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Selling Online: Be On The Right Side Of The Law With Your Ecommerce Start-Up

With ecommerce in South Africa growing at an exceptional pace, and the expected triple figure percentage surge of mobile spend predicted for 2018, it is more important than ever to ensure your online terms are in order.

Jack O'Reilly

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E-commerce is at an all-time high across the globe. Selling products online is no longer only reserved for large retailers. With a variety of ecommerce platforms available, it’s never been easier for start-ups and small businesses to enter this competitive sector.

That said, many entrepreneurs are unaware of how important it is to have the necessary terms and conditions visible throughout their online store.

With ecommerce in South Africa growing at an exceptional pace, and the expected triple figure percentage surge of mobile spend predicted for 2018, it is more important than ever to ensure your online terms are in order.

What are online terms and conditions?

Online terms and conditions set out your agreement with your customers and users. They can range from simple, standard terms for ‘browse only’ websites, to complex e-commerce arrangements regulating the relationship between the buyers and sellers.

Online terms should essentially set out the rules that you and your users will follow and the terms when a purchase or transaction is being made. It should limit your liability if your product or service fails, explain each parties’ rights and cover what to do if any conflict arises.

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

The terms which should not be neglected are browser terms, privacy terms and commercial/ transactional terms. Each one of these deal with specific aspects of your app or website’s use. It includes, for example, limitation of liability, intellectual property rights, the collection of personal information, payment methods, dispute resolution and each parties’ rights.

Here’s a quick guide to each of these and why they are important:

Browser terms:

Browser terms apply to anyone “surfing” your website before you have a customer relationship with them, i.e. before the “browser” decides to make a purchase. It protects your business by setting out rules for the use of the website and making it clear that you have no responsibilities to the user.

The most important things to cover:

  • users to acknowledge that you don’t owe them any responsibilities
  • users are to respect your website and intellectual property
  • users don’t yet have any rights to any of your services or products
  • you own all intellectual property
  • website content is copyright protected and that the user only has a right to view it on your website.

In summary, the browser terms set out the “dos” and “don’ts” in relation to using your website and exist to limit your potential liability to users.

Related: 5 Basics To Success When Starting An Ecommerce Business

Commercial/ transactional terms:

Commercial or transactional terms are by far the most important terms to have in place. It serves as the contract between you and the user, once they become a customer, i.e. make an online purchase or an order for services through your app or website. It is the binding contract upon which your start-up earns revenue from selling products or delivering services.

Revenue is the lifeblood of a business, so you should give careful attention to the commercial terms to ensure that the essential features, including those that are unique to your product or service, are commercially accurate.

The important aspects that these terms should include are:

  • a general explanation of the service or product being offered through the app or website
  • payment methods, fees and any associated costs i.e. delivery fees
  • user/ customer account or profile requirements
  • duration and renewal terms
  • the applicability of promotional codes and vouchers
  • any unique sale terms that would apply to the products or services
  • the terms applicable to returns
  • limitation of liability provisions
  • any warranties made by the parties
  • any other disclosures that are required to be made in terms of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002.

Privacy terms:

The goal of privacy terms is to create your right to collect and use certain information about the users for specific purposes.

Personal information is often collected through cookies as well as when browsers become commercial or transactional users of your website or app. Users do so by creating an account or by integrating their social media accounts with the website or app. You need to explain the rights of the users regarding the information being collected, how it will be stored and the purposes for which it will be used.

The Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013 (“POPI”) sets conditions for the lawful processing of personal information and privacy terms assist you to comply with the legal requirements.

Privacy terms usually include the following important aspects:

  • the use of cookies to collect certain information
  • the purposes for the processing of the personal information
  • the sharing of personal information by the website owner with certain select third parties
  • the storage of personal information, including the security measures taken and whether cross-border storage will occur and
  • the user’s rights in relation to his/ her personal information and the recourse that he/ she has.

Related: 4 Methods For Building A Successful Ecommerce Brand

In closing, online terms are there to protect you and your business. Although it doesn’t mean you won’t ever be sued, it will ensure that you are prepared and protected against unlimited damages. Furthermore, make it your priority to be proactive and mitigate any claims that may arise against you.

So, if you don’t have online terms on your website or app, make sure you are compliant and put them online as a matter of urgency. If they are in place, review them regularly and make sure you’re covered on all fronts.

