The Benefit and Impact of eCommerce for Small Businesses

I have found that there are two main groups of small business in South Africa.  The small business that works from home and attends the odd market here and there; and the small business which has been around for a few years and has a bricks and mortar store.  eCommerce is the ideal next step for both of these businesses.  Here's why.

The first example is a relatively new business, a startup, maybe a year old, not registered yet and usually sells something handmade in small batches or on a made-to-order basis.  The business owner might sell their product at a local craft market and perhaps on their Facebook page.  eCommerce is the logical next step because it offers an opportunity to get the product in front of many other potential customers.  Having an eCommerce store broadens your territory and increases the pool of potential customers.

The second example is the existing small business.  It's been registered, has a small store in a local shopping centre and has been in existence for roughly 3 years.  They also sell handmade goods in small batches or on a made-to-order basis.  eCommerce is the logical next step because this business will have quite a few overheads by now and they simply can't rely on the local population to continually buy their goods at a rate which will sustain their business.  They'll run out of customers, and if their product is amazing (which most handmade goods are), the product will last a long time, meaning that customers won't necessarily need to return.  This is obviously a case by case basis, but you get the point.  By adding an eCommerce channel to the business, their customer base grows, same rule as example number 1.  It makes business sense to move the products online to continue on a path of growth. 

Something to bear in mind, is that South Africa (and the world at large to be honest) has started making local, wanting local and buying local.  If you offer a handmade product, in small batches or made-to-order, it's currently your time to shine.  Small businesses should use the amazing online resources available nowadays as a gateway to their next phase of growth.  You don't need heaps of money or a huge retail store to grow a company these days.  You need to know what's available to you and how to use it effectively.  Let's not forget the fact that by appealing to a wider audience outside of your local community, you're bringing money back into your community.  This can only be a good thing.  By adopting a global approach, you'll improve the local situation.  

There are two main barriers preventing small businesses, particularly in South Africa, from growing and they're linked together like a vicious circle.  A lack of knowledge about eCommerce and a misperception of the costs involved in getting started online.  I've heard countless stories from clients about 'the IT company down the road who charged an arm and a leg for doing nothing'.  I have to admit, it makes me mad, because it taints peoples' perception of my own business which means I have to try harder to convince local businesses that eCommerce is the right thing to do.  To give you an idea, in the past, an eCommerce store or even just a plain website could cost over R20,000.  There are still companies out there today trying to lay this kind of charge onto micro businesses.  In reality, the costs for a beautiful, well presented website starts at around R5,000 and if you build it yourself, the cost will be even less.  Agreed, it depends what you're after and if you're a more established business with thousands of products and you need more advanced functionality and warehousing, then granted, it will cost more because there's a lot more involved, but for the small businesses, the micro businesses out there, it is easy and really cost effective.

It’s never been easier to start a business and this rule applies to eCommerce as well.  

To find out more, you can either get in touch with us to have a chat about it all in more detail or you can head over to our Resources page where we have recommended suppliers for various elements to do with eCommerce.


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