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Sellers adopt savvy measures to entice online shoppers

E-COMMERCE is going through an innovative phase of development as more individuals have access to the internet and more retailers take their businesses online. Internet users in South Africa reached 13.2-million in 2012, up from 11.2-million in 2011, according to World Wide Worx. “We are forecasting an increase of 2.7-million new internet users this year, 2-million of whom will be mobile users,” says MD Arthur Goldstuck. This figure does not include new tablet users who have typically had previous internet access using another type of device and are therefore included in the previous figures. The main online activity of mobile internet users is sending and receiving e-mails, followed by browsing and surfing for leisure, followed by online research, says Mr Goldstuck. He says in 2012 South Africa’s online shoppers spent a total of R3.38bn on purchasing traditional retail products — not including air tickets, accommodation and travel — reflecting a growth of 30% over 2011. “We are expecting a further 25% growth in online retail this year,” he adds. Mr Goldstuck says dominant new online shopping trends tend to emerge every two years. He says four or so years ago saw the rise of websites allowing rand purchases of products aggregated from overseas sites, particularly electronics goods, and two years ago group buying websites started making a major impact on the market. “More recently we are seeing a new category of high fashion websites such as Zando and City Mob emerge, which aggregate name brand clothing.” These online retailers differentiate themselves with low-cost delivery and the ability to return goods, whereby the courier waits while the customer tries on the clothing. Liz Hillock, head of marketing at, says the highest conversion rate of internet users from browsing to buying is among tablet users. “Last December we sold three-and-a-half times more tablets than laptops, and these users have a higher propensity to shop online.” As a result, online retailers and other e-commerce oriented businesses are designing their websites to cater for tablets and other mobile devices, she says. She says the recently released 2013 annual Mobile and Tablet Survey shows that 92% of online shoppers own a smartphone compared to 78% last year, and 68% have purchased items online using their phone. The survey also shows that 47% of respondents own a tablet compared to 34% last year. Ms Hillock says more experienced online shoppers are buying an increasingly [...]

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South Africans Highly Satisfied with Online Shopping – MasterCard Survey

Online shopping sites that offer an easy, convenient shopping experience attract loyal customers Tweet: #MasterCard Online Shopping survey reveals online retail trends in South Africa Cape Town, South Africa – 27 June 2013 – The latest MasterCard Online Shopping Survey has revealed that a substantial 91% of South Africans who shop online are highly satisfied with their overall experience, a 4% increase from the 87% who said the same thing in the 2012 survey. A further indication of South Africans’ positive sentiment for online shopping is that 76% of respondents return to an online shopping site that they have used before and 74% expressed that they felt it was both easy and convenient to make online purchases. These figures show slight increases – 2% and 1% respectively – when compared to the previous survey’s results. Despite this positive sentiment towards shopping online, the number of South Africans accessing the Internet to shop online is down 4% from the previous survey, with 54% of respondents saying that they usually use the Internet for shopping. “While online shopping continues to be a regular Internet activity for more than half of South Africans who are actively online, there is a slight shift downwards in their online purchasing behaviour, which could be attributed to the slowdown recorded in the economy during the survey period,” says Philip Panaino, Division President, MasterCard, South Africa. “This is supported by The South African Reserve Bank noting in its fourth quarter review of 2012 that retail activity was disappointing as consumer spending was negatively affected by a pickup in inflation.” “There has been a rapid rise in the number of South Africans classified as active Internet users – those who fairly recently acquired regular access to the Internet – which means we are seeing a larger-than-ever base of users who have never shopped online before,” says Arthur Goldstuck, Managing Director of World Wide Worx. “These users add to South Africa’s population of more experienced Internet users – those who have been online for five years or more – which has increased significantly from under four million in 2012 to around 4.6 million this year. This means that even as the amount spent online keeps rising steadily – at more than 30% a year according to our data – the proportion of users shopping online is declining, which ties in with the decline MasterCard has recorded of active online [...]

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Till = Tablet – Is SA Ignoring the Need for Responsive Websites and Online Stores?

It seems as if the whole world has recognized the need for responsive sites and nowhere should that acceptance be more evident than in emerging markets such as South Africa, where most of the new online data consumers (and the next generation of online retail consumers) first got online via a mobile device. Yet established players are hesitant to switch systems and seem to hoping all those pesky small devices are just going to go away. The good news is: “They’re not!” According to both predictions and sales reports, tablets are not the future, tablets are the NOW. T-Commerce (online sales made via tablet devices) grew by almost 100% in 2012 and I’m curious how 2013 will shape up. While I think Microsoft may have been a bit early with an immersive, mobile-oriented OS, it is plain to see that if the largest software developer is creating flagship products targeting mobile devices, than perhaps we should too. The mobile trend is here to stay and it is only a matter of time until the till becomes the tablet. Romero, of says: ”Mobile/social/wireless communication is what people are buying, not desktops. Laptops, tablets, phones and peripherals will work better together in the months to come. Cables are and will continue to disappear.”       Author: Jonathan Novotny Jonathan Novotny is Author, Speaker and Social Entrepreneur in Africa. He currently heads up and is co-founder of .

