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E-commerce that Suits you and Converts Customers

Making use of e-business strategies to grow your business.

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SA e-business is on the up and up. MasterCard’s recent survey of online shopping habits shows that 51% of connected South Africans shop online – 75% of them in the last three months.

With these encouraging findings in mind, businesses know they have to start carving out an e-commerce strategy.

Unfortunately, there is no magic e-commerce formula that will guarantee success. However, the following rules of thumb give a good indication of the choices open to you if you’re looking to make the leap into online sales.

Receptive industries

Some industries are quicker than others at adopting e-commerce. Books and music are good examples, while disciplines like engineering have been slower off the mark.

Is it about product? Not necessarily. As with CDs, one retailer’s goods are no different from another’s, and yet users of these products have not embraced the Web because of the buyer profile in that market.

In industries that have been slow to adopt e-commerce, an online catalogue backed by a real-world store will suffice for the time being. But given time, as all markets invariably flock to the cost-efficiencies, immediacy and convenience of the Web, online payment will be a necessity.

Suitable products

In some instances, however, offering type is decisive.

  • Commodities – DVDs are commodity products, while custom-made items and luxury goods (such as jewellery) do not fare well as online merchandise, given the intensely personal bond buyers form with such items.
  • Look and feel – With some products, the buying decision is inspired by a tactile experience. Clothing is one example.

In the above examples; DVDs, CDs, movie tickets, books, airtime, software, and even electronics and computers are commonly sold online, because one product instance is not significantly different from another. In such cases, full e-commerce comes into play, and not just catalogues.

Clothing websites, on the other hand, do not usually offer the option to buy. Instead, buyers are referred to high-street stores. Likewise with luxury items such as cars – browsers are normally referred to a dealer to conclude a sale.

Some now, more later

In other cases, the market is mixed.

Travel is one example. A travel package is a prime candidate for e-commerce. It may not be a commodity in the strict sense of the word, but backed by a good catalogue, favourable user reviews and high ratings, travel and accommodation can be a very predictable product.

Despite negative experiences further north on the continent, South African travel establishments and operators have taken off on the Internet. Increasing numbers of visitors pay for their accommodation, airfare and vehicle hires online.

However, a significant number of transactions still take place via EFT or cash transactions – or a combination of both – to accommodate visitors who do not have credit cards or smaller establishments that cannot afford e-commerce platforms.

Increasingly however, e-commerce providers are rising to the challenge with easy-to-use, affordable e-commerce packages, as are low-cost, secure payment services like PayPal and Virtual Card Services, a fact that will contribute to growth in this market.

Designs on share of wallet

So assuming your industry and market is not averse to e-commerce, your product lends itself to online sales, and you’ve found an e-commerce package and payment mechanism that suits you, what else remains?

Let’s face it – simply displaying your product catalogue online and offering payment is not going to do it.

As a business owner braving the Web, you’d do well to consider a few user experience design tips that will increase the likelihood of a buying decision. Whole sub-disciplines have evolved around the issues of conversion paths and usability, to bolster the business case for investing in an online commerce solution.

  • Conversion paths – There is no cure-all way of converting customers, but experience delivers some useful insights. For one thing it’s important to know if one end-to-end conversion process will suit all site visitors, or whether different audiences want different products or outcomes (e.g. buying a product, signing up for channel accreditation or booking a course). In any event, simple processes are preferable over complicated ones, and all queries should be resolved without uncertainty or unease during this delicate process.
  • Usability – Usability is another hugely important design consideration. From the user interface design to the layout of the product cart and banners, the site must breed familiarity by being simple and predictable, so that visitors can easily find their way around and make payment. The look and feel of the e-commerce interface is by no means incidental to the nuts and bolts of payment processing, inventory integration or search engine optimisation.

Many issues

There are many e-commerce considerations beyond design, industry and product, including search engine optimisation, strategy and creative. However, knowing your product and industry is vital in determining the e-commerce options open to you. Designing for maximum conversion and usability is moreover an excellent start to your e-commerce roadmap. As for the rest of your online project, undertake it with a good software and web development partner.

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Entrepreneur Today

Bitcoin Family Of Coins – Who Will Win?

Off the back of 6 sold out live events, and after successfully hosting the biggest #Cryptocurrency event ever held in South Africa, the Matt Brown Show is holding a one-time exclusive learning and networking event in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 7 March (6pm – 8pm) we’ll be launching a deep dive series into alternative cryptocurrencies.

