s aggregation of products brings together items that are curated and ranked by shoppers themselves, so the portal sells what its users like and recommend. It’s all about what people want to see. Best of all, the users do the marketing.

“We built in lots of viral components that makes it easy for users to share what they’ve viewed and recommend. A browser plug-in generates a store page for the corresponding e-commerce site, which retailers can customise if they like,” says Marvin.

“We charge affiliate fees for generating clicks that convert to purchases, allowing retailers to push deals to those customers who like their products and gain rich analytics about their products and markets.”

Keeping in touch

What Laudable also does really well is to keep in touch. “We take the time and put in the effort to communicate with users, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter or via email,” says Marvin. “It’s important to keep that content novel and relevant.”

Leveraging contacts

Von Maltitz advises other start-ups to make use of the skills available in their social groups. “When you have little access to funding, get your friends and family to help out. We all know lawyers, designers, tax experts. But it does mean you also have to be available to help others when they need your talents.”

Going mobile

The next step is to launch a mobile app. “There’s a massive interest in mobile in South Africa,” says von Maltitz. “As an online store, we have to take advantage of that. More and more people are buying directly from their mobile phones. Again, it’s about responding to the needs of your users.”

Related: How To Build A Mobile App For Your Business

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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Business Model

Want To Change Your Business Model? Answer These 3 Questions

Here are a few pointers on figuring out the best way to grow your business and keep it sustainable for years to come.

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To grow sustainably, is it better to take on projects that are frequent and reliable, or sparse but lucrative?

Q: I own a film and production company, and I shot 100 videos last year – 70 weddings and 30 corporate, totaling $330,000 in revenue. The corporate videos are more profitable, but weddings are always happening. I don’t want to turn off a constant source of revenue, but should I spend more time pursuing corporate events to grow my business? – Trevor R.

Welcome, Trevor, to the entrepreneur’s struggle! You build a great product or service, make good money and the next thing you know, you feel like you have to change your model. It’s the age-old question of scale: What’s the best way for your business to grow, and does that mean making less revenue now in order to have more sustainable growth for years to come?

Related: 4 Types Of Business Models

With the bulk of your time being spent on wedding videos, you probably feel stuck in the slow lane, watching better profits pass you by. But remember that scale is not just about margins.

Numbers can be deceiving, and you control what you charge for your services. While your corporate videos are more profitable right now, going all-in might not be the long-term answer.

To figure out the best route for your business, start with a clear vision of your ideal final destination. How much money – and profit – do you want to make per year? It might sound like a frivolous question (who doesn’t always want to make more?), but it will allow you to reverse-engineer your business model and help determine a practical answer.

Let’s say you want $1 million in gross revenue per year. At this time, it sounds like you charge about $5,500 per corporate video and about $2,400 per wedding video. That means you’d need to sell either 182 corporate videos or 417 wedding videos. (That’s a lot of videos!) Use those numbers to guide your vision. Next, consider scale, which depends on a number of growth factors.

First, creating value: Make sure you’re charging the appropriate amount for your services in order to reach your goals.

Second, anticipating growth: Where is the greatest opportunity, not just at the moment, but in the future?

And third, limiting expenses: How can you keep costs down so spending doesn’t outpace revenue?

Related: 3 Types Of Ecommerce Business Models

Answering honestly will help you create several business models. For you, Trevor, those models are (a) weddings and corporate, (b) weddings only or (c) corporate only. As a case study, let’s consider “weddings only.”

Last year, you worked 70 nuptials. Before you consider hitting pause on that side of your business, revisit those growth factors to figure out if you can make it more profitable.

  • Should you charge more for each video?
  • How many clients did you turn down last year?
  • Could you have taken them on if you had extra help?

Weigh the costs, and consider adding another videographer to the staff. If that seems financially impossible, look for ways to at least maintain your current output while trimming production costs.

For a small business, profitability is a mad science of focus, projections, and getting out of your own way. What makes the most money on a per-item basis is not necessarily what will make you the most profit in the long run.

Related: How to Make Your Business Model Go the Distance

Consider Amazon: It created scale by focusing on smaller margins. It’s a helpful reminder that there are different ways to succeed.