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The Yuppiechef cult: how a startup sparked a religion

The Yuppiechef success story has been well documented, but until now, no one has been able to explain exactly how the kitchen utensils e-tailer has managed to evoke the type of fervent support that has catapulted the Cape Town company well into cult territory. Yes, cult. Exhibit A: a Pinterest page dedicated to customers who have submitted photos of their pets in Yuppiechef packaging. The running theory is that Yuppiechef has mastered the art of customer service. It’s a strong hypothesis. Yuppiechef boasts 99% positive feedback — read worship — on customer service watchdog Hellopeter, as well as a consistent stream of accolades awarded on the basis of irreproachable customer service. Consider then that 60% of Yuppiechef purchases are from repeat customers and it seems an open and shut case — Yuppiechef is indeed a “customer service business who happens to sell kitchen tools”. Yes, perhaps being extra courteous and efficiently dealing with customer queries can explain the 300% year on year revenue Yuppiechef recorded in 2011. In 2012, Yuppiechef added to its staff of 16, reaching 54 by the start of 2013 — perhaps free delivery of its select product range, strong social media engagement and the handwritten thank you cards that accompany every purchase grew Yuppiechef’s revenue enough to sustain 38 new employees. Perhaps. A reliable source revealed to Ventureburn that Yuppiechef is currently recording gross annual revenue of R80-million with a 20-30% profit margin. When we approached the stealthy kitchen utensils e-tailer for comment, Yuppiechef marketing director and part owner, Paul Galatis, opted to keep the company’s figures private. Yuppiechef is not at liberty to discuss its financials, but then again, the company’s culture doesn’t particularly lend itself to that kind of thing anyway. “We don’t celebrate or measure our financial results. Instead we celebrate the constant stream of positive customer feedback that customers send to us and post online and we share it on a daily basis within our team,” Galatis told Ventureburn. We remain intrigued to have not received a flat out denial of the rumour, however. In 2011 Galatis revealed that Yuppiechef was “verging on profitability.” Given this knowledge, Yuppiechef’s confirmed 100% year on year growth in 2012 and the reliability of our source, we started exploring an alternative theory for the company’s apparent surge. Yuppiechef is a quiet overnight success, six years in the making. Today, the company boasts social numbers such as [...]

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E-Commerce Companies Bypass the Middlemen – NY Times

When the founders of a start-up that sells eyeglasses online, Warby Parker, began investigating why designer glasses cost several hundred dollars, they discovered that everyone in the process was taking a cut: designers, manufacturers, brands, wholesalers and retailers. Warby Parker’s Manhattan headquarters includes a showroom. The company plans to open a stand-alone store soon. But what if they left out most of those people? “I had been to the factories and knew what it costs to manufacture glasses and knew the cost didn’t warrant a $700 price tag,” said Neil Blumenthal, a founder of the company. Inspired by glasses they found in their grandparents’ attics, the founders sketched a few frames, hired the same Chinese factories that make designer glasses and started selling directly to consumers online. By doing so, they eliminated enough of the cost to charge customers just $95 a pair. Warby Parker is part of a wave of e-commerce companies that are trying to build premium brands at discount prices by cutting out middlemen and going straight to manufacturers. They make everything from bedding (Crane and Canopy), to office supplies (Poppin), nail polish (Julep), tech accessories (Monoprice), men’s shoes (Beckett Simonon) and shaving supplies (Harry’s). The result is generally cheaper products for consumers and higher profit margins for the companies. Big retailers discovered long ago that controlling the supply chain benefited their bottom lines, which is why companies like Wal-Mart and Whole Foods sell many products under their own brands. At Macy’s and Kohl’s, such “private label” brands make up almost half of their sales. Start-ups have traditionally struggled to match those efforts. They do not have as much brand recognition as big retailers, and persuading consumers to take a chance on, say, Warby Parker eyeglasses instead of Prada’s can be difficult. “The challenge is, if you’ve never heard of the brand, you wonder, ‘Should I buy it when it’s 20 percent cheaper?’ ” said Raj Kumar, a supply chain consultant at A. T. Kearney. “Or should I buy a brand I trust?” What is empowering the upstarts now is the Web’s ability to reach lots of consumers without the costs of operating physical stores as well as a change in manufacturers’ willingness to work with small brands. The founders of Deal Décor, whose model was to sell furniture directly to customers, worked at Target and Home Depot Direct before starting their company. They said they saw an [...]

