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Migration to digital and innovative shopping platforms: How can business owners keep up with challenges and e-commerce trends in 2021

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All business owners know that customers’ needs and wants are constantly changing. However, it is the responsibility of these owners to keep up with customer trends, as well as new innovations within the commercial field. Due to the surge in the use of digital technology, as well as the safety and convenience offered by online shopping, this form of shopping has become a sought-after experience for users. The increased desire of customers to migrate to digital and innovative virtual platforms to do their shopping, not only opens up a window of opportunity for electronic commerce (EC) businesses and entrepreneurs, but has brought about many new trends and challenges for the upcoming year.

 


[Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels]

 

 

The ever-changing nature of consumer needs, wants and shopping patterns

Over the past few years, there has been a growing trend towards online shopping. The boom in the e-commerce industry was fast-tracked by the COVID-19 pandemic due to its attraction of a safe and convenient shopping experience. A recent study done by Nielsen revealed that 68% of South African consumers decreased their frequency of visiting physical supermarkets, whilst 37% of South African consumers increased their online shopping activity in 2020.

 

Since customers are starting to change their shopping patterns by migrating to online shopping, new trends can be witnessed with the types of products that customers are buying digitally. Originally, customers used online platforms mainly for fashion, travel or entertainment. However, the scope of goods that are being bought via e-commerce methods is starting to broaden immensely. One example is the purchasing of groceries. The above-mentioned Nielsen study also indicated that online grocery shopping has become a ‘lifeline’ for many South African consumers. In the past, customers generally went to physical shops to purchase such goods, but this is no longer the case. Therefore, online shopping online is no longer limited to only certain product categories.

 


[Photo by rupixen.com on Unsplash]

 

 

The possible challenges facing EC Companies

Despite the above statistics that show an increased interest in online shopping, the shift from physical shopping to online retail has been quite slow in South Africa, when compared with other countries. Given that South Africa is a developing nation, EC companies still face some challenges in starting online businesses, which are discussed below.

 

Firstly, although statistics show that half of the South African population have access to the internet and mobile services, online sales currently account for only 2% of retail purchases. This means that South Africa’s e-commerce market still lags behind the global curve, since, on a worldwide scale, online expenditure accounts for an average of 16% for all retail transactions. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the South African online market remaining largely untapped. However, these statistics are likely to change in the near future, as an increase in online sales is projected (see further below).

 

Secondly, not all online shoppers have access to digital infrastructure such as a laptop or computer. However, many citizens do possess a smart phone. This means that making purchases on a mobile device has become the most popular means of acquiring goods. Another challenged faced by customers if that of very high data costs, as South Africa has some of the most expensive data costs in the world. This is coupled with the problem of unreliable or inaccessible internet connection.

 


[Photo by Giftpundits.com from Pexels]

 

 

However, opportunity still exists in terms of these challenges, as a new trend is arising (and discussed below) whereby businesses are now embracing the omnichannel route. The result of this is that digital platforms are merely one of many means of connecting with customers. Furthermore, EC businesses are already starting to be successful. This can be seen in increased injection of investment into online retail, more effective digital marketing strategies and a rapid uptake of new shopping channels like mobile shopping. Due to this progress, it has been estimated that the value of EC transactions in South Africa is expected to increase by 150% to R225 billion by 2025 in response to a noticeable shift in consumer behaviour, as well as changed customer expectations.

 

Upcoming trends of online shopping in 2021

Despite being aware of the consumer changes explained above, EC companies and individuals starting online businesses need to keep up with the new and upcoming online shopping trends of 2021, which can help businesses overcome the challenges discussed above.

 

Trend 1: Omnichannel strategies provide a new gateway to reach customers

Have you heard of the term ‘omnichannel e-commerce?’ This is the new buzz word that you need to know! It describes a multi-channel approach to sales that aims to ensure customers receive a seamless shopping experience by offering services across a variety of channels and devices.

 

Many businesses are taking this route to offer a diversity of sales platforms for their customers. This wide range of channels include traditional channels (for example physically attending shops), digital channels (for example online ordering carts) and point-of-sales. However, it is important for business owners to remember that these channels should work together to create an integrated, and therefore, unified experience for the customers.

 

Listed below are four steps to achieve a successful omni-channel marketing strategy:

 

  • Fully understand your customers in order for you to be able to put their needs and wants at the forefront, when deciding on the most appropriate channels;
  • Identify which tools and solutions will provide the best options to connect with your customers;
  • Ensure that your customers feel appreciated by personalising all elements of the omnichannel marketing; and
  • Ensure consistency is upheld across all channels.

 

Trend 2: Catering for different customer needs through voice and other sound-related tools

2021 is also beginning to witness a surge in voice commerce. Many customers, especially those who have very busy schedules, are increasingly relying on voice assistant devices. Instead of having to type out their requests, many customers prefer speaking into their smart technology devices. These voice commerce apps and features are becoming well-known for their higher levels of accuracy and convenience.

 

Trend 3: Online Retailers are optimising their delivery strategies

One factor that negatively effects the confidence of online shoppers is an unreliable delivery service. Since customers dislike experiencing delays in their orders, e-commerce businesses desire effective delivery strategies that offer speed and a variety of fulfilment options that are aligned with changing customer demands, including blended experiences or local pickup. This has resulted in many retailers choosing automated retail workflow and delivery mechanisms (such as smartlockers) to decrease the time needed to fulfil orders and meet customer expectations regarding convenience. You can also check out our previous article that offers more details about how to overcome delivery challenges for EC.