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The interest around cryptocurrencies, with Bitcoin being the most famous, has continued to capture headlines worldwide whilst regulators around the world are still struggling to formulate a plan to deal with it.

The Matt Brown Show #cryptokungfu is kicking off its first edition of a deep dive series will be looking at the bitcoin family of coins, what makes the coins different, their utility and the opportunities for traders and investors.

The Matt Brown Show has built a listenership and captive audience in over 100 countries around the world. #CryptoJHB was the first podcast event to trend in the #1 hashtag position on Twitter in the history of South African media.

Related: 11 Things You Need To Know About Bitcoin

The Matt Brown Show Johannesburg event taking place on Wednesday, 7 March 2018 from 18:00pm to 20:00pm, now being hosted at the Mesh Club in Rosebank will tap into THREE of the world’s leading experts for this first edition of a deep dive series focused masterclass.

The Masterclass will feature Tone Vays (via video conference) and Adam Meister from the United States, both regarded as world’s leading Bitcoin experts. Lorien Gamaroff, founder/CEO of Bankymoon, blockchain and cryptocurrency consultant will provide the local market perspective as a South African.

The masterclass has been engineered to provide a more focussed and intimate discussion on the landscape, which is one of the reasons the event was moved to the mesh club. To provide a more exclusive and engaging atmosphere for the attendees.

Matt Brown says, “these 3 experts have the uncanny ability to read the cryptocurrency market and are considered part of the top 100 most influential people in blockchain/cryptocurrency space in the world”.

“So we need to look beyond the recent surge in bitcoin investors across Africa, businesses have also started to embrace the cryptocurrency. It no longer a fad but a reality of the world we live in today” says Brown.

South Africa continues to lead the way, with businesses now starting to accept bitcoin payments.

Gamaroff says, “The global financial system is crumbling. People are seeking alternatives to fiat money. Cryptocurrencies will be their hedges against the cataclysm that is coming.”

Related: Embracing Technology For Business

“The reality is that Bitcoin is here to stay and, with many seeing a good return on their investment in cryptocurrencies, they now want to use this digital cash to invest in their future” says Brown

“Today, South Africans are using the ease of online trading to make money that they can then reinvest in a future beyond the world of forex. Which is why we continue to see the demand for events like this, being attended by a mixture of cryptocurrency enthusiasts and/or people simply interested in learning more about this space.” Concludes Brown.

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The Workspace And MiWay Announce Entrepreneur Competition

To celebrate their collaboration at Village Road, The Workspace and MiWay are launching a competition for South Africa’s entrepreneurs that will see the winner/s given a major advantage to further grow their business.

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Space solutions and coworking specialist, The Workspace, and insurance company, MiWay, recently joined forces at The Workspace’s premises in Village Road, Selby where they have launched an entrepreneurial hub and business development programme in the Johannesburg CBD.

The competition is open to entrepreneurs based in South Africa who have valid identification documents, who run a business with four or less employees and are making an impact in their industry.

“We have always believed in assisting entrepreneurs and small business owners who are members of The Workspace community in whatever way we can. This entrepreneur competition takes it to the next level, giving a voice to our belief in entrepreneurship and its ability to create jobs,” says Mari Schourie, CEO of The Workspace.

Related: 6 Resources For Start-ups Looking For Funding

Morné Stoltz, head of Business Insurance at MiWay, says both companies are committed to upliftment initiatives and economic development. “The entrepreneur competition is a call to action to those vibrant entrepreneurs out there. Start-ups always need a bit of a hand-up and the winner of this one will have a serious advantage once the competition has gone through its paces,” he said.

Schourie and Stoltz agree they’re looking for an entrepreneur who has reinvented the way business is done in his/her industry. “Someone who has been innovative in the product or service being offered to the market,” says Schourie.

“We are looking for an entrepreneur who has or is busy creating a special environment where employees can flourish, and in the process, potentially creating more jobs,” Stoltz adds. “An entrepreneur who makes an impression on the judges due to aspects such as the business’ social impact, attitude, positive entrepreneurial outlook and a good business mind”.

Related: 4 Tips To Secure Funding For Your Start-up

The prize on offer – worth over R230 000 – will help set-up the winning entrepreneur for a period of 12 months, giving them a boost to help build their business.

All information on the Entrepreneur Competition is available on The Workspace website, including criteria, terms and conditions, and of course, the prizes.

