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The Best Way to Grow your Business in 2014

The South African market is going to be in a competitive space as larger players and international retailers and service providers continue to penetrate the market and seek to absorb sectors currently dominated by SMEs. How can the average business ensure sustainable growth in 2014? One word: Online. Everything, and I mean everything, is moving online. Plumbers see the need to promote themselves online and so do seedling growers, vehicle manufacturers and paper mills. Accounts, orders, communication, storage and recruiting are more efficient online and the list goes on and on.

Every year, a percentage of the established markets of both offline advertising and traditional retail are siphoned off by the internet. This is what is growing global e-Commerce at over 20% per annum. While the e-market is growing organically, it’s mainly hijacking existing offline revenues. Despite this, it might seem “safer” to adopt a “wait and see” approach to investments, but it is clear that those pursuing disruptive innovation through leveraging customer relations and efficiencies online are reaping the results. (Just check out some of the market share and brand equity FNB acquired by being a first mover in innovative online consumer engagement.)

Example of Massive Online Clearance

Example of Massive Online Clearance

2013 is the year to prepare one’s online partners (retail, strategy and media) and draft a serious online investment strategy. I’m not talking about putting up GoogleAds, but seriously considering ways to undercut the competition and offer more value to your clients in 2014 through online efficiencies, portals, information and retail channels. If you’re not, someone else will be.

Taking the Pain

While some have been burned by over-investing in a limited online market, the majority of innovative internet-launched initiatives are reaping a great ROI. But to avoid painful expenditures and misdirection of online marketing, the business should keep in mind:

1. The Internet = NOT Magic. What doesn’t work, sell or attract offline, probably won’t work, sell or attract online.

2. Is it needed? Is the facility of service being offered online really needed?

a. How much time does it same the client?
b. How easy is it for the client to do? (If it takes more than 5 seconds for them to figure out the flow, dump the idea.)
c. How many current clients do you have that would benefit from this? Don’t expect to triple market-share just because of an online gadget.

3. Is there a way to Test the Market with your approach, product or online innovation without enormous upfront expenditure?

By using the three points above you’ll probably end up running into a number of brick walls, but you’ll do so a lot cheaper, smarter and happier than if you hadn’t and chances are you’ll find a pot or two of gold along the way and hopefully a sustainable and profitable model for the future.

Just remember, if you’re not online, you are dead (you just don’t know it yet.)

Disclaimer: This does not apply to spazza shops.

Jonathan Novotny is an e-Commerce evangelist and co-Founder of .

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