 


[Image by And Africa LLC]

 

 

It is clear that the change of customers’ wants and needs is starting to create new trends within the e-commerce arena. It is important for EC owners and entrepreneurs to be aware of these trends, in order to ensure that such demands are met through their business models. These trends include the embracing of the omni-channel marketing strategy, new voice recognition technologies and more efficient and smarter delivery strategies. However, no industry (especially those within developing nations) exists without certain challenges, and therefore business owners must take cognisance of these issues and devise appropriate strategies to overcome them.

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Getting Your Small Business Ready For The New Year

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2022 had the world trying to restore any sense balance that was disrupted by the onslaught of Covid-19. Businesses were faced with very few options: adapt or perish. As a small or medium business—with very limited survival arsenal compared to business giants—you have had to run countless marathons throughout the year to give your business a fighting chance.

 

With every hoop jumped, it is no wonder why the end of the year comes as a breath of fresh air for businesses. Such a time signifies a massive victory for managing to make it through the year and surviving all of its punches.

 

While it is essential to celebrate all wins, it is equally crucial that end of year celebrations for businesses be met with thorough preparations for the new year to ensure that they make it through yet another year.

 

With a celebratory yet ‘ready-to-conquer attitude in mind, this article will explore some tips and tricks to aid small and medium businesses in getting ahead of the new year. While there exists a myriad of activities your business can take on to prepare for a successful year, this article will focus on the following 5 tips:

  • Reflecting
  • Creating new goals
  • New financial plan for the new year
  • Reviewing customer relationships
  • Planning ahead

Reflect

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In gearing up for the new year, a good place to begin with preparations is by studying the preceding year. It is time to travel back to the beginning of 2022 to place all that your business has been through under a microscope. The point of reflecting on the year is to gage all the successes and losses the business encountered to determine all the areas that need to be whipped into shape.

 

How to go about reflecting

 

David Bell describes this task as ‘crucial to moving forward towards the future. Reflecting, to some, may seem like a tedious task. Perhaps you have no idea how to go about reflecting in a purposeful manner.

 

One way to go about it is to use the ‘What? So what? What now?’ approach. The point of this approach is to identify events you would want to or could learn from, followed by dissecting the reasoning behind the need to learn from such events and then constructing a plan of action —based on this reflecting—for the future.

 

Reflection stands in perfect relationship with the adage: “work smarter, not harder.” As per the Harvard Business Review, it aids in improving job performance by ensuring that businesses take a break from blindly following objectives without real thought on where they are coming from. It helps them in understanding how they could polish their already traveled paths to ensure less turbulence en route to reaching their goals.

Create New Goals

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No small or medium-sized business should aim to remain that way. That means that with every passing year, new goals should be set that will contribute to the financial and structural growth of the business.

 

To establish new goals, go back to your business’ reflections and see what your business was able to achieve and the timeline it was able to achieve it all in. From there, determine any short-term and long-term goals that your will will actively work on in the coming year. Set yourself a timeline as to when you would like to see these goals come to life.

 

When setting your goals ensure that they will not disadvantage your business more than they will contribute positively into it. Ensure that they pour into the growth of your business.

Draw Up A Financial Plan for the New Year

A well planned and documented financial plan is an essential element of any business. This is one of the most effective ways of tracking the business’ income and expenses and ensuring that the business does not bite off more than it can chew in terms of financial commitments.

 

A savvy financial plan allows your business to assess risks in the market and build a risk tolerance strategy that will help keep your business afloat in tough financial situations. Where inflation threatens the stability of many small or medium-sized businesses, your business could survive such uncertainties because of the implementation of a well thought out financial plan.

 

Financial planning includes maintaining an emergency fund, managing any debt the business may incur, planning in advance for any taxes that the business is obligated to pay and drawing up a flexible monthly budget.

 

 

Review and Revitalize Your Relationship With Your Customers

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Picture by Jan Krukov from Pexels

This might not be the first time you hear this and it will most definitely not be the last: customers carry the immense power of making or breaking your business. Without them, there is no way of building a lasting business.

 

This is the time to assess whether you treated your customers like royalty. You need to review whether any improvements can be made to keep customers excited and coming back to do business with you in the new year.

 

Your business can, for instance, institute a rewards programme — if it hasn’t already — to reward loyal customers and in turn keep them coming back to you. Your business can also ensure that customers’ voices are heard by allowing them to voice any concerns and feedback they might have to offer.

 

This is also the time to appreciate those customers who chose your business over others in the same industry. Sending them an appreciation email or letter can only do your business good. However your business chooses to show customer appreciation, ensure that it is done before the end of the year to send the message that they are not an afterthought.

 

Plan Ahead

It is detrimental to ignore the fact that the modern world is filled with uncertainties and unforeseen risks that may have the power to alter any sense of normality in a matter of seconds. If any lesson is to be taken away from Covid-19 is that tomorrow or three months from now might not look like today. Planning ahead saves your business from succumbing to the uncertainties of the future.

