A recently released global survey by market research company Ipsos revealed that South African consumers are expected to spend R37 billion this year shopping online via their mobile phones.
The growth in consumer spending is being driven by the rapid rise in smartphone penetration in the country – and the numbers are only going to keep climbing.
So the opportunities for taking your small business online are endless and there’s invaluable potential for growth.
“An online presence or virtual retail store allows your business to operate in a space of immediacy, which provides your customers with speedy service,” says Rihana Hoosain, head of products at MWEB. “In order for a business to be competitive today, you have to offer your customers instantaneous solutions.”
Beyond building a website, it’s also vital that you incorporate mobile-friendly applications.
“No online strategy can stand on its own without a mobile element,” she adds. “Be sure that your website accommodates smartphones and explore the idea of apps.”
“More and more businesses are also starting to gamify products and services. This refers to utilising game design techniques and mechanics to make their offerings more interesting and visually engaging.”
Mark Chirnside, co-founder of online verification start-up ThisIsMe and former PayU CEO, says the best way to start is by preparing an e-business model as opposed to a traditional business plan.
An e-business model describes how your business will function, how it provides a service or product, how it will generate revenue and how it plans to create and adapt to new technology and markets.
“The conventional brick-and-mortar approach of simply maintaining an online presence should be replaced with an active e-trading option, where consumers can engage with your product or service by paying for it,” he says.
Don’t skimp – spend money on building a decent website. Poor web design and interfaces that aren’t user-friendly or adapted to a user’s requirements could result in low active participation.
Chirnside also advises that you consider joining discussion groups and online forums.
Before your website is up and running, you need to make sure you have a secure payment gateway in place.
“Trust is imperative in online trading and regulating users’ perceptions of security issues is critical,” Chirnside says. “Incorporating the services of a payment gateway that’s certified by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) will indicate to users that your site adheres to the security standards as reviewed by the PCI Security Standards Council.”
Useful products entrepreneurs can access to seamlessly start up an online business
- The cost of setting up a website is a major deterrent to many small-business owners, but there are affordable solutions available. MWEB offers uncapped website packages that include uncapped hosting space and traffic, a free co.za domain and website self-build software which allows small-business owners to build and set up their websites by themselves.
- MTN Business has launched a Build Your Own Business Online (BYOB) service that offers a framework of industry-specific templates to help business owners to register and set up a website equipped with a shopping cart and payment functionality.