8 February, 2018

What to consider when starting an online store in South Africa

There are quite a number of factors to consider when starting an online ecommerce store in South Africa. Below, we have outlined a number of items to help you make your final decisions before you begin the journey of selling online.

Common misconceptions

The number one misconception about ecommerce is that once the site is up, the customers will just arrive. While this might be true for an established brand that has built up trust over many years, it will take time if you are starting out for the first time. As in all relationships, trust takes time and consistency is key to make sure that you are always delivering what you promise. From what you say in your messaging to what people receive and the entire journey in between, you want to be consistent so that people come to understand trust your own brand.

Common considerations when starting an online ecommerce store

Here are some additional considerations you need to think about.

  • Trust: At the Ecommerce Forum of Africa (EFA), we are working hard to improve trust in South African ecommerce. Unlike other countries where ecommerce has been running well for many years, we are still adopting and learning but as the EFA grows, we are bringing together all the couriers, banks, government, digital agencies, postal services, payment gateways and so on to be able to create a better flowing eco-system.
  • Education: There is a lot to learn about ecommerce. From how to run the website, keeping stock, delivery, returns, customer service and more. It helps to learn as much as possible before you embark on the journey to see if running an ecommerce store is for you. It can be very fulfilling when it begins to work but it does take a lot of learning and effort to get things up and running properly.
  • Traffic: You have to have a marketing budget to ensure that you can drive traffic to your website. This you can do yourself if you have the time but often times, it is better to get an agency on board who understands traffic and more importantly, how to convert the traffic into paying customers. At minimum, you need to consider a budget of around R5000 per month for a small company to spend if you’re going to spend on Google or Facebook Ads.
  • Stock: How will you manage your stock, where will you keep your stock and how will your ship products to your customers? If they are not happy with the product, how will you manage the return of the products?
  • Cost of sale: It is important to understand all the different costs that are levied in the process of any transaction. How much much does the payment gateway take for every transaction? What will the courier company take for every sale?
  • Multiple channels: many of our own clients run multiple ecommerce channels. For example, they might start with Etsy or Amazon to increase their awareness but over time, you want to be able to sell from your own site. After all, the savings is what you’re after.
  • Marketing Automation:  As you collect email addresses through your website, you want to be able to get your email marketing software to work for you automatically to encourage ongoing sales. Introductory email sequences help introduce you, your team and your business. Birthday emails can go out with a coupon to encourage customers to come back to the site and automatic emails can go out to customers if they happened to close their browser and didn’t complete the sale. There are many automations that can help increase the sales.
  • Growing your tribe: Customer Relationship Management system and Ecommerce platforms go hand in hand. Once you have started selling a lot, you will want to find ways to resell to you loyal customers. It here where CRM systems help in the process.

If you’re considering starting an online business, make contact with us for a free one hour consultation where we’ll help you you through some of the questions you might have. Call us on +27 21 853 0609 or email us here