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So, you’ve got a product or service that you want to sell online, but you don’t know where to begin? Let’s face it; anybody involved in retail knows there are many challenges to staying successful and competitive. Besides finances and marketing, the biggest challenge is eCommerce.

Advancements in telecommunications have aided in the success of eCommerce and the increased levels of competition between merchants to sell the best quality goods at the lowest price. While brick and mortar retail are steady, it’s hard to deny that South Africans are increasingly loving online purchases. 49% of South Africans visit an online retail store, 47% search online for a product or service to buy, and 29% buy something online (We Are Social).

eCommerce is a giant industry—and South Africans are spending more online than ever before. With disruptive technology taking a firm grip on just about every industry—from smartphones to the rise of the digitally influenced shopper and showrooming, consumers are now demanding a more convenient, seamless customer-centric shopping experience. Online shopping gives them just that—and more.

Search Interest in Ecommerce & Shopify in the past 5 years in South Africa

google trends search south africa ecommerce

Online shopping is the future of retail

The Internet has revolutionized the way we live—and eCommerce is now a way of life. An industry poised for growth as digital natives make up an increasingly large portion of consumers—it’s predicted by Statista that there will be 1.92 billion global digital buyers in 2019 and that global retail eCommerce revenue will amount to $4.88 trillion by 2021. Online shopping is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world, including South Africa.

Recent research on South Africa shows people are browsing three hours or more a day on their mobile phones, and by 2021, the number of online shoppers is expected to have reached 24.79 million. eCommerce is growing at a rapid pace—and everyone wants a piece of the eCommerce pie. In fact, South Africa’s eCommerce market is worth over R20-billion and research by PayPal and Ipsos forecasts that South Africans will spend R61 billion at online stores by 2020.

Why consumers prefer to shop online

While traditional stores still dominate the market, eCommerce is fast catching up. A customer can make a purchase anytime and anywhere. They can compare reviews and have the instant gratification of buying something just at a tap of a screen. Safe and easy payment options are available—and delivery is always on time—and sometimes even free. Because of the zero overheads that physical stores demand—sellers can offer cheaper prices, discounts, scorecards and loads of cool incentive programs. As you can well imagine, bargain hunters and deal seekers find online shopping, a dream come true.

An eCommerce store can save you money

eCommerce doesn’t just provide benefits to consumers—it is a holy grail for retailers. Running an eCommerce store can save you money. Brick-and-mortar thrive on location and branding—and this can be key to your new revenue.

Millions of people use search engines every day to find products they want to buy. With eCommerce, you overcome geographical limitations and you gain new customers with Search Engine Visibility. With a physical store, it’s very difficult to reach such a large market. However, an online store can easily accomplish this.

Your overheads are almost zero. An online store provides features that automate responsibilities and create targeted communication, allowing you the time to do other things as well as reduce the operating costs of your entire business. With such convenience to both the customer and the retailer, it’s no surprise eCommerce is on the rise.

How to cash in on the eCommerce revolution

2018 was a great year for the South African eCommerce industry. Thanks to high mobile penetration, secure payment options and changing spending habits, as more of the population shift their budget to shopping online, growth is strong. But as consumers are presented with more outlets as competition increases, expectations become more refined and retailers need to stay ahead of the trends. Trends in the eCommerce industry emerge from various things. How customers shop. What they buy and how they respond to marketing tactics used by businesses. If you want to get ahead of the game, here are three trends to jump on immediately.

  1. Multi-channel Selling

Online businesses cannot stay on one platform if they want to get ahead of the competition. This is where multichannel marketing enters. Multichannel marketing involves promoting and selling on every channel where a customer spends their time—from social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, to search engines, blogs, newsletters, SMS text messaging, and even good old-fashioned mail. With 87% of eCommerce shoppers making a purchase decision based on social media marketing, if you’re joining the eCommerce revolution, it’s worth staying on trend with multi-channel selling.

  1. Artificial Intelligence Chatbot

Customer patterns based on browsing history are a challenge for online stores, but we now hail intelligent algorithms as the key to dealing with such challenges. AI chatbots are computer programs that can understand a customer’s questions and provide human-like responses about products and services. Unlike humans, they deal with unlimited customer enquiries at once and operate at all hours of the day. The other advantage of a chatbot is that it can be used to generate sales. It can do this by sending automated prompts to get users chatting about a product they are interested in. It can also offer them discounts or even make personalised recommendations based on their session data.

  1. Personalisation and Seamless Customer Engagement

The success of any business depends on customer satisfaction, and customers want brands whose values they can identify with; websites that load quickly, are easy to navigate and work on any device; and purchasing processes that are simple, secure and fast. This has led to the trend of marketing automation, which focuses on customised landing pages, easy to access shopping carts, personalised emails, displaying new products and promotions as per the visitors’ shopping history, and re-targeting customers for necessary product sales.

Re-shaping the business landscape, eCommerce brings with it many advantages, especially for start-ups and medium-sized enterprises. However, as consumers continue to drive the market with their seamless shopping demands, you need to realise that you’re not just competing against local competitors, but also the most cutting edge, slickest and fastest websites and apps that exist globally.

This means you need to invest in your website experience.

Paarl Web Design excels in eCommerce web design and development along with social media marketing and SEO services. Contact Paarl Web Design today and find out how we can help your business grow online.

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