Understand what you can charge, how you should save and who is most likely to buy from you in the future. By simplifying the complicated challenge, you can jump on the fast track to growth.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Business Model

How A Clear Strategy Can Change The Game

Strategy seems to have this mystical aura surrounding it, but it is nothing more than applying some really deep (and perhaps objectively facilitated) thinking about five areas of focus.

Janet Featherstone

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At the point of creation, a new business has a strategy. There will come a time when that model is not as attractive as it originally was. Competitors may have entered the space, or upped their game, customers might be more demanding, margins may start coming under pressure, and you as the business owner might be working 12 hour days.

That’s the time when you need to have a formal strategy workshop. You need to think through what you are doing, how you are doing it, why you are doing it and what are its benefits. That’s not going to happen when you’re moving at breakneck speed trying to keep your head above water.

If your business is to succeed in this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, then it must understand exactly where it plays in the market that you have chosen, and most importantly, how it intends to succeed in this space.

The challenge that most business owners face is that there is so much pressure to put out fires that very little attention is granted to the spark of industry-defining ideas. If you want to stay in business long-term, making the time to reflect and think deeply about the direction and competitiveness of your business is nothing short of essential.

Related: (Slideshow) 10 Epic Businesses Give You Top Advice on Innovation and Strategy

The Context

Every business operates within a far larger matrix. We are affected – positively and negatively – through external events over which we have little or no control. Currency fluctuations, Brexit, trade agreements, economics, the political environment, tax rates, legislation and a host of other influences that impact our business environment.

In a strategic planning workshop, at least a morning needs to be invested in understanding how these external factors impact the business. A PESTLEID analysis can be undertaken, and this follows the process of evaluating the Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, Environmental, International and Demographic landscapes.

This process is not a conversation, but rather an in-depth analysis of each of the PESTLEID factors, each of which is broken down into detail. Each detailed factor is ranked in terms of probability and impact. High probability and high impact factors are firmly placed on the firm’s radar, and scenario planning is completed for these events. Low probability but high impact events are allocated to accountable individuals for observation, and might be scenario planned depending on their severity.

By the end of this process, each person in the room must have a sound idea as to the context in which the business is operating, and what external factors the business is likely to experience within the next year.

Through scenario planning, each individual will also understand what the best course of action will be for the organisation should any of the high-impact scenarios come to be, and will be equipped to play their role in taking those actions in order to minimise business disruption.

Customers

The only person who can tell you what your customers want and need is your customer. It is a fatal mistake to believe that anyone in your organisation is qualified to speak on behalf of your most valuable assets.

Key customers can be invited to join you for a portion of your strategy workshop, or you can survey your customers beforehand and present the information on the day.

In this conversation, you are unpacking what it is that your customers want from you.  But a note of caution that is magnificently phrased by Henry Ford when he said: “If I’d asked my customers what they want, they would have told me a faster horse”.

Remember that your customers can and will generally only tell you what they want and need given the same operating conditions for both yourselves and themselves. And that’s OK, because it defines the foundational sandpit in which you are operating right now.

Customers can tell you how your service ranks in comparison to competitors, how competitive your pricing structures are, their satisfaction with your sales process, how well your product performs, their experience of your service, and any gaps that might be sitting in your blind spot. This gives you the ‘as is’ situation and is an invaluable starting point.

Related: Go Above And Beyond With Your Customer Service

Competitors

business-competitors-advice

It is important not to become so fixated on your competitors that you lose sight of your own direction, but you certainly want to know what your competitors are up to, lest you get blindsided by their actions.

Ideally, you would arrive at the strategy session understanding the market shares of your various competitors. In addition, you would know the share of wallet that they attract, and compare this to the share of market. Variances between the two indicate a pricing strategy that may deserve closer inspection. If accessible, a study of the competitors’ financial statements is never wasted as this indicates industry growth rates, profit rates, margin rates and the like for comparative purposes.

Then, a subjective analysis can be completed, but this can be done during the workshop. Here, the focus is on the offering and the softer skills that your competitors bring to the table.

  • How strong are their customer relationships?
  • How well do they sell against your products?
  • How are they achieving their growth?
  • What do they do particularly well where your performance is sub-par?
  • What do you do particularly well, that outshines them?

The more heads that think through these issues, the more objective the information becomes.

What you’d like to achieve at the end of this session is a list of things that your customers insist you have in your offer, ranked against your competitors. Then, you’ll have a list of ‘order winning’ value added offerings, also ranked against your competitors. You’ll be able to see where you are performing better, and worse, than your rivals.