Jack is the founding director of O’Reilly Law., a boutique corporate and commercial law firm in Cape Town. Having gained valuable business law expertise while working at reputable law firms in South Africa (with a focus on commercial litigation and corporate transactional work), Jack launched O’Reilly Law, and now advises SMEs, Entrepreneurs and Growth Companies that want to change the lives of the people in their communities, wish to make a meaningful impact in South Africa, and dare to think globally.

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Business Opportunities In Printing And Signage

The event is taking place from 12-14 September at Gallagher Convention Centre.

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In an entrepreneurial environment, people are seeking innovative ways to make extra money. The signage and printing industry offers opportunities for small start-ups or those looking to grow their businesses.

These opportunities will be showcased at the upcoming Sign Africa and FESPA Africa expo, which is co-located with Africa Print for commercial print solutions and Africa LED for professional LED lighting. The event is taking place from 12-14 September at Gallagher Convention Centre.

T-Shirt and Bag Printing

Embellishments and glitter help transform a simple shirt into a unique garment, and depending on the specific shirt and techniques used, it could become a high priced item. Shirts and bags can be customised, a key aspect to targeting millennials, who require unique products, want to stand out and want items that are Instagram-worthy. You can target this market with personalised bags and unique T-shirts, which do not require large and expensive equipment to produce.

Mugs and Promotional Gifting

While others may see public holidays as opportunities to relax, entrepreneurs can see them as money-making opportunities. Capitalise on trendy markets and popular holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s and Father’s Day by producing themed and personalised gifts. Other profitable options include: shopping bags, decor and invites, promotional, corporate and safety wear, wood, vinyl, paper, plastics, metals, flat substrates like clipboards, binders, notebooks, mouse pads, coasters, business cards, stickers and corrugated signs or posters, smart phones and tablet cases.

Related: Move Your Brand Forward With Eye-Catching Vehicle Wraps

Vehicle Wrapping

Business owners are constantly seeking ways to get their brands noticed. And with all the gigantic billboards, street pole advertisements and other media vying for consumers’ attention, it’s difficult to stand out. Enter vehicle wrapping, which is an effective promotional tool as it’s cost-effective, impactful and long-lasting. Besides cost-effective general wraps for corporate fleets, custom vehicle wrapping offers special effects that create Instagram-worthy wraps that get brands noticed.

Of course, these business opportunities require training and some research. Luckily, industry experts will be available at the Sign Africa and FESPA Africa expo to answer visitors’ questions. There are also free educational features such as a T-Shirt and Bag printing workshop featuring demonstrations by local experts on T-shirts and bags with speciality printing techniques as well as the Textile Experience, which shows how to screen print onto T-shirts.

Opportunities for small start-ups or those looking to grow their businesses will be showcased in daily 30 minute Business Opportunity sessions. For more information about the event, and to register online, please visit: http://bit.ly/EntrepreneurSignAfrica.

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Types of Businesses to Start

10 Businesses You Can Start Part-Time

Find your perfect match for a successful part-time start-up.

Nadine Todd

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Launching a company – even if it’s operated part-time – is all about drawing on your skills, talents and interests to create a viable business.

What you know and what you’re good at form a good basis for a part-time business because these companies either become an extension of what you enjoy doing most or they are based on your strengths.

Working part-time while still maintaining a permanent job is time consuming and often exhausting, so choosing what you take pleasure in or are good at can keep you focused and motivated. The right fit is important when it comes to launching a part-time business. Selling a service rather than a product does not require large start-up costs, which means you can grow your business without financing until it becomes self-sustaining.

Corporate Communications & Promotions

Corporate communications covers a host of areas, mainly because this is the sector that takes care of how companies look to the outside world – something that is very definitely a service, but also that is not often taken care of in-house. If you can write, edit, have a knack for advertising, can take photographs or create promotional and corporate videos, you can offer your services part-time to companies both large and small that are in need of these services.

Contents

  1. Public Relations
  2. Freelance Photography
  3. Corporate Videos
  4. Small Business Advertising Agency
  5. Writing, Editing and Proofreading Services
  6. Internet Marketing Consultant
  7. Web Design
  8. Tax Accountant
  9. Business Consultant
  10. Business Plan Consultant
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Types of Businesses to Start

A 7-Step Guide To Starting Your Own Trade Business

With that sorted, it is time to get on with the more exciting operational stuff.

