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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

Digital Learning Challenge Crowns 2018 Winners

AGEC proves that digital learning is an effective way to grow and develop a culture of entrepreneurship among SA’s youth.

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Shriyaa Sooklal, from Maris Stella High School in KwaZulu-Natal, has been crowned the champion of SA’s leading digital learning challenge – the Allan Gray Entrepreneurship Challenge (AGEC), conceptualised specifically to develop the minds of young would-be entrepreneurs and coach them on how best to think like entrepreneurs. The results were announced at the AGEC grand finale at Gold Reef City in Johannesburg last night.

AGEC was established by long-term investment company Allan Gray and developed by the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation – a foundation committed to investing in the education and development of individuals with entrepreneurial potential in Southern Africa. The Challenge was designed to develop a culture of entrepreneurship in the minds of grades 8-12 using digital learning and gamification.

Currently in its second year, the Challenge seeks to inspire learners on how to influence change in their community, their country and the world. Learners were required to complete weekly micro-challenges that further exposed them to a variety of entrepreneurial skills, which were then applied to real-world scenarios.

During weeks one to three, learners began their entrepreneurial journey by exploring local challenges and opportunities in the areas of social entrepreneurship, transportation and healthcare. In weeks four to six the competition shifted focus to global themes of climate change, artificial intelligence and blockchain technology. Last night’s event wrapped-up six weeks of inter-school and inter-pupil participation across the country.

According to Anthony Selley, AGEC’s Head of Gameplay, entry participation doubled for the 2018 season, from 4 000 in 2017 to more than 8 000 in 2018. In addition, more than 600 schools across the country participated in this year’s Challenge.

“We are incredibly proud of every participant, and for the second consecutive year this Challenge proved that web-based experimental learning is an effective way to foster a culture of entrepreneurship among our country’s young folk,” Selley says.

Related: 10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

The AGEC top five candidates include:

  • 1st place: Shriyaa Sooklal – Maris Stella High School
  • 2nd place: Sara Gopel – Riebeek College Girls High School
  • 3rd place: Saheel Rajnarain – Crawford College
  • 4th place: Kai Parsons – Cedar House School
  • 5th place: Tahir Omar Carrim – Sutherland High School

Selley says the Challenge seeks to directly address the country’s alarming levels of unemployment using entrepreneurship as the main vehicle for change. The competition focussed on developing five overarching ‘habits of thought’, identified through academic research as key components of an entrepreneurial mindset. These include: intellectual imagination (innovation); personal initiative (initiative); courageous commitment (resilience); spirit of significance (change maker) and achievement excellence (drive).

Generation Schools Hermanus is the challenge’s top performing school with Glenwood House in second place, followed by Maris Stella, Kloof High School, Somerset College, in third, fourth and fifth place respectively.

“It’s been a phenomenal season, candidates have demonstrated impeccable skill and they’ve proved that they have what it takes to think like entrepreneurs. The success of this year’s event means we’re already in planning phase for a bigger and better 2019 season,” Selley says.

For more on the top 20 AGEC learners and schools, click here.

Related: Funding And Resources For Young SA Entrepreneurs

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Creating Jobs Is Team Work

It takes stakeholders from across the business sector to cooperate in building businesses that can create jobs, says Cash Converters CEO Richard Mukheibir.

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The franchise sector continues to grow healthily, according to the survey results recently released by the Franchise Association of South Africa (FASA). That sounds as if we should be in a good position to answer the President’s call to create jobs – but, as the saying goes, the truth is rarely simple.

The sector’s estimated turnover was R721 billion in 2017, growing its healthy contribution to GDP from 13.3 percent in 2016 to 15.7 percent in 2017. International investors have clearly been impressed by the SA franchise sector’s track record and are confident about its prospects. The number of international franchise brands in SA more than doubled from 12 percent in 2016 to 27 percent in 2017.

We saw employment rise in the franchise sector last year by 7.6 percent as 26 254 jobs were created in contrast to shrinking employment in other parts of the formal sector and in agriculture. At Cash Converters, for instance, we also responded to the Youth Employment Service, launched in June this year, by creating and training a roving stock-take team of first-time employees.

We would love to say we are expecting more of the same results this year – but that would disregard the economic and legislative environment where we try to make this happen. We congratulate multinational corporates such as Coco-Cola and SA Breweries who have committed to greater job creation and support among emerging farmers and local suppliers. In some senses, this is what the franchise industry does and wants to continue doing.

Of the 369 573 people employed in SA’s franchise sector last year, according to FASA, only 25 586 – or 6.9 percent – are employed by the franchisors to manage and operate their brands. The bulk of those employed in the sector – 343 987 people, or 93.1 percent – are employed by the individual franchisees.

