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Outsourced Shipping – A Way To Streamline Your Growing Business

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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.

Related Blogs

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

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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.

Seizing Growth Opportunities to Expand Your Small Business

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Photo by Daniel Öberg on Unsplash

Growing a business is not something that happens overnight. It is a process that can take months and even years to accomplish. There are many strategies that detail how you can take your small business to new heights. Defining growth differs from business to business. Generally, it means getting your business from where it currently is to where you want it be in the future. Growing your small business could mean an increase in brand awareness, brand loyalty and a healthy spike in revenue.

A lot can be done – physically and mentally – to aid in the growth of your business. However, it is important to understand the following pointers, which will be further expanded on, in order to help you take charge of growth opportunities to sustainably grow your small business:

  • There is more than one right move when attempting to take your small business to your desired level of growth.
  • Rome was not built in a day! The efforts you dedicate to your business today may only pay off months and even years later. Patience is a key element when growing a small business.
  • No business can survive without customers. Knowing and understanding who they are and what they need is a useful growth strategy with ample growth opportunities waiting to be seized.
  • As a small business owner, it is imperative to tap into ways that will be advantageous to your business when it comes to competing with competitors of all sizes in the market you aim to successfully establish your business in.

There Is More Than One Right Move

There is a whole sea of growth strategies available detailing how you can grow your small business. It is a mistake to think that there is only one right path to growing your business as there are many proven ways to achieve this. This way of thinking can lead to you missing out on many growth opportunities around you. For instance, it may happen that at the start your business you are a one-person show. It may be that you wear the designer, the marketer and accountant hats. Breaking your bigger tasks into smaller tasks may help you feel a little less overwhelmed with all the work you have to get done. Working with a schedule, managing your time well and learning about your field of business may all seem irrelevant to growing your business. However, these are strategies that can aid in the growth of your small business in the long run.

Your Efforts Today Might Only Bear Fruits Years Later

As mentioned earlier, growing your small business will not happen overnight. What seems like over-night success on the outside for most businesses, is actually years of hard work finally paying off.

In 2019, Amazon was listed as one of the fasted growing companies in the world. It ranked at number 11 on Fortune’s 100 Fastest-Growing Companies list. Jeff Bezos, the founder, stated that when the company experiences a good financial quarter, it is the result of work done three years prior. He advices businesses to think and plan for the long-term. This way, you know where to invest your energy. This is advice coming from one of the richest men in the world who managed to turn his business into the biggest ecommerce platform that we have today.

Modern Centric Holdings, an SME in South Africa that focuses on successfully integrating those with disabilities into the workplace, was established in 2013. It only became fully operational in 2018, after years of hard work. It was only in 2021 that its owner, Zakhele Mgobhozi, received an award for all the years of his hard work at the 20th Annual Top Empowerment Awards. Modern Centric Holdings’ ‘over-night success’ is more than 8 years of work in the pipeline. This proves that your works at the start of your business may only bear fruits years later.

Understand Your Customer

We hear you
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Knowing and understanding your customer base is crucial to the long-term success of your business. There could be many growth opportunities coming out of knowing who it is you are catering to. Knowing your customers goes beyond simply knowing their names and ages. Being informed about their hobbies and how they would like to be treated can help you in enhancing how you serve each and every one of your businesses’ supporters. There are many ways of getting to know your customers.

Use Social Media

You can get to know your customers through communication channels such as Facebook, Instagram and even Twitter. You can utilize these platforms to directly communicate with your customers and audience to create more personal relationships with them. Ask them questions and actively use their answers and feedback to cater to them. Pride yourself on responding to both the positive and the negative reviews that your business may pull in. This will show your customers how committed you are to serving them correctly. It will humanize the name of your business thus creating brand loyalty for your business. It will also provide you with more information about who your customers are.

Create a Customer Profile

Having a customer profile that lays out who exactly you are trying to serve not only aids in knowing who your customer is but also serves as a guide to knowing their needs. To create the ideal customer profile, take your best and worst customers and note down what made you choose them as the best and worst. Note what it is these customers have in common. From here, find ways to upgrade your offering to them.

Through your communicating with your customers, you can learn how to meet and even exceed their expectations which gives you a great chance at retaining your already existing customer base and gaining new ones through referrals from your happy clients. Just like growing your business, knowing your customers is a process that could take years to master. However, leveraging this information will help you broaden your customer reach, thus elevating your small business. Your customers are the lifeline of your business. It is thus crucial to keep yourself informed about them.