Competencies

This is the time to review what your organisation does particularly well, that when combined in the larger context and when compared with that of your competitors, can create a meaningful and valuable differential for your organisation.

What you are seeking here is something that your business does that your competitors cannot match. Often, these are the things that become ingrained in your culture. They are not a process, they are not a pricing point, but rather are embedded into the way you do business. Think Apple, think design and functionality.  Think Ferrari, think performance and exclusivity. When I think of your company, what should the association be?

Related: 10 Questions To Achieve The Clarity You Need For Your Business

If there is nothing that your business does that can differentiate it, then this becomes the part of the strategy workshop where you decide what skills your organisation needs to develop or acquire in order for it to effectively compete.

There are a number of frameworks that are useful at this juncture, but all of them ask  what your organisation can uniquely bring to the market, and how long you believe this uniqueness is achievable. If your competitors are able to replicate your uniqueness quickly, then your competitive advantage can be eroded before its paid for itself. Where little differentiation exists in a market, the common point upon which to compete becomes price. Margins erode in the effort to win business. Either differentiate, or be prepared to become a low-cost producer.

Creating a Unique Space

This is where strategy becomes as much art as it is skill. The real end-game of strategy is to create a space that completely disrupts your industry, and where your organisation sets the rules of the game. Playing by rules set by others means that you are always watching and waiting, instead of setting the pace and direction.

Thinking of a realistic opportunity takes incredible focus, deep thought, creativity and imagination. At times, new industries are created where the borders of current industries exist so this is a good place to look first.

What Happens After All is Said and Done?

The chosen strategy should be captured in an Executive Summary of no longer than 2 to 3 pages. Anything longer creates confusion and apathy by those who are expected to wade through reams of inputs in order to reach the implementation section.

The chosen strategy must be presented to and worked through in a workshop with those who will play any part in its implementation. Ideally, small teams will be tasked with the implementation of certain aspects of the whole picture.

Remember that the contents of that strategy must form the conversation point of the executives from that point forward. If all you talk about is profit, profit is what the business will chase. If you focus on strategic delivery in each of your conversations, the business will deliver. And, when you’re tired of talking about the strategy, you’ve likely only done 10% of the job needed, so keep talking strategy.

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Business Model

4 Types Of Business Models

There are four main types of business models, see which one suits your business concept.

Alison Job

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Different types of business models suit different types of businesses. A business model is the way that a company sells products to its customers. It describes how a business creates, delivers, and captures value.

What type of business model should you adopt?

A business model defines how the enterprise delivers value to customers, gets them to pay for that value, and converts those payments to profit.

Read: How to Get More Innovative About Your Business Model

There are four basic types of business model that any for-profit business will fall into:


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Manufacturer

A manufacturer takes raw materials and creates a product, or assembles pre-made components into a product (E.g car manufacturers). A manufacturer may sell its products directly to its customers, or it can outsource sales to another company.

Related: ‘Quality’ to give SA manufacturers global competitive edge


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Distributor

A distributor is any business that purchases products directly from a manufacturer for resale either to retail outlets, or directly to the public. For example, a car dealership would purchase vehicles directly from the manufacturer and sell them to the general public.

Related: How would I set up a “distributorship” with a large company in South Africa?


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Retailer

A retailer purchases product from a distributor or wholesaler, and then sells those products to the public. A retailer usually has a physical location, but may also be an online retailer such as Amazon or Kalahari.

Related: 3 Ways Retailers Should Accommodate the Mobile-obsessed Customer


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Franchise

A franchise can be a manufacturer, distributor or retailer, depending on what type of franchise you purchase. Here the franchisee adopts the business model of that franchise.

Under these four types of business, there are various other ways of structuring your business model.

  • A company that integrates a physical and an online presence. An example would be a retailer who allows customers to order products online, but lets them pick up their order at their nearest store.
  • A company that deals with customers directly via the internet without engaging an intermediary.
  • Direct selling to consumers making use of product demonstrations in the person’s home, for example. There are several cosmetic and jewellery companies that use this model in SA.
  • The Freemium business model works by offering a basic Web service or product, for free, while charging a premium for advanced or special features.
  • Online auctions, which are held over the internet.

Related: The Perils Of The Franchise Agreement

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