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Much has been made about the fact that South Africa has lagged behind the global Ecommerce curve. “This is largely due to brands and retailers, misunderstanding the potential of Ecommerce and the perceived complexity of running concurrent online and offline businesses; but that is a fallacy”, says Nic Robertson, Head of New Business Development for Efinity.
The reality, as Robertson points out, is that the country’s tally of online shoppers is showing rapid growth year on year. Feature and smartphones are readily available for under R 1 000, and as PWC’s 5th Edition of Media Outlook forecasts, roughly 40 million people will have access to the Internet in the next five years.
It’s a call-to-action for South African businesses and brands to take a critical and strategic view of their online presence and activity. “The South African Ecommerce industry has quickly developed in its infancy.” Robertson adds “As a mobile-centric country, shoppers begin their purchasing journey anywhere through research online. This could be on the shop floor or the comfort of their home; they are able to compare prices wherever they are and with the growth of Ecommerce have flexibility in purchasing and delivery online. Brands and retailers must be part of this journey.”
Whether you are a major retailer or a boutique brand, an effective Ecommerce route is a necessity because that’s the way increasing numbers of consumers want and will engage with you. Robertson points out that the benefits of an effective Ecommerce offering go beyond simply capitalising on activating a different marketing and sales channel. “Thanks to technology, the omni-retail revolution has quickly surpassed the capacity offered by a single bricks-and-mortar channel. You can, literally, guide a consumer through their buying journey; as they move from research, through decision-making processes, to their purchase and delivery option.”
Late last year, Robertson was part of the team who launched Efinity, an Ecommerce fulfilment service. With no minimum contracts, integration costs and set-up fees, Efinity is positioned to support small and medium businesses, as well as the larger operations. Efinity’s services are used by pure play e-tailers like Spree, but they also enable bricks-and- mortar SA businesses to enable their Ecommerce offering.
The online environment provides an unprecedented opportunity to gather richer data about who is interested in your offering, and why. An Ecommerce platform enables you to piece together a holistic picture of your customer. “Never before, have brands and businesses had more easy, real-time insights into their customer’s buying patterns and habits,” says Robertson, “With this information on hand, it becomes far more easy to cross-sell, up-sell, and perhaps, more importantly, actually understand your customer’s needs over the long-term.”
Despite all these advantages, there are SA businesses and brands still sweeping Ecommerce under the carpet. Robertson acknowledges that this reticence needs to be addressed. “What SA businesses and brands need to do is get online, begin to understand their customer and take those learning forward to offer a great omni-retail experience.