 

Tips for Planning Ahead

 

There are many ways to successfully plan ahead for the new year. As a business owner, you get to decide which methods you’re going to implement to help you in this endeavour. These are some tips that you can use to ensure that 2023 does not find your business unprepared:

 

  • Prepare and schedule any social media posts, reports that may be due at the start of the year and ensure that all the business’ equipments work accordingly.
  • Determine which tasks you might need to outsource and start assessing who they will be outsourced to.
  • Purchase any stationery and resources that your business will need to get survive the start of the new year.

 

This is not an exhaustive list. It is also important to note that your planning should not be rigid and should make space for any uncertainties that may arise that may need you to alter your plans. Plan accordingly to your business’ goals and needs to get the most out of this activity.

Get Set, Ready, GO!

There are many reasons why your business should invest some time in getting ready for the new year and planning ahead for it. Each and every new year births endless possibilities that your small business can seize. A well prepared business puts itself in the position to fully take control of such opportunities. No matter how seemingly big or small your goals are, it is not too late to start planning for the new year to ensure continued success.

 

It is true that no business can ever be fully prepared for unforeseen risks and circumstances that may arise on any given day. However, it is such preparations that help to soften the blow of all these uncertainties

 

Revisit your new year strategy regularly and tweak it where necessary to adapt to the ever-changing world. Most importantly, commit your business to maintaining a strong and purpose-filled momentum for the new year.

Augmented Reality AR: Revolutionizing the Content Creation Arena

The way people consume information has drastically changed over the years. People have gone from absorbing information through newspapers, to old-fashioned TV to the heavy use of the internet as well as social media. This sentiment can be held for the way that content is being created. People have gone to from using still imaging, to videos to now incorporating Augmented Reality (AR) into their content.

When most people think of Augmented Reality, they think about the gaming world. The truth is that AR is moving rapidly beyond the gaming experience. With the rise of content creation, specialists have found ways to include AR as an additional means of creating modern, unique content.

The increasing focus on AR technology in the content creation world has consequently prompted businesses to adapt to this modern technology and to the ways they create their content.

While just about anyone can create content, it is important for businesses to create inspiring, attention-grabbing content that will ultimately covert mere audiences to customers. This article seeks to highlight the importance of content creation for businesses with a specific focus on content creation through the use of AR (Augmented Reality).

 

Content Creation is Crucial to Business Success

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Picture by cottonbro from Pexels

 

The success of any business is multifaceted in that there are many factors that need to be taken into account to ensure business success. From delivering top-notch customer service, heavy financial planning to avoid sinking the business, all the way implementing feasible marketing strategies. Content creation is no exception as it forms part of the contributory factors to business success.

There is no one right way to define content creation as the concept may differ from business to business. Be that as it may, content creation involves the process of formulating entertaining, informative material to distribute through different platforms. Businesses all over the world create content for various reasons, with one of the main reasons being to increase customer engagement to ultimately drive sales.

As alluded to earlier, content and the way it is created and consumed has seen a massive shift. For instance, businesses have opted to using content creation and distribution tools such as podcasts to release their messaging to their audience. This is a swift response to catering to the increasing number of podcast listeners world-wide. This is a wise strategy as a little over 383 million podcast listeners were recorded in 2021.

Content acts as a key link between any business and its audience. Moreover, it is the beating heart of every online communication strategy. It is therefore important for businesses, more so small businesses, to think strategically about plausible and efficient content creation strategies to implement in order to successfully grow their business.

Content Creation Strategies

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Photo by Pixabay

 

Content creation strategies entail mapping out ways to curate, use and deliver your businesses’ content in ways that will place a positive spotlight on your business and ultimately drive sales to it. Investing in feasible content creation strategies will help you create brand consistency for your business and aid you in selecting the right distribution channels in order to ensure your content reaches the right audience. It will aid your business in garnering maximum engagement on every piece of content it releases.

How To Create Optimum Content Creation Strategies

Creating content is not the easiest task to undertake. Adopting content creation strategies is even harder to execute. However, there are tips to follow to ensure that your business fully partakes in the ongoing era of content creation to achieve growth. It should be noted that this is not a closed list:

 

  • One of the best places to begin is to ask your audience what type of content they wish to see. Customer surveys can give your business an idea on the type of content to release that will not only boost your businesses’ presence but also appeal to the interests of your audience.
  • Have clear goals that you wish your business to achieve through the content you put out. This will help center the type of content you create as opposed to having your content be all over the show. A good way to do this is by using the SMART method to set out these goals.
  • Many online platforms offer backend insights into the demographics of those engaging with, or showing interest in your business. Google Analytics, for example, gives insight as to which country your audience is from and how long they engaged your website. Information like this is crucial as it provides insider intel on how your business can personalize its content to suit your audience. Furthermore, such analytics can help your business gage the content that gained the most traction, therefore aiding in the direction in which to create your content.
  • Last, but certainly not least, scouting your competitors can help your business curate content that not only stands out but is also memorable to your business’ audience. A great example is the content that Nando’s Nando’s scout their competition and comes up with content that is hilarious, satirical, and thought-provoking which is rare for a restaurant business. Upon examination of Nando’s’ competitors, it becomes easy to conclude that Nando’s’ standard of content creation surpasses that of their competitors. This gives Nando’s their competitive edge.

 

The secret to creating high-quality content that will most likely convert observers into customers easily lies in harnessing high quality content creation strategies. To fully take control of this means keeping up with the latest content creation trends. Augmented Reality is one such trend.