Market Penetration: Take Up Space

Chess pieces
Randy Fath from Unsplash

Market penetration has two faces depending on how you look at it. On the one hand it refers to how much a product or service is sold in comparison to the total size of the market for that particular product or service. On the other hand, as an activity, it refers to entering an already existing market with an already existing product and competing in this already existing space. The only difference is that your product or service takes up space, meaning that you seize your competitors market share. The challenge would be to find ways to thrive in an already competitive market. As difficult as this might seem, it is completely achievable. It could be done through strategic pricing, enhanced customer care and a presence in community outreach.

MTN: The big games

Take the big mobile network companies in South Africa as an example. Vodacom, MTN, CellC and Telkom are in the same market space. However, in 2019 Business Tech reported that MTN generates more money per paying customer despite having a lower subscriber base than Vodacom, it’s primary competitor.

There are many cited reasons to MTN’s success. MTN claims that part of its success come from their corporate social responsibility strategy. The company says that it “can only flourish when the communities and ecosystems in which it operates are healthy.”

You can penetrate your market through strategic pricing. Slightly lowering your prices – where possible – when entering the market gives your small business a competitive edge. This strategy is most likely to work in markets where the consumers are price sensitive. To avoid consumers doubting your products or services due to your lowered prices, ensure that you provide top tier service to keep their concerns over quality at ease.

Bathu: a one-of-a-kind African sneaker brand strategy

Bathu, the South African sneaker company, penetrated the already existing sneaker market through its identity of being a one-of-a-kind African sneaker brand. With that being said, it is possible to penetrate existing markets with new products or services. Scout the markets and identify that which is missing. Find ways to fill these gaps, thus making your small business eligible to competing with even the biggest businesses in the market you are entering, just like Bathu did when it was still a startup in 2015.

Final Thoughts

As a business owner, the process of growing your business may be one of the biggest challenges you go through. In the same breath, it is a process that comes with many crucial learning opportunities that will guide you along the path to achieving your desired growth. Understanding the importance of seeking growth opportunities in more corners than one, exploring ways to impress your customers and finding strategic ways to compete in the business landscape are strategies that carry opportunities that small businesses can grab to successfully climb the growth scale.

Growing your small business may be difficult and at times uncomfortable, however as the popular saying goes; growth and comfort cannot exist in the same space. Keep your eyes open for growth opportunities and do not give up on your small business that could potentially grow to become a successful enterprise in years to come.

The ins and outs of Payment Gateways for E-commerce in South Africa

The increase in digitalisation across South Africa has witnessed exponential growth in the past couple of years and has consequently boosted the e-commerce and online platform industries. Our previous blogs explored issues of the most popular e-commerce platforms, as well as social media tips, but what else do e-commerce owners and online retailer need to know before launching their online platforms? This is where the importance of payment gateways comes into play to ensure that your online business can operate both efficiently and safely.


[Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels]

What does the buzz term of ‘payment gateway’ mean?

To put it simply, a payment gateway is the technology that captures and transfers payment data from the customer to the acquirer (with the latter, for example, being an online business). Payment gateways ensure the efficient functioning of the payments ecosystem and act as the middle man to enable online payments to occur between businesses and consumers. One of the main purposes of a payment gateway is thus to facilitate the authorisation and fulfilment of payments made for e-businesses and online retailers.

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[Photo by Pickawood on Unsplash]

 

Choosing the most appropriate payment gateway option

Now that we know what a payment gateway is, how would you, as a business owner, decide on the best one?

The importance of deciding which payment gateway should be utilised was evident in a recent study conducted by PPRO which showed that 44% of online shoppers abandon a purchase if their favourite payment method is not available. Therefore, a determining factor of a customer’s overall experience includes which payment method options are available.

There are many factors that your business should consider when choosing the most appropriate payment gateway and some of these are listed below:

  • Identify the functionalities of the payment gateway system;
  • Identify what mechanisms are put in place to prevent fraud;
  • Identify what data security mechanisms are in place to eliminate risks;
  • Determine whether the option allows for shopping card integration;
  • Examine whether the service offers multi-currency capabilities; and
  • Determine the costs involved including fees for transactions, statements, chargebacks and merchant account fees.

Once these above-mentioned factors have been considered, you as the business owner need to decide South African payment gateway will optimise the payment processes of your online retail shop.

