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6 tips to take advantage of the eCommerce opportunity

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Corporate C-suites have been talking about the need for digital transformation for years, developing endless strategies and roadmaps for the future. Covid-19 came along, tore up their roadmaps and thrust everyone, ready or not, into the middle of the 4IR (fourth industrial revolution

Unlike corporates, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are uniquely poised to take advantage of this with the agility and speed that makes them a dangerous proposition because the digital world allows anyone, no matter their size, to compete with the biggest and most established entities, says Karl Westvig, CEO of Retail Capital, which provides funding for SMEs.

eCommerce is no longer a nice-to-have, and it represents an important part of the modern retail market – especially in a post-pandemic world.

“The signs of a new digital era of retail have been written on the walls of our economy for some time. According to Statista, there are currently 21.9-million South Africans shopping online, with R62bn in revenue forecasted for 2020, and with COVID-19 considered, these figures are expected to rise by 10% over the next four years,” says Westvig.

While eCommerce has become increasingly user-friendly, Westvig says there are many more layers to consider that aren’t necessarily part of the traditional brick and mortar setup. “This includes things such as cybersecurity, logistics and warehouse management, digital payment gateways and more.”

There is no doubt eCommerce presents a massive opportunity for SMEs to regain their lost ground and catapult themselves into new prosperity. Westvig shares six tips for those wanting to take advantage of the eCommerce opportunity.

Choose the right eCommerce platform

Digitisation has enabled businesses to lean on off-the-shelf platforms that are packed with capabilities that would take months or even years to develop and perfect. “There are a number of online store platforms out there – use them,” says Westvig. “Once you have a clear vision of scale, then you can invest in tailoring them for your business.”

Choose the right payment gateway and consider value-added options

“You need your money, you need it to be secure, and you need your customer to trust using their card on your website,” says Westvig. There are established and trusted names that plug into an existing website and work seamlessly.

“If you are trying to build a profile or are targeting customers that are feeling the pinch, there are also payment platforms that enable the customer to pay off goods over a period of time, while the platform carries that risk and settles your account.”

Invest in security

“Secure your online store the way you would secure a physical store,” says Westvig.  Instead of installing gates and burglar bars, you need to ensure you have a secure site with an SSL certificate, and have measures in place to block cyber criminals, whether they are human or nasty bots.

An online store is available 24/7, says Westvig, so ensure you have a competent support team on standby to ensure all cybersecurity protocols are in place and up to date.

Systematically manage your stock and returns

Cloud-based solutions have allowed for a paperless and automated environment. If your business has not made the shift to a paperless environment you are setting yourself up for failure, says Westvig. “Let your digital solution do its job,” he says.

“Trust the tech,” he says. “Digitise and automise as much as possible. Ultimately this will allow you to free up your time focusing on customer service and quality products.”

The next step is investing in software that controls and tracks your inventory, so you can stay ahead of the curve on which products are in most demand. As organisations become larger, they should be looking at warehouse management software.

Then, be sure to price the average cost of returns into your business, says Westvig, as customers are more likely to spend more if they know they can return goods.

Find the right logistics partner

“You could start out doing the delivery job in-house, but this will limit the areas you can service and hold back your growth. If your business scales rapidly it could land you in serious trouble,” says Westvig.

The online environment is more competitive than ever, and it is all about customer experience.  Find the right partners that can service a customer base that increasingly seeks instant gratification.

Market your online store

“From social media and influencer campaigns, to content marketing, SEO and email campaigns – all these digital elements have an important role to play in the sales process and it is imperative that you invest in a solid strategy or partner to ensure you have the best possible toolkit for your business,” says Westvig.

The eCommerce opportunity opens up an entirely new world. Once your strategy is in place, sourcing business funding to scale appropriately can ensure that all the elements that make for a successful online store are in place.

Westwig adds: “We believe a lot of traditional business owners are struggling to adapt to a digital market and we have created an eCommerce #Gameplan that explains how businesses in any sector or industry can make the move to online, or at least incorporate an aspect of it into their day-to-day operations.

Once all the elements are in place, you are poised to take advantage of events such as Black Friday and run all sorts of promotions to lure online visitors and turn them into return customers, says Westvig.

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