 

Augmented Reality: A Rising Content Creation Trend

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Picture by Tobias from Unsplash

 

There are dozens of content creation trends that are surfacing yearly. From year-to-year, hundreds of articles on ‘content creation trends to look out for’ are released. Augmented Reality most certainly makes the list. It has been recorded that 2 in 3 online customers prefer to engage with businesses that incorporate AR into their brand messaging.

Augmented Reality can be described as the enhancement of the actual physical world around you. Through AR technology, virtual objects can — in real time — be placed in any actual environment to enhance it to fit your liking. One of the main aims of AR is to alter and enhance the perception of any real-world environment by adding extra details such as infographics, sound, video and images to it.

Benefits of AR for Your Business’ Content Creation

 

Utilizing AR when creating content for your business comes with a number of advantages:

AR brings your business offering closer to your audience

There is not a single consumer in the world who does not wish to gain real value for their time and their money. It is thus no surprise when many consumers take their time before concluding any transaction, more so with businesses that they engage with online. AR possesses the ability to help guide your customers — both existing and potential customers — through their decision making all the way through to the transaction process.

For example, if your business offers hair dye, AR can be used to give your audience an idea of what each dye color your business houses would look like on them. This adds the element of certainty to your audience’s shopping experience whilst also enhancing their experience with your business. This has the potential to increase your businesses’ sales.

AR enhances customer experience

One of the ways for businesses to draw in new customers and retain existing ones is to offer them noteworthy experiences that never cease to fail them. AR assists with this by enabling your business to create high quality FAQs and product/service descriptions that are easily and readily accessible. In this way, your business offers them transparency and ease which in turn contributes their enhanced customer experience.

Converse and Their Use of AR

A comprehensive and relevant example of a business that managed to add AR to their brand is the world-famous Converse. As mentioned earlier, customers continuously seek to engage with businesses who utilize AR to enhance their shopping experience.

Converse took note of this and subsequently introduced the AR experience that enables their global audience to virtually “try-on” the brand’s shoes from the comfort of their homes. Through this, users can select the shoes they want to try on and simply point the cameras of their phones to their feet, thus giving them a look at what the shoes they are interested in would look like on them. This helps eliminate the indecisiveness and uncertainty of their customers and leads to Converse raking in massive amounts of sales.

Augmented Reality Is Critical to the Future of Content Creation

Content creation is — and will continue to be — an important element of maintaining any business relevance. Content creation trends such as Augmented Reality continue to shape the future on how content is both released by businesses and enjoyed by consumers.

AR has the ability to enhance the quality and layout of your business’ content. Furthermore, AR technology possess knowledge and insight that can help your business set a standard of superiority amongst other businesses who put out similar content. While AR is not a foreign or new concept, it is most certainly a welcome addition to the content creation arena that is here to stay.

Networking 101| Your Small Business’s Guide To Human Capital

 

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“You don’t build a business, you build people, then people build the business.” These are the immortal words of the late Zig Ziglar; a successful salesman who was highly conscious of the great power of networking.

There are many grave misconceptions surrounding the idea of networking. Many believe that it is all about what they can get from it. Others believe that it is about exchanging handshakes with other networkers in hopes for sales. As a small business attempting to create a strong brand presence, it is crucial to accept that these fallacies could not be further from the truth.

To find success in networking, these limiting myths need to be overturned. This article aims to facilitate your understanding on the concept of networking to help your small business seize the opportunities that lie in connecting with other professionals or like-minded individuals.

Understanding Networking

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One of the many definitions of what networking is, is that it is a process involving the exchanging of information whilst establishing social or professional contacts. It involves meeting new people to bounce ideas and inspirations off.

Part of the essence of networking is forming and nurturing lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with other people. The Harvard Business Review has stated that networking can lead to increased knowledge, status and advancement in one’s path.

Networking can be facilitated in professional or informal settings. Whilst the importance of networking cannot be downplayed, it also does not have to be thought of as an elite exercise that only rich and well-established businesses get to participate in. As a matter of fact, as a small business trying to make a name for yourself, you are encouraged to attend as many networking opportunities as possible.

Benefits of Networking

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Photo by Nappy

As alluded to earlier, networking offers a great number of benefits that small businesses should not miss out on. Getting noticed and being exposed to a plethora of growth opportunities are but a couple of benefits that come attached to networking.

Your small business gets noticed

As a small business trying to establish yourself in the market, there is no harm in getting yourself noticed and raising your business’ profile. Doing simple things like reaching out to fellow business owners through email or social media, can help remove you and your small business form an unwanted invisibility status.

Increased opportunities

The more you network, the more you will find increased opportunities lining up for you. These could come from referrals or leads that your networking partners may offer you. For instance, if you are a product-based business, you could be referred to suppliers who work well with small businesses who happen to be on a tight budget. This then serves as a good opportunity for your business to cut down on such costs. The opportunities are endless — if networking is seized accordingly.

Invaluable connections

A big advantage to networking, when done properly, is that you will expose yourself and your small business to people who possess great insight and knowledge with regards to your industry. Above and beyond this, you will connect with people who will keep you motivated to continue running your business to success instead of giving up when things get tough. Running any type of business is difficult enough on its own. Thus, a network of individuals who are ready to offer emotional support is to be cherished.