An overview of the most popular payment gateways in South Africa

1. PayGate

PayGate is a leading African payment service provider that enables businesses and individuals across the continent to accept payments online. The service offering utilises a wide range of currencies, payment methods and payment solutions (including PayGate and PayFast) to businesses of various sizes and industries. Although their services were originally more focused on larger e-commerce retailers, the introduction of Paycollect, which does not require a bank internet merchant account, has diversified its target customers.  A once-off activation fee of up to R200, and a monthly fee, may be charged.

2. Yoco

Yoco has become an ideal platform to process eCommerce sales. A unique feature of Yoco is that it allows users to integrate their WordPress store with their Business Portal in order to track in-store and online sales from a single interface. This payment gateway has no upfront costs and caps all transaction fees at a certain percentage. Additionally, it can be fully integrated with all Yoco payment solutions.

3. PayPal

PayPal is a platform that is used worldwide to process daily payments for businesses. This makes this option ideal for international payments, further supported by the fact that it is available for over 200 markets and countries. Another benefit it that it allows customers to make payments through many platforms including computers, mobile phones or tablets. In terms of integration, Paypal offers many e-commerce integration options including Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, Xero and many more.


[Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash]

4. MoneyMatrix

The platform known as MoneyMatrix supports payment processing in South Africa for all credit and debit card types, as well as a range of e-wallets, vouchers, instant bank transfer, and mobile solutions.  It does not only operate within South Africa, but has a presence in over 100 countries. An advantage of MoneyMatrix is that it aims to keep the payment process simple, user-friendly and easily accessible. It offers over 180 payment options through a simple integration.

Although there are a wide range of payment gateways from which business can choose, this does not come without its challenges.

Obstacles facing payment gateways in South Africa

Although the world, and South Africa, is moving towards digitalised payments methods, many people within South Africa do not have access to the technologies to utilise these digitalised payments methods. This could lead to a lack of accessibility to payment methods, as can be seen by only approximately 20 to 22 million people in South Africa use a smartphone.

Secondly, another challenge posed is that of the cyber and data security risks posed by online platforms, both generally and with regards to online payments. In recent months, we have observed an increase in cyber attacks on banking networks and payment gateway networks. An effective payment gateway needs to be chosen by the company to minimise the risks of malware attacks and/or cyber hacking. A cyber attack would not only result in financial loss for the business but also has the potential to cause reputational harm. This is evident by the statistic that nearly 1 in every 5 consumers say that they would stop shopping at a business that was infiltrated by cyber hackers, even in instances where the problem was addressed and remedied. From the customer’s side, a lack of strong security measures could also result in them losing money. Furthermore, data breaches cause a further risk, where the potential exists for customers’ data and other personal information may be unduly exposed to third parties.


[Photo by FLY:D on Unsplash ]

Thirdly, it is important that the payment gateway is fully integrated with your company website. There is a possibility that your e-commerce website is not compatible with your chosen payment gateway. Therefore, research should be done to ensure that you are able to fulfil the integration requirements which may include creating an internet merchant account which links an e-commerce website to the company’s bank.

There is no doubt that new innovations are going to be evident in terms of payment gateways in the near future due to the increased online shopping throughout South Africa. This blog has explored the concept of a payment gateways, considerations when choosing one, some of the most popular payment gateways across the nations, as well as potential challenges that may be faced. It is now time for your business to start looking into how payment gateways can be used to optimise your online platform.

The 4 biggest trends that South African businesses need to be aware of post-2021

Businesses, across the globe, have had to react swiftly to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic. However, the increased implementation of vaccine programmes on a worldwide scale have brought light to the end of the tunnel. As we move closer to reaching a time “post”-Covid, it is important for businesses in South Africa to be well-positioned in the recovery stages of the years to come.  This blog investigates the trends that are likely to affect the landscape of the post-Covid era. Organisations should be aware of these post-2021 trends to ensure that they take the necessary steps to build strategic resilience and ensure success.

2021 has undoubtedly changed the way in which South African businesses conduct themselves and this will lead to various trends in the upcoming years. A few of these post-Covid trends that could be relevant to you as a business owner, are discussed below:

The rapid and always evolving digital transformation


[Photo by fauxels from Pexels]



As a business owner, you are probably aware of the manner in which the pandemic has transformed how we interact with technology. This change has not only occurred within in the realm of our personal lives, but also within the corporate and business field.