Morné Stoltz

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Skilled tradesmen are always in demand. Whether you are a plumber, electrician, cabinetmaker, refrigeration expert, tiler or builder, there is a ton of work out there. For many, the best way to make the most of the opportunity is to open your own business.

Where do you start? The first step is to register your business with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC). Look for a catchy name that is easy to spell and memorable – you do not want customers to struggle. The CIPC will tell you which names are taken. It is also a good idea to do a trademark search before deciding on a name. Register with SARS and make sure that all your tax affairs are in order.

It is a very good idea to get a good accountant right at the early stages of the game. They can also help you set up the legislative requirements for running a business. The National Small Business Chamber is a non-profit organisation that offers a range of services to its members that aim to help them grow faster, save money and receive the support they need.

With that sorted, it is time to get on with the more exciting operational stuff.

1. Finding customers

You want to find customers in order to grow your business beyond the ones you already have. These days, that means a website and some smart online marketing.

This can be as simple as setting up a Facebook page and any one of several other social media sites (like Instagram and LinkedIn). These services are at no-cost to you and allow you to quickly build up a following of loyal customers. You can share ‘jobs well done’, so prospective customers can see what you are capable of, while your contact details are easily accessible. In due course, consider some paid averts on relevant social media platforms and perhaps a website of your own. It is a good way to get potential customers on board.

At the same time, list your services in community newspapers, noticeboards and newsletters so everyone in the area can easily see that you are available and what it is you do. Also, keep your eye on social media community groups – and ask family, friends and existing clients to refer and/or recommend your services when an opportunity arises.

Finally, there are many government initiatives and non-profit organisations whose aim is to help small businesses succeed – with a particular emphasis on black-owned businesses. This help could range from facilitating access to finance, all the way to mentorship. Spend some time finding out what help is on offer. The SME Movement site also has this kind of information.

Related: How To Start Your Own Artisan Business

2. Stay focused

For those just starting out, there might be a temptation to take any job that crosses your path. Rather stick to your area of expertise to build a reputation based on proven skills. If you are an electrician with a little plumbing experience, for example, tackling a piping job could cause more trouble than it is worth. Every trade is different and you are an expert for a reason.

Leave the other work for experts in those fields – but build up relationships with them so that you can refer work to each other.

3. Ride on your qualifications and references

You have spent a lot of time getting certified. Let your customers know about your qualifications and experience by putting it on your Facebook page, your invoices, e-mails and other communications. The same goes for references; these are valuable and provide evidence of your ability to get the job done. Ask for a reference when the job is complete and then on to social media it goes. The good news with social media, by the way, is that these references do not ever go away.

4. Stay on top of the paperwork

The good old days of doing business on a handshake may be behind us. Providing quotes, contracts, invoices and records of payments electronically makes paperwork a whole lot easier by creating a digital archive where physical copies aren’t needed, but it serves the same purpose, when it is formally recorded, it is far easier to see what has been agreed to, done and paid for. Do not skimp here, even the best customer service provider relationships can go awry if verbal agreements are all you have to go on.

5. Register with your trade association (and invest in CPD)

Being a member of a trade association (like Master Builders, the Institute of Plumbing or other professional bodies) lends credibility to what you are doing. It also provides access to new customers should larger contractors need to sub-contract. Your trade association also formalises training and continuous professional development (CPD).

Related: 6 Tips For Launching Your Global Brand

6. Get business insurance

All too often, this crucial coverage is ignored by those starting out on their own. You want to protect tools and equipment on the one hand and you also want broadform public liability to safeguard yourself, your employees and your business against third party claims should something go wrong on the job. It provides cover in connection with your normal business activities and also your liability if any employees are injured in the course of work.

Putting the right insurance in place can mean the difference between staying in business for the long term or folding the minute the tools grow legs and disappear.

7. Deliver good service

Do not forget that every job is a potential reference and, at the very least, is your entry into that client’s network of friends or business associates. Concentrate on giving good service and actively request feedback so you can remedy any shortfalls. A take-it-or-leave it attitude may be relaxing, but it will prevent your business from growing to what it potentially can be.

MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970)

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