How to Go About Networking

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There is generally no one right way to network. Additionally, networking can happen anywhere. Many tips and tricks have been provided by industry experts on how to crack networking. From putting on a friendly face to simply just showing up, there exists a great number of ways to take advantage of the networking arena.

Use social media

Networking does not always mean attending lavish events where you will rub shoulders with the big names in the industry. Afterall, it is not everyone who has access to such events.

According to Hootsuite, Instagram has approximately 1.22 billion monthly users. Hootsuite predicted that Twitter’s user count will surpass 329 million by the time 2022 comes to an end. LinkedIn boasts a user count of 830 million members in more than 200 countries.

Social media is then undeniably a buffet for small business owners to establish mutually beneficial networks that span across borders. A simple DM can open doors for your small business in the market.

Attend networking events

In addition to using social media to your advantage, it is important to physically put yourself and the name of your small business out there. There are a number of platforms designed to make physical networking events more visible for you to find.

For instance, Meetup helps connect South Africans to a number of networking events in different areas of the country. It is fairly easy to navigate and allows you to filter the types of events you want based on your preferred location. Of course, it is also equally important to do extra research on the listed events to ensure your safety. The platform also allows you to create your own networking event that people can sign up for.

NSBC is a reputable organization that hosts multiple networking events for small businesses in South Africa. They regularly host a breakfast networking session to allow business owners like yourself to get acquainted with each other and to form long lasting relationships.

Do not be a leech

Before you embark on the quest of networking, it is important to understand that it is not all about you and what your business can gain out of the connections you establish. If you go into networking with such a mindset, you run the risk of losing out on mutually beneficial connections that can help catapult your small business into new levels of success.

Consider what you are bringing to the table and how you could be of value to your networking circle. This way, you ensure the establishment of a genuine circle that has the potential to be long-lasting. Therefore, in essence, do not just take; feed back into your network as well.

Check up on your network

Networking is about creating relationships that will survive the test of time. Communicating with your network only when you need something is as poor networking.

A phone call, an email or a coffee date here and there, with the purpose of conducting a wellness check sends the message that you genuinely care about your network. Additionally, letting those you connect with know that they can reach out to you should they need your help, is another way to keep such relationships going.

How Networking Saved Danny Jefferson’s Small Business

We wrote this article with one goal in mind: encouraging you as a small/medium business owner to realize the power of — in simple words — talking to people. Danny Jefferson, owner of Pierce-Jefferson Funeral & Cremation Service, is a perfect example of this.

When Jefferson founded his then small business, a funeral home, he expected to receive sale after sale. Initially, this was true for him as he saw his business thriving. However, in 2004, the heavy realities of operating a small business soon kicked in: sales don’t come always. The business went from thriving to struggling in the blink of an eye.

After time spent strategizing on how to fuel growth back into his business, he decided that the best thing to do was to go out and talk to as many people as he could. He made sure not to make the connections he made about himself.

Eventually, “Each new interaction led to more interactions and these relationships are the cornerstone of the success of Pierce-Jefferson Funeral Home.” Jefferson’s business managed to rake in a 35% yearly growth rate over the past years — a clear display of the power of networking.

This is Your Sign to Put Your Business Out There!

Networking is essential when it comes to building long-lasting professional relationships that will lead your business to a multitude of opportunities. In simple terms: networking plays a crucial role to the success of your business.

Putting your business out there by talking to people, both online and offline, brings your small business one step closer to fortune. It is thus important to accept that your business needs human capital for long-term survival.

As the popular saying goes, two minds are better than one. Therefore, as a small business owner, it is never a bad idea to learn about effective networking to ensure that your small business does not fall into oblivion.

 

 

 

Small Business Optimization | A Guide to Surviving the Economic Crisis

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Deane Bayas from Pexels

The economic instabilities striking the South African economy seem to rise on a daily basis. In July, motorists have been warned to brace themselves for a hike in the already increased petrol prices. Electricity tariffs have also been approved to increase by 7.47%

Hard-working individuals are putting in hours of labour to keep up with the sweat-breaking demands of the strenuous economy. Many well-established businesses have risen and fallen due to the never-ending economic pitfalls. Small businesses do not fall short of the looming potential downfalls catapulted by these instabilities, more so in their first year of business. The rising fuel and electricity prices are but a massive tip of the iceberg.

The big question is: how can your small business stay afloat amidst the looming economic crisis? This article will explore this question by providing easy, practical guides to optimizing your business practices to stand a chance in the rough economic seas. You can find a few answers to  surviving the economic crisis as a small business.

Budget Like a Pro

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Budgeting is critical to the financial wellness of any business, and not only to during times when you must be surviving the economic crisis as a small business. Pouring money into empty wells is a sure way down the slope to business closure. Budgeting is not easy but there are many ways to ensure that your business does not burn through money faster than it can generate it.

Simple tips that your business can implement:

Tip one: create a list of your income and expenses. From this, identify those expenses that are unnecessary and eliminate them.

Tip two: Gage any amount of spending capital you may have and from it, set a monthly spending limit. At this point, you should ensure that you prioritize your expenditures.

Tip three: Budgeting is not an easy task that can be perfected overnight. Unexpected circumstances may cause a deviation from your budget. This is not the end of the world. Adjust your budget accordingly, keeping in mind that the goal is to limit unnecessary expenditure.