Before the pandemic, many businesses did not invest a lot of time and resources into their digital offerings. However, Covid-19 has now obligated organisations globally and in South Africa to take radical steps towards adopting technological advancements. A McKinsey Global Survey of executives reports that their companies have accelerated the digitisation of their customer and supply-chain interactions, as well as their internal operations, by approximately three to four years.

If businesses continue to leverage on new technologies within various sectors of their organisations (including businesses processes, staff management, service offerings etc.) and put focus on both employee and customer’s experience with technology, this will ensure that they stay ahead in the game against their competitors technologically.
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Consumer behaviour and the growth of e-commerce

Over the past two years, customers have changed the ways in which they interact with businesses and purchase products. Furthermore, this has altered their patterns of spending. These new customer behaviours will continue to be exist beyond 2021.

Monitoring trends in consumer behaviour is important to anticipate consumer needs for planning and strategic purposes. Throughout the pandemic, customers moved dramatically towards online channels. Consequently, online platforms have reached a peak, with the demand for online shopping appearing to be sustainable for the long-term. This attraction to online shopping has not only been enhanced by health and safety reasons, but also convenience, time reduction and a wide array of products.

A boom is also evident in the e-commerce sector due to the rapid response to the challenge of creating positive consumer experiences during the pandemic. A recent report compiled by McKinsey has shown that 10 years of digital innovation has taken place in approximately 3 months and e-commerce across the globe has increased by between 2 to 5 times more than the level that existed prior to the pandemic. These statistics show the significant impact that a change in consumer behaviour has had, and this is evident within a number of industries, such as e-groceries, remote working and learning, as well as digital entertainment.


[Photo by Olya Kobruseva from Pexels]


The age of new marketing strategies

Consumers have changed where and how they engage with businesses. It is important for businesses to stay relevant across a large variety of platforms including print advertising, outdoor advertising and digital marketing. The sudden increase of people being indoors has led to a change in lifestyle where consumers now spend much more time online than before. This is evident in 45% of global consumers spending more time on social media, which has led to an increased focus on social media marketing.

There are many examples of marketing techniques that have been used during the pandemic but can be continued in the post 2021 era to accelerate business growth, such as rethinking and digitalising communication strategies, making greater investments in Facebook and other social media ads and offering exclusive discounts or promotions.

Supply chain and last-mile delivery changes

Supply chains, and particularly last-mile logistics, have been disrupted due to Covid-19. However, it has also encouraged brainstorming and the development of alternative last-mile logistics solutions. There is no doubt that these new supply chain activities are being and will continue to be adapted.

An anticipated business trend is the further integration of technological platforms and advancements with supply chain processes.  This opens a multitude of opportunities for last-mile delivery companies to continue providing ground-breaking methods of delivery. Innovations, such as contactless pick-up points, drones, mobile warehouses, automated delivery vehicles and smart lockers, will continue to surge and improve in the post-Covid era.


Picture by And Africa LLC

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The business world will definitely look different in the post-Covid era. This puts pressure on businesses to not only be aware of the changes that have occurred in the past year and a half, but also be ready to implement effective business processes in the years to come. This blog has explored the various trends that will affect the manner in which businesses operate, as well as how they interact and deal with clients. It important for you as a business owner to be conscious of these trends and consider their implementation in order to optimise the way in which your company is run.

A simple guide to the most popular South African e-commerce platforms to launch your online business

Online businesses are becoming more and more prevalent which has led to an increased interest in e-shops and e-commerce platforms. Our current blog series has been diving into a variety of themes which aim to promote the successful functioning of small, online businesses like yours. Whereas our previous blog dealt with the fundamental role of social media (with a specific focus on Facebook and Instagram) in optimising an online business, this blog investigates the popularity, benefits, and challenges of e-commerce platforms.

When starting your online business, an important decision that has to be made pertains to the most suitable e-commerce platform. An e-commerce platform is a software application that allows online businesses to manage many aspects of the business, including websites, marketing, sales and operations. These platforms, if utilised properly, may offer many benefits to businesses, including finding customers, driving sales and managing the daily functioning of the online business.


[Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels]

 

Choosing an e-commerce platform

The first question to be asked is: What factors should be considered when choosing an e-commerce platform?

The needs of every online business are unique but below are some important considerations when choosing the most appropriate platform for your business:

  • Price and associated costs;
  • Ease of Use;
  • Functionalities and features;
  • Design Customisation; and
  • Ownership.

The priority of the above-mentioned considerations, and other factors that will influence the choice of platform, are dependent on the unique needs of each business.