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4 Good Reasons to Sell Online

Ecommerce sales are growing. Online sales topped $1 trillion worldwide for the first time last year and there are good reasons you should consider selling online now to start getting your share. There are really two kinds of businesses or entrepreneurs that should be considering ecommerce opportunities right now. Small, successful brick-and-mortar retailers that want to see their company grow. Individuals with a passion or interest that translate well into a niche or specialty online store. What follows are four good reasons for these folks — small brick-and-mortar retailers or inspired entrepreneurs — to consider opening an online retail business now. 1. You Can Make Money Selling Online Ecommerce sales for retail goods are growing faster than offline sales for brick-and-mortar stores. comScore, the trend-tracking firm, said that in spite of “continued economic uncertainty, 2012 was a strong year for retail ecommerce. Throughout the year, growth rates versus the prior year were in the mid-teens to outpace growth at brick-and-mortar retail by a factor of approximately 4x.” Separately, comScore noted that online retail sales grew 14 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2012, reaching $56.8 billion in the U.S. alone. The fourth quarter also represented the 13th consecutive quarter of positive ecommerce growth and the 9th consecutive quarter of double-digit growth. “It is clear that the online channel has won over the American consumer and will increasingly be relied upon to deliver on the dimensions of lower price, convenience, and selection,” said Gian Fulgoni, comScore chairman, in a release. Finally, U.S. retail ecommerce sales represented 10 percent of American retail spending, excluding food, gas, and automobiles, in the fourth quarter of 2012. This is the first quarter in U.S. economic history that electronic commerce represented such a significant part of the total available market for retail consumer goods.                 The fact that ecommerce is growing will not guarantee success for new online retail ventures. But is does offer an opportunity to make money selling online. Where opportunity exists, entrepreneurs can excel. 2. Shoppers Are Online Already In 2012, Google worked with Ipsos OTX, a market research firm, to survey potential holiday shoppers about their 2012 holiday shopping intentions. One of the key findings was that 80 percent of the 1,500 shoppers queried would research products and prices online before they would make a purchase. Clearly the Internet is the engine driving retail. Consider [...]

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Online Shopping Stores SA

The best online shopping stores: When it comes to tech startups, ecommerce is at once an easy and tricky space to play in. It’s easy, because to get going all you really need is something to sell, a good design and the right plugins. It’s tricky because people are trusting you with their money. You have to make sure you have the right security, and can guarantee delivery. It’s also not easy to stand out in a market like South Africa where broadband penetration remains comparatively low, forcing you to compete for place in a crowded space. There are a few that have done so well. They sell a wide variety of products, but generally occupy specific niches. The South African ecommerce awards recognises these sites on an annual basis. This year’s winners included sites owned by mega-corporations, while others are more independent. 1. Best ecommerce store — YuppieChef This online store claims it is “dedicated to making the world’s best kitchen tools available to South Africans”. According to the awards’ judging panel: The Yuppiechef website is a pleasure to use with fast, accurate search results and crisp clear images. The site is informative and the ordering process is streamlined and efficient. The delivery experience is incredible, ensuring satisfied customers. Customer service is responsive and attentive whether it’s over the phone, email or online chat. We loved the mobile site. 2. Best ecommerce services website — Bidorbuy The online auction site is an ecommerce stalwart in South Africa, having been around since 1999. In early 2011, it bought group-buying site UbuntuDeal “We enjoyed the fast and secure online shopping, an awesome mobile site and timely responses to customer queries,” said the judging panel. 3. Best group-buying site — Groupon SA The company might not be faring so well internationally, but the SA franchise maintains that it’s in it for the long-haul. With the like of Naspers’ Dealify and Avusa’s Zappon out of the game, it definitely had less competition for this award than it would have a year ago. “The website is easy to navigate with a wide range of deals of which the ordering process was extremely quick and straightforward,” say the judges. 4. Best classifieds website — Property 24 The online classifieds game is seriously hotting up, around the world as well as in South Africa. Some think they might even be the thing that finally kills off newspapers. According to the judges, the Naspers-owned [...]

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How to Sell Online in SA …and be Successful