Using Freelancers

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Freelancers are independent workers who companies hire on a short-term basis to perform specific tasks. Freelancers are part of the growing gig economy. Some companies opt for these independent contractors as opposed to full-time employees.

For instance, if your business is in need of accounting services, a freelancer with the relevant skills and qualifications can offer them to you. You would then only pay for services rendered for the period that you used the freelancer’s services. You could use freelancers for any work you might need help on; professional data backup services, website building services and even photography services to add to the attractiveness of your businesses’ online presence. It is all up to you and your businesses’ needs.

This calls for the elaboration on the benefits that the use of freelancers poses. For small businesses, freelancers come with a number of benefits with the most obvious being, saving on costs. Most small businesses do not have the financial capacity to house fulltime employees. Using freelancers cuts training and development costs. It means paying for work done for the contracted period instead of paying for all the costs that are involved in maintaining full time employees.

Local companies such as Safrea, Upwork and Mintor all provide South African freelancers and businesses the opportunity to find each other to establish affordable working relationships. Freelancers — for small business owners — are a smart, cost-effective move.

Low-Cost Advertising

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Targeted markets cannot be penetrated or reached if no one knows about the existence of your business. Marketing, if done well, saves your business from invisibility. As a small business, chances are that your operations, marketing included, need to be executed on a shoestring budget. Social media, word-of-mouth tactics and email marketing are but a few pocket-friendly marketing strategies worth considering

Social Media is going nowhere

There are over 4.2 billion active social media users all across the globe. Growing platforms such as Instagram and TikTok offer real-time analytics on each post and each visitor who views users’ pages. Utilizing such platforms not only means reaching the multitude of social media users who are your potential consumers, it also means having demographic information handed through the provided analytics. This means that you can determine who is showing interest in your small business and thus prompt them to opening their wallets to your offerings.

Seeing that social media platforms are mostly free to use, your business has the opportunity to reach millions of potential customers at essentially no cost.

Refer-a-friend Scheme

Happy customers are a great way to advertise your business. Offer your customers some form of incentive for bringing in new customers. You could offer them discounts, loyalty points or coupons to encourage them to spread the word. Word-of-mouth is free advertising that your small business needs to trigger to maintain visibility.

Email Marketing

Businesses have the potential to both gain and lose customers at an alarming rate. Studies have previously indicated that it takes the average customer 8.25 seconds before they lose interest.

Email marketing serves as a sound reminder to your existing customers that you exist. Prompt them to subscribe to receiving sale notifications and any relevant updates from your business. Programs like MailChimp and Stripo offer free options for businesses and individuals to send customized group emails to customers. Essentially, your tight-budgeted small business has nothing to lose but customers to gain.

Email marketing is an effective way to retain customer interest. It also saves you ample time as it eliminates the need to send many emails individually. However, take caution not to spam your subscribers with endless emails as this will inevitably annoy them.

Optimize Your Delivery Strategy

man riding motorcycle on road during daytime
Photo by Rowan Freeman on Unsplash

With the seemingly uncontrollable predicted petrol hikes, businesses will do well to revisit their current delivery strategies to ensure that they do not drown in all the increases.

The last mile small business faces both economic challenges and the challenges that come with attempting to exceed customer satisfaction to continue competing in the market. South Africa may not have a variety of well packaged solutions for such challenges, however, all hope is not lost.

Taking great advantage of available services offered by last mile companies who possess researched methods to combat the many challenges your business may face in terms of logistics, can save you from a lot of excess stress. For instance, Easy Collect & Drop — a local solution — eases the pressure for businesses by providing affordable smart locker use as points of delivery. These are just as quick and efficient as the more traditional delivery options, with the upside being that they are cheaper in the long run. Thus, if the costly door-to-door delivery does not accommodate your business financially, ECD is sure to take care of your business need either way.

Conclusion: Survive the economic crisis as a small business

Small businesses can never learn enough about optimizing their business practices to give themselves a fighting chance in the rising economic waters.

SMEs are key role players in the building of the economy. The National Treasury views it best: They contribute to the efficiency of the local markets. They also contribute to the alleviation of poor economic activity in rural areas.

Economic instability has the ability to wipe out the existence of any brittle business. Surviving the economic crisis as a small business is a big question, but it should be your priority to ensure that you continuously revisit your current business practices to withstand such forces.

 

Outsourced Shipping – A Way To Streamline Your Growing Business

people arguing in workplace
Photo by Yan Krukov

Shipping is one of the most important aspects of running any product-based business. In the early stages of operation, many startups and small businesses can possibly handle their own shipping needs. However, along with the growth of customer orders comes the inevitable need to outsource the business’s shipping to ensure customer satisfaction. With expansion, self-shipping may soon become much too unsustainable and financially strenuous on your business’ wallet.

Outsourced shipping can be associated with a number of overlooked benefits. Many business owners do not know that this delegation can mean optimizing your customers’ experience, lowering shipping costs, flexibility and saved time in terms of not having to learn the back-end of the shipping industry.

To get more comfortable with outsourcing your startup or growing business’ shipping needs, it is important to know and understand what this operation entails. This article aims to simplify this aspect of conducting business to help you optimize and streamline your small business.

Understanding Outsourced Shipping And How It Works

Outsourced shipping, simply put, entails delegating the distribution of your business’s products to another company — usually a shipping company. The need for outsourced shipping usually arises when the demand for your business’s product offering grows, thus posing a challenge to timeously fulfill your customers’ demands.