Setting up an e-commerce platform


Although developing an e-shop may appear to be a daunting process, it can be simplified to the following steps:

  1. Choose a name and obtain a domain;
  2. Choose an appropriate e-commerce platform;
  3. Plan, strategize, build and add content to your e-commerce platform;
  4. Set up payment, delivery, marketing, and functionalities; and
  5. Test and launch your e-commerce website.


[Photo by Firmbee.com on Unsplash]


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What are the different e-commerce platforms you can use as a South African business owner?

Given the rise in online shopping and the greater use of digital technologies, a wide variety of e-commerce platform options exist. The most common e-commerce platforms in South Africa are:  Magento, Shopify, Wix eCommerce and WooCommerce. Let us investigate these platforms in more detail, in order for business owners like yourselves to make a wise choice regarding the platform you wish to use.
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Magento

Magento is an open-source e-commerce platform that allows you to set up an online shop free of charge. It is comprised of modern, drag-and-drop tools which allows the quick creation of compelling, personalised content and shopping experiences. The advantages include that it is built exclusively for e-commerce, offers several functionalities, provides 4 different editions and allows for the management of multiple stores. A few of the disadvantages include that problems may arise due to heavy load, it requires heavy servers and intensive data input and its installation and modification script may require a developer’s experience. Although the platform does offer a free version, use of support and extensions requires payment.
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Shopify

Shopify is a subscription-based and complete eCommerce solution. Once you have signed up, you can create and develop your store without a lot of complex technical set-up. The platform powers over 1,700,000 businesses worldwide.
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Shopify requires a monthly subscription which allows for the buying and selling of products through their platform. A wide variety of different packages are offered, based on your needs and requirements. A few of the benefits of Shopify include a relatively straightforward set-up process, continuous availability of customer support, compatibility with mobile devices, multi-functional features, and an independent payment gateway. The disadvantages include scalability, difficulty in customising a theme other than the default theme, lack of email hosting and relatively expensive costs.
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Wix

In similarity with Shopify, Wix is a subscription-based and complete e-commerce solution. Once you have signed up, you can immediately start creating your store. Wix charges a monthly subscription to utilise their platform and offer 4 different monthly plans which are comprised of many different features. The pros include its user-friendly functionalities, fast set-up and affordability. The challenges include limited loading speeds and fewer tools when compared to other e-commerce platforms.
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WooCommerce

WooCommerce is an open-source e-commerce plugin for WordPress. It offers a free service for setting up your online store, but costs may be incurred if you obtain the assistance of an e-commerce web developer for the set up. WooCommerce is known as a WordPress “plugin”, which means that your store may take on similar styling to that of your website. It is also very easy to transform a WordPress site into a WooCommerce store. Since this is a self-hosted solution, you will need to pay for your own website hosting. Its advantages lie in its infrastructure being able to handle thousands of products and categories and its back-end systems/processes being relatively user-friendly.
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[Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels]

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Making a decision about which platform would work best for your business will depend on the size, resources and needs of your online business. For business owners who are just starting out, Wix or WooCommerce would most likely be the most appropriate options due to their user-friendly tools and affordability. Shopify and Magento would be the recommended choices for larger businesses who require more complex functionalities and require the input of larger amounts of data. However, the above platforms are just four of many options that are at your disposal. It is recommended that you do more research, try out different platforms and view the platforms from a buyer’s perspective. These tips, along with the information given above, will assist you in making the best choice when it comes to choosing the ideal e-commerce platform for your online business.

Powerful and effective social media tips to grow your online business

As an online business owner, you may be struggling with the building of an online business in terms of marketing and reaching out to your target customers. These challenges can be easily solved with a thorough understanding and implementation of social media strategies, including branding and advertising.

Our current blog series is dealing with a variety of themes that aim to ensure the successful functioning of small, online businesses like yours. This blog will deal with the important role that social media (with a specific focus on Facebook and Instagram) can play in optimising the running of an online business.


[Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels]

As you might know, an innovative addition brought forth by social media platforms are “shops.” These social media shops can bring about many benefits for your online business if they are utilised in the correct manner. The role of social media and how you can utilize it to grow your business will be explored below. Hereinafter, our next blog will bring to light the available e-commerce platforms and how your business can benefit from utilising such tools.

