Establishing a successful business in SA’s online marketplace | by Malcolm Farrell

TechnologyThe digital age has arrived, and your digital presence is your front door to the world. Gone are the days where being online means just having a website. In the last ten years, the digital space has rapidly advanced while simultaneously securing and growing its role in the business world. It couldn’t be a more important time to stay informed, adapt your business, and keep up with the digital-savvy times - or lose out to those who do.

Understanding the opportunity
The rise of the digital age has seen an increase and expansion in ecommerce (commercial transactions online) platforms, allowing consumers to electronically exchange goods and services with ease from anywhere in the world. According to Efi Dahan, PayPal general manager for Russia, Turkey, Middle East and Africa, online spend in South Africa is estimated to reach R53bn by 2018.

Focus on user experience
Whether you are developing or sprucing up your website or ecommerce platform, it is very important to consider the user’s experience. The web user is your potential customer. A well-designed user experience is what can differentiate your business in the competitive online space.

Optimising your digital presence for mobile is no longer recommended, but required for the success of your business. A study conducted in 2015 by mobile surveying company GeoPell and World Wide Worx suggested that 40% of South Africans use mobile phones to browse the internet and access social media sites.

Get social
Love it or hate it, social media has become a part of our daily lives and is imperative in having a digital presence. Nowadays, you need to represent your business through these channels and, importantly, think about the way in which your brand is being presented to the “always-connected” consumer. Don’t feel that you must be on every single social media platform. Rather focus on mastering your presence and engaging consistently on two or three platforms that are most relevant to your customers and target market.

If you have an ecommerce platform on your site, investigate how you can use social media to drive real conversions – thereby increasing Return on Investment (ROI). With the addition of the “buy button” to many social media platforms, the future landscape of ecommerce could look very different. Many recent articles suggest that the future of commerce is in social media or gamification.

Multi-channel & multi-seller
The world has never been more connected, and consumers have instantaneous access to multiple channels. This is why multi-channel selling is such an important consideration for ecommerce sellers. Customers expect to engage meaningful across relevant platforms.

Additionally, consumers love using multi-vendor websites as it gives them the option to choose from a wide selection of items from various sellers. If you do not have your own ecommerce platform, a multi-vendor one is a great way to sell and promote your products and presence in the digital space.

Traditionally we think of online selling and multi-vendor platforms as being spaces for crafters and those selling traditional products. But even within spheres like procurement and supply chain, the field is changing and more people are looking to find their providers online. The SCNet’s ecommerce platform, for example, has an extensive reach of over 65 000 small businesses.

The digital marketplace isn’t going anywhere, and – for service providers and sellers – these platforms offer an abundance of information, data and analytics to help you along the way. Start by evaluating your digital presence and establishing a digital plan-of-action going forward.

Malcolm Farrell is the Managing Director of Supply Chain Network - www.scnet.co.za
Posted on January 17, 2018