Outsourced shipping begins with you taking the decision to allow an external shipping or logistics company to basically lead your supply chain. Depending on the services that your chosen company offers, it will handle your warehousing, packaging, and shipping needs. In addition, your chosen company can ensure that you receive detailed reports on all your inventory and thus keeping you in the loop on this part of your business.

Benefits of Outsourced Shipping

person preparing a parcel
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

No startup or small business aspires to stay in such a state forever. Outsourcing your business’ shipping duties is one strategy to consider when trying to scale. As a growing small business, outsourcing your shipping poses a number of benefits that you might not want to pass on.

Outsourced shipping optimizes customer service

We are living in a world where on-demand culture and that of instant gratification is rife. This is part of the reason why customers demand and expect speedy delivery. If it is logistically challenging for your business to meet and supersede customer expectations in this area, outsourced shipping can help ease this. Working with a third-party shipping company that ensures speedy delivery is a great way to optimize your customer service in that you could potentially avoid having to unnecessarily keep them waiting. You then give your business the opportunity to secure repeat purchases from your existing customer base and to lock in new customers.

Lowered Overall Fulfillment Costs

From the outside looking in, outsourced shipping may appear as an extra expense that your small business would rather shy away from. This is not necessarily accurate as it may actually reduce your fulfillment costs. Yes, outsourced shipping comes at a cost but so does self-shipping.

Through the magic of outsourced shipping, your business need not be concerned with securing a fleet of delivery vehicles when it is not in the financial position to do so. You will be saved from having to fork out funds on designing, automating and maintaining the shipping process because all of these areas will already be taken care of by your shipping partner.

Flexibility

Taking on a flexible approach when fulfilling your customer orders offers your business the golden opportunity to extend your market reach when working with a suitable shipment company. Why limit your business to having only a local presence when you can have a national and even a global presence through simply allowing a reliable shipping company to make this possible for you.

The formalities of the shipping industry are taken care of

The logistics industry is a rather complicated field. Outsourced entails your chosen outsourcing partner taking all the stress of having to navigate through all the field’s intricacies by yourself away. They will know how to handle delicate shipment, hazardous products all the way to beverages and food. Your partner will bring to the table their experience and expertise in the logistics industry. There is thus no need for you to spend hours learning the back-end and the formalities presented by the field. While educating yourself is never a bad idea, your shipping partner will have you covered in this regard as they will know the legalities surrounding customs, appropriate delivery routes and what constitutes as lawful and unlawful when executing deliveries.

Outsourced Shipping From Easy Collect & Drop’s Perspective

Employee looking at parcel
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

To serve as an example, Easy Collect & Drop (ECD) is always looking for ways to give the last mile customer satisfactory services that make the executing of business operations easier and more efficient. Through the added warehouse management service, customers are provided with reliable warehouse space and stock management services.

Customers and businesses are able to rent the warehouse space that they need. The ECD team conducts regular stocktaking checks to provide customers with regular, updated reports of their inventory. This way customers are always informed and can rest assured knowing that their stock information is up to date.

ECD knows that entrusting someone with one’s shipping needs comes with a lot of uncertainty and angst. To give customers peace of mind, any missing or damaged items caused by the ECD warehousing service are reimbursed. Through a one stop solution approach that is sure to successfully tender to customers’ business’ warehousing and delivery needs, ECD ensures that they receive safe, secure and efficient service delivery from a reliable and flexible team.

Outsourced Shipping Really Does Take the Weight Off

As provided in this article, outsourcing your business’ shipping poses a number of benefits. Not only does it help your small business in meeting your customers’ order demands in a timeous manner, it also acts as a business strategy that can help you reach those customers who are positioned in distant markets. In the fast-paced world we live in where instant gratification is of high value makes it an ever-important goal to achieve to ensure that your customers are never kept waiting. Make it a point to fully understand your business’ shipping needs in order to ensure a shipping company that you will have the perfect chemistry with.

Your Small Business’ Guide To Sales Optimisation

Turning a profit and optimising sales as a small business or a startup is not easy.  The unfavourable economic conditions do not help at all. At the end of 2021, South Africa’s consumer price reached an inflated point of 5.9%. As if this is not limiting enough, we expect an increase in the already pocket-breaking petrol prices in April 2022. Even with all the barriers working against small businesses who have very little resistance power, there is still light at the end of the very long tunnel. Business analysts and experts have written manual after manual on how to survive and grow as a small business. Optimising your business’s sales is one such strategy.

This article seeks to delve into the concept of optimisating sales. Whilst there are many practical guides to optimising sales, this article will look into 3 strategies to achieving this goal:

  • Rolling Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers
  • Revisiting Your Current Sales Practices
  • Automation: The Time Saver Your Small Business Needs

Explaining sales optimisation

Optimising sales entails working smarter and not harder. It is about enhancing customer experience to keep them hooked to your offerings. This would then mean finding effective ways to keep your customers coming back to your small business. Offering customers convenience, speed, efficiency are but a few ways to achieve sales optimisation. Ultimately, optimising sales refers to the practices behind the scenes that you do to lead your business to more sales.

Sales can be considered the ‘last mile’ for businesses. As a business owner,  you know that when a sale is made it is the result of all the tears, work, trials, errors and spreading of the word of the business that led to that moment.