The role of social media in a business

Before diving into how you can take advantage of social media platforms to run your business, let us understand first how they affect our lives. There is no doubt that digital technology permeates almost every aspect of daily life. The most common method of communicating via digital technology is on social media networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. The popularity of these sites is brought about by the many advantages that they offer, not only within the personal lives of its users, but also within the business sector. This makes social media a vital tool for you as a business owner. Electronic and social media create many channels of communication for a business with existing clients, potential clients and is often even used between colleagues.  Social media has also become a very important advertising tool for businesses and recently a way in which products can be exchanged between the organisation and its customers. Studies show that 44.8% of social media users turn to social media when searching for or buying products or services, which shows just how important it is for you, as a business owner, in promoting and marketing the products or services offered by your business.

Making use of Facebook tools


[Photo by Souvik Banerjee on Unsplash]

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Facebook can be a very strategic platform for organisations and, as mentioned above, your business can use Facebook as a powerful advertising tool. This can be done in many ways, such as having a Facebook profile or placing advertisements on the social media platform. In the modern world, having a strong and reputable social media presence and brand is no longer a luxury, but a necessity that can give your business the strength to succeed and provide a competitive edge over other companies.

So, what are the benefits of Facebook advertisements?
  • Allows businesses to direct advertisements to their target market;
  • Leads to generation of new leads;
  • Provides greater accessibility to existing and potential clients due to people’s constant use of Facebook; and
  • Provides access to important insights about the market you are targeting and how to improve your future ad campaigns.

Running an advertisement campaign using Facebook Ads manager tool

Ads Manager is an all-in-one tool provided by Facebook to help you create and run ads on all of Facebook’s platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and Audience Network). This tool can be very powerful and bring many benefits, but only if it is used correctly.

Let us share with you a few tips when launching an ads campaign through Ads Manager:

  • Set a clear and precise goal for your campaign.
  • Ensure a clear understanding of your buyer persona and target clients. Due to the features of Ads Manager demographic section, you can choose precisely who you want to target and use factors such as age, location, gender, income levels, interests, and behaviours.
  • Set a budget and then use it wisely.
  • Take advantage of Facebook’s learning phase for a better understanding of your target market.
  • Use the correct visuals and bring across the right message to attract targeted customers. A video ad, unsurprisingly, can transmit more ideas and is more attractive to the audience.


However, advertisements are not the only way in which a business can gain benefits from this social media giant. In 2020, Facebook launched one of its largest strategic moves into e-commerce, namely the implementation of Facebook shops. This innovative and new e-commerce feature means that you, as an online business owner, can build online stores and sell products directly to your users, on both Facebook and Instagram. This will be done through the addition of a dedicated “shop” section to your company’s Facebook Page or Instagram profile. Thereafter, a catalogue of products and services will appear which will allow visitors to browse, save or purchase your products.

Although these Facebook shops offer advantages to small and large organisations, small online businesses can derive the most value from them. Why is this the case?

These shops are free and offer a quick and unchallenging set up. The integration across Facebooks apps is also possible, resulting in shops being accessible on Facebook, Instagram and other Facebook apps. Furthermore, Facebook Shops are extremely customisable which means that the products displayed and the appearance of the shop can be of your own choosing.

How Instagram can help your small business


[Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash]



In the past decade, Instagram has transformed from merely being a photo-sharing app to a hub of business activity. This has been done through various updates, business tools and features including running fundraisers, live broadcasts, opening shops or allowing customers to book reservations. These features allow your business to increase brand awareness, build an online community, showcase the Company’s culture and values and sell products and services.

Over one billion people use Instagram monthly and approximately 90% of them follow at least one business. 83% of users state that Instagram helped them discover new products or services. Due to these statistics, using and having an Instagram business is not negotiable for the success of your business.

Here are some tips to improve your customer’s experience of your Instagram business profile:

  • Ensure that the Company’s logo is recognisable and clear;
  • Ensure that your page is visually aesthetic
  • Posting quotes, tips or advertisements should be done frequently;
  • Leverage hashtags in order to reach a greater audience;
  • Engage with people; and
  • Try out different types of content.


Using the above tips, your business’s customer experience can be improved and an increase in brand awareness has the potential to increase sales. Furthermore, a business always needs to have well-defined plans and these above tips may help your business create an effective social media strategy that can be tailored to the needs of your specific business and industry.

There is no doubt that having a social media presence is vital for any modern-day business, especially online businesses. This blog has provided some guidance on the functioning of Facebook and Instagram shops and how utilising these platforms can be beneficial to online business owners.

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