By: Jonathan D. Novotny | Founder of   Most online stores operated by small businesses in South Africa fail to provide the user with an experience which leaves them at-ease and confident about their order being processed and delivered. The good news is, most of these problems are easy to avoid. Let’s look at the most common issues and the simple solutions. Design: The usual design issues arise from the use of: Outdated, irrelevant structures – Ensure that you are using the latest version of one of the global most widely implemented platforms – These are currently OpenCart, Magento, PrestaShop or Shopify if you want a DIY solution with no hands on support available. Weird, unusual or incomplete themes – If you want to be pro, just purchase a quality theme. This is like your skin, and regardless of how good your structure is, if your site looks like a ‘90s website, you aren’t going to inspire confidence. Just downright bad product photos – Get better ones. Give people what they want – If they are looking for contact details, don’t offer them a form to fill out, or if they want to pay and order online, don’t ask them to fill out an order form “…So you can get back to them.”  Functionality: If you have time to set up your store and are an IT genius then there’s nothing stopping you from implementing this yourself. Responsive Design means the website scales down to the size and complexity of the device viewing it. For example, mobile devices see a narrow site with small product images and a simpler menu. Automatic Invoicing – Keep in mind that some shoppers may not want to pay via credit card, so give them an EFT option or have the system send them an automated invoice for payment. Integration with SA Payment Gateways – or just setup your own PayPal account & link to that. Integration with Courier Services Special offers, Coupons & Vouchers – You may not be planning on using this straight off, but if you are investing time and thought into your solution, best make sure that it has everything you need to build on. The Vital Final Touches: Use more & larger Product Images. Most insecurity online comes from not seeing the product up-close-and-personal. So make it as easy as possible for your clients by having pictures from every [...]

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E-commerce boom in South Africa predicted for 2013

SOUTH Africa will see a boom in e-commerce next year, according to Simon Leps, CEO of digital solutions provider Fontera Digital Works. “We are at a very exciting time for e-commerce in South Africa. A lot of the big brands have started to take notice and have realised they could be left behind. Locally, we have plans for about 10-15 e-commerce sites to be launched next year for our clients,” Mr Leps says. By global standards, the e-commerce platform in South Africa is small, but as the timidness of local shoppers fades, a growing number of time-poor and techno-savvy consumers are turning to the internet for retail therapy and bargain hunting. Research by World Wide Worx, commissioned by Google, indicates that online retail is becoming increasingly popular in South Africa, growing at a rate of 30% a year. Online shoppers continue to increase locally, with 58% of the country’s 8.5-million internet users shopping online, and with the industry consensus aiming for 40% growth this year the highest rate in almost a decade. E-commerce start-up Zando recently landed an investment in the “three-digit million-rand” band from the asset management division of the global investment powerhouse JPMorgan. Zando is an online fashion store that sells local and international brands. “Attracting such a reputable international investor to support our future growth shows commitment and confidence in our business. This investment will assist the business by supporting its vision and all of its operations,” Manuel Koser, joint MD and co-founder of Zando, says. In order to gain market share from competitors Foschini‚ Woolworths and Truworths, fashion retailer Mr Price in July launched its online store‚ which allows shoppers to have their purchases delivered to their street address‚ post office or store for R35. “An online selling capability will enable Mr Price to further strengthen relationships with our target customers‚ who are tech-savvy and require a convenient and secure way to get their fashion‚” Mr Price CEO Stuart Bird says. Mr Price Home and Mr Price Sport are expected to follow with online stores next year. Woolworths CEO Ian Moir says the group’s online store is going well. “We’re seeing significant growth, but from a small base. We’ve invested a lot in our digital strategy, we’ve replatformed the site; it has our entire catalogue on now.… We’ve invested in better solutions in terms of picking and packing from stores, the distribution to the customers — [...]

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Imminent growth of South Africa’s e-commerce industry

The imminent growth of South Africa’s e-commerce industry presents a number of opportunities for business to leverage. However, it is also important to take cognisance of the specifics of the South African context to ensure that these benefits are fully optimised. Research by Morgan Stanley has estimated that sales of smart phones will exceed those of PCs in 2012, while research group Gartner has also forecast that smart phone penetration will reach 80% in South Africa by 2014. With the increase in smart phone users reaching a critical mass, combined with take-up of online and mobile payment solutions, this will lead to a rapid boom in e-commerce. According to Katherine Akeroyd at Step Advisory, a boutique professional services company, these two factors will significantly affect the online landscape for businesses in Africa over the next few years. “Internet penetration in South Africa has, so far, lagged many other countries, due to the high cost of access; however as more and more South Africans gain access to the internet for the first time through smart phone technology, this will radically alter the face of e-commerce in South Africa. “We have seen a number of new online payment solutions being developed including EasyPay and Virtual Card Services as well as the introduction of PayPal in South Africa. As consumers begin to understand that such services are secure, we are likely to see a far higher take up in online payments in South Africa. “In addition, we have also seen the emergence of successful mobile payment solutions such as Fundamo, a South African company that was bought by Visa, enabling people to make payments via an innovative e-wallet solution. It is positive to note that South Africa is at the forefront of technical innovation and as this solution is made available to local banking institutions, it will further drive confidence in online and mobile transactions.” As a result of this convergence between online and mobile payments, local businesses will be able to reach a far wider pool of potential customers than ever before. “While this change broadens the customer base available, it is also essential that companies that do aim to operate online conceptualise a robust strategy. Engaging with customers online is very different to physical interaction and companies need to develop their strategy for this online channel. “Businesses wishing to maximize their online presence must ensure that their products and services are [...]

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