Rolling Out the Red Carpet For Your Customers

waitress taking order
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

“Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says: Make me feel important.” These are the words uttered by Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics. It is an indisputable fact that customers want to be treated as king. If they are unhappy, they do not mind taking their business — their much needed money — elsewhere. Giving your customers what they want is a great sales optimisation strategy.

If your customers recommend that your business get a functional and easy-to-navigate website, it is in your business’ best interest to heed their call. It clearly shows that they use your website as a way to connect with your business. Understanding what your customers want and giving it to them makes them feel heard. It also works in favour of your business in that it can help you in eliminating all that is unnecessary.

African Flavour Books, a small South African book retailer, saw a huge gap in their industry: there were no bookstores in South Africa that focused on serving the African community and those passionate about African literature. The owners, a young couple, opened their store with this in mind. They subsequently expanded their reach by adding African-centered movies and music — all this upon customer recommendation. In addition to this, they aimed to sell their books for under R200 upon noticing and appreciating the economic stance of their target audience. This is the sales optimisation strategy that African Flavour Books seized and it saw them generating a steady flow of sales revenue. They made their target market feel like they and their preferences matter.

Revisiting Your Current Sales Practices

Writing down tasks
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Who says that optimising sales needs to be complicated? Starting with a task as simple as revisiting and reviewing your business’ s current sales practices can go a long way.

How To Revisit Your Current Sales Practices

The first question to ask yourself when you begin this reviewing process is: “What am I doing right?” Provided that your business has already raked in some sales, consider the process that your business underwent to reach those moments of sales.

Perhaps your business spent months in producing or availing those sold products or services. Maybe you physically knocked on people’s doors to tell them about your business and its offerings. Whatever it is that helped your business land those sales, note them down.

The next question to consider is: “Which sales practices are not working towards the good of my business?” It may not always be easy to point out the mistakes you are making in your business especially if you are a one-person team. To make this process easier, ask for customer feedback on how your customers felt when your business served them. Perhaps your response time to your customers is not the fastest or your products from your suppliers are not arriving fast enough. If you produce your own products, it could be that you are not spending enough time sampling your products to test them.

In addition to this business examining, taking note of the amount of money your business managed to make from sales is a good practice to optimising your future sales. Asking questions such ask “Did the business make more sales this quarter than the last?” can aid you in identifying more ways to achieve the last mile — the sales.

Spending time on business introspection, should help you find the good and the not-so-good aspects of your sales practices. You can then begin the process of improving where you lack. This is your opportunity to identify holes in your practices to patch up to prevent any further sales from falling through them.

Automation: The Time Saver Your Small Business Needs

ECD app
Photo by Easy Collect & Drop

Capturing and maintaining customer records, keeping stock records, recording cashflow and keeping a clean business image are but a few tasks that need the attention of your business. What this all means is work after work. Sales automation refers to the much-needed task of using digital tools and software to automate as much of the time-consuming, manual tasks that need to be done. This is done to allow businesses to designate more time to more important tasks, such as building great customer relations and drawing in more sales.

Benefits of Automation:

Automation helps your business save time. Using technology in your daily dealings allows for the fast completion of tasks with increased accuracy. For example, using a spreadsheet can help you add up all your business’ finances at a much faster and more accurate rate than most manual methods.

Efficiency when capturing customer data is yet another benefit. Imagine having to write down each and every sale in a sales book instead of having a point-of- sale system that captures all sales in your computer. This leaves too much room for error. Automating this part of your business, thus reduces such potential errors.

Business automation helps lowers operational costs. The central goal of any business is to generate profits. For instance, a small business with limited financial capacity may not always have the pleasure of employing staff. Therefore, using automation procedures — such as email management tools — eliminates payroll costs.

Ways to Automate Your Small Business:

  • Automate your email processes to avoid, for example, having to send the same marketing email to your long list of customers and potential customers. An automated email system will allow you to send such an email to hundreds of recipients in just one go. MailChimp and Hubspot are some the many available platforms that help with email automation. These allow you to create and schedule your emails and even provide you with feedback reports your activities.
  • If your small business has a website — and hopefully it does — the use of chatbots is recommended. It is a good way to provide your visitors with ‘immediate’ responses whenever they need it.
  • Easy Collect & Drop serves as a prime example for business automation. As a logistics enterprise, ECD offers convenient delivery solutions that allow customers to book their delivers online. Customers are provided with easy methods to track their orders, access and download their invoices. Through ECD’s automation efforts, customers are always kept in the loop.

Automating your business’ processes will help you focus more on the sales and the moments of sales with your customers, as opposed to the administrative side business. Automation saves you time while simultaneously keeping your data consistent.

Sales Optimisation In A Nutshell

Giving your customers a great experience is beneficial for customer retention. For as small business with limited resources, optimising sales does not have to include intricate procedures that are rather difficult to execute. You do not have to spend unnecessary monies to achieve this strategy. This is more so if your business does not house the financial capabilities to do so.

Sales optimisation will set your small business on a path that moves away from the sporadic sales that you might have been experiencing. It can aid in setting your small business on an upward sales trajectory altogether.

As a small business owner, you should never cease to place your business’ focus on increasing the effectiveness of your sales. Sales optimisation is rather a strategy you will have to revisit as often as possible. That’s how you keep up with customer needs and increase the number of sales that your business generates.

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