For queries, please email events@theworkspace.co.za

Download the competition criteria here.

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Budget 2018/9: 3 Key Tax Areas To Look Out For In The Speech

High political drama in the opening weeks of Parliament aside, most South African business and personal taxpayers are expecting tax hikes across the board from the Finance Minister’s Budget Speech on 21 February.

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As we approach #Budget2018 day, Rob Cooper (tax expert and Director of Legislation at Sage, and chairman of the Payroll Authors Group of South Africa)has a few thoughts about what the Minister could clarify in his statement.

Government already faces a yawning budget deficit, aggravated by the need to find billions of rand to fund a new and unbudgeted-for commitment to free tertiary education.

While some spending cuts could help to release funds, we can expect a one to two percentage point increase in VAT, steep hikes to fuel levies and sin taxes, higher capital gains taxes, and perhaps even personal income tax hikes for high income earners.  We’re also likely to get more info on new taxes such as the carbon tax.

Personal taxpayers, with the exception of low-income earners, should probably not expect the Finance Minister to adjust personal income tax brackets and rebates to fully cater for the effect of inflation. In other words, even if your salary is worth less as a result of inflation, you should probably not be hoping for your effective tax rate to come down to compensate.

Here are three other things I’m looking out for in this year’s budget, each of which will have a major effect for employees and employers alike:

1. National Health Insurance

One of the big will-he-or-won’t-he questions the Finance Minister faces this year is whether to do away with the modest tax credit taxpayers receive for their medical aid payments. Government is eyeing an estimated R25 billion in funds from scrapping these tax credits, to be used to fund the incoming National Health Insurance scheme.

Many of us expected Minister Malusi Gigaba to announce this move in his Mid-Term Budget Speech in October 2017, but he held back. The move is likely to be contentious since a National Treasury analysis shows that 56% of the total credits claimed in 2014-2015 accrued to around 1.9 million taxpayers with a taxable income below R300,000.

In other words, the medical aid credit makes decent healthcare affordable to millions of people who might not otherwise be able to afford it. Taking it away could have dire consequences for the health of millions of lower income South Africans and put even more strain on an already pressurised public healthcare system.

Related: Budget Speech: The Impact on SMEs

2. Travel reimbursements and allowances

Travel reimbursements have long been a pain point for many employers and employees. Up to 28 February 2018, a portion of an employee’s travel costs was treated as remuneration when:

  • The per-kilometre rate used to calculate the travel reimbursement was greater than the SARS-prescribed rate per kilometre.
  • An employee is reimbursed for more than 12,000 business kilometres are reimbursed during the tax year.
  • The reimbursement value was greater than the prescribed maximum number of business km (12 000 km for 2018) multiplied by the prescribed rate per kilometre (R3,55 for 2018).

The result was that skills development levies and UIF contributions were added to something that should be considered as an operational cost rather than a payroll cost. This in turn increased the employer’s cost of employment. These levies and contributions were not assessed at the end of the tax year, so employers could not claim a refund.

We have long argued this regulation should be changed to be fairer to employers and employees alike. As a first step in the right direction, SARS has announced a simplification of the travel allowance and the travel reimbursement provisions, with effect from 1 March 2018.

Under this change, only the portion of the value of the travel expenses reimbursed at a rate above the ‘prescribed’ rate per kilometre will be treated as remuneration.  However, in future, we would like to see SARS handle travel reimbursements in the same way as it treats subsistence allowances for employees when they travel.

The excess portion of the subsistence allowance will be taxed on assessment, but it is not remuneration for the purposes of Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE), skills development levies and UIF.

3. Employment Tax Incentive

I’m a fan of the Employment Tax Incentive (ETI) as an innovation geared towards addressing South Africa’s youth unemployment crisis, and the decision to extend the programme until the end of the 2019 tax year is welcome. However, administration of the scheme has always been complex for SARS and employers alike, a factor that has made some companies hesitate to take advantage of it.

Though SARS and the National Treasury have tweaked the ETI over the years, I would welcome further simplification of the definitions and calculations. That said, I don’t expect much news about the ETI this year, apart from alignment with the National Minimum Wage expected to be introduced from 1 May 2018.

Follow us on @SageGroupZA on 21 Feb for LIVE expert insights from the annual Budget Speech.

For more information about Sage’s annual tax seminars, please visit: http://go.sage.com/NPS_18Q1_C4L_ZA_EVCU_HR0310_20thAnnualPayrollTaxSeminarLP

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