Related: Be Your Neighbourhood’s Best Buddy

In other words, they are employed by small business people balancing the risk of their own capital investment in uncertain economic times against the benefits of operating within the support structure of a franchise brand. We need more of these bold souls to take on the challenge of becoming franchisees if we are going to be able to continue expanding the sector and creating new jobs.

But the economic picture in South Africa is still complex and difficult to read and we are seeing that having an impact on franchisee start-ups. On the one hand, we have had a good operational year with trading up by double figures across the Cash Converters group. On the other hand, we have had a slow year when it comes to franchisees opening new stores.

Everything from fuel and food prices to the exchange rate is shrouded in an atmosphere of doubt and uncertainty. Would-be entrepreneurs have lost confidence. They are sitting tight in a safe position, not wanting to risk their capital at the moment by starting up a new venture or growing their established business further.

But job creation can be sustained only on the back of a growing economy. Instead, the doubt and uncertainty is being felt at many different levels across the financial ecosphere. Banks are communicating their own uncertainty at the future by slashing the risk they will take on SA’s business sector.

At Cash Converters, three out of four of our would-be franchisees normally succeed in securing the finance they need to get their new store off the ground, start employing staff and contributing to our country’s economy. This year, though, the situation has been reversed. Only one out of four would-be franchisees have seen their finance approved and been able to set up and start trading.

All the rest – who were prepared to step out of their comfort zone, to cope with rental escalations, to tackle the ever-mushrooming pile of official regulations that encircle business ventures and to take risks in a difficult economy – have been left by the wayside. And so have the people they might have employed and their families.

Each of our start-up stores employs an average of 12 people, usually expanding to about 20 over the first year or two as it begins to break even. But in too many cases, those jobs are not being created. As a result, for every would-be store that is not opened, up to 120 people are not being fed.

As we all reflect on this Jobs Summit, I invite SA business and our financial partners to consider how we can bridge this gap effectively and create the jobs that are waiting in the pipeline.

Trading and entrepreneurial instincts are key elements of the business DNA of Cash Converters Southern Africa co-founder and managing director Richard Mukheibir. He traces his family’s lineage in small business development back more than a century to his grandfather who founded Mukheibir Brothers in Barkly East in 1897. Mukheibir co-founded Cash Converters Southern Africa with Peter Forshaw in 1994 and has now been involved with franchising for nearly a quarter of a century, thriving on its energy and the people-driven environment.

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Sandoz Healthcare Access Challenge (HACk) Returns, Seeking Digital Solutions To Local Healthcare Access Challenges

Despite major advances in modern medicine, universal access to healthcare remains the largest unmet medical need. Building on the inaugural Sandoz HACk, this year’s competition expands to seek broader digital solutions to local healthcare access challenges.

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Sandoz, the Novartis generics and biosimilars division, today announces the launch of the second Sandoz Healthcare Access Challenge (HACk).

The Sandoz HACk is a global competition that invites entrepreneurs and innovators in the field of digital technology to submit inspirational ideas with the potential to complement – or even positively disrupt – established approaches to driving access to healthcare. Sandoz HACk opened for entries on Friday, 4th October, closing on November 30, 2018.

Universal access to healthcare is still arguably the largest unmet medical need and, while great strides continue to be made globally, access challenges vary hugely across geographies and communities. Therefore, a major step towards improving healthcare access globally is to identify and understand the specific needs of local communities.

“There are still two billion people in this world not getting the medicines they need. This is why we are launching Sandoz HACk as we aim to inspire and embrace the brave and innovative thinking of entrepreneurs and visionaries to improve access to healthcare around the world”, said Richard Francis, Division Head and CEO of Sandoz.

Francis added: “Building on the inaugural Sandoz HACk, this year we are broadening the competition to anyone, anywhere, with an idea that uses digital technology to help address a local healthcare access challenge. By collaborating, we hope to create ambitious-yet-practical digital solutions that, with scale, could have a significant impact on people’s lives.”

Related: How do I Start a Primary Healthcare Business?

Digital innovation promises cost-effective and practical solutions with the power to transform access. Last year, Sandoz HACk focused on m-health (mobile health). This year’s theme is ‘Leveraging Digital Technologies to Solve Healthcare Access Challenges’: Encouraging ideas that can drive patient access or help healthcare providers to reach more people.

Three shortlisted entrants, to be announced in January 2019, will receive support from Sandoz experts to develop their ideas and transform potential into real impact. Our three finalists will travel to the world’s leading forward-focused gathering of creative minds, South by Southwest (SXSW; Austin, Texas) in March 2019, to explore, network and discover the latest innovative trends. Following in-person selection, one winner will be chosen and awarded seed funding and support from Sandoz, to help bring their idea to life.

For more details on how to enter the competition and terms and conditions, see here.

For further details visit www.sandoz.com/makingaccesshappen

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook using #SandozHACk.

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