Tag: e-commerce

Massmart in talks to acquire OneCart

Source: IOL

Massmart has announced that it is in negotiations to acquire a controlling stake in OneCart. The company said the negotiations were at an advanced stage. It said the acquisition was in line with its strategic intent to accelerate growth in e-commerce.

The group hopes to conclude discussions in the coming weeks.

OneCart is a South African grocery delivery service that was founded in 2016.

Massmart Group chief executive officer, Mitch Slape said: “The proposed acquisition is consistent with Massmart’s strategy to invest in and accelerate eCommerce growth, particularly in the fast-growing on-demand delivery segment. A key objective going forward would be to invest in aggressively growing and fully supporting OneCart’s existing independent retailer marketplace model that enables consumers to order from multiple retailers via a single platform.”

In March, Massmart outlined the group’s immediate eCommerce priorities including to:

• Establish a unified group-wide eCommerce capability under the leadership of Sylvester John who has been seconded by Walmart to fulfil the role of Massmart Group eCommerce vice-president.

• Revamp the makro.co.za, game.co.za and builders.co.za online user interfaces, including key functionalities like search, to provide a more seamless and intuitive customer experience.

• Develop new transactional and value-adding mobile-first digital solutions that cater to different customer occasions, journeys, and segments, including participation as anchor retail tenant on the Vodapay Super App.

• Strengthen and expand order fulfilment capabilities such as on-demand and same-day order fulfilment, “ship to home” capability from Distribution Centres to supplement store fulfilment capacity, and improving the click-and-collect customer experience in stores.

Group vice-president for eCommerce Sylvester John said: “It’s clear that we have the brand recognition, geographical presence, merchandise assortment, procurement scale, and primary logistics capability to be an even more successful eCommerce player.

“In addition to better leveraging these assets, our immediate opportunity is to improve and expand our digital sales platforms and last-mile delivery capability. The successful acquisition of OneCart will go a long way toward achieving this.”

The company said that in 2020, online sales across Massmart increased by 58.6%, the number of unique eCommerce customers grew by 73% and click-and-collect orders increased by 69.5%. eCommerce contributed 1.8% of total sales, representing a significant increase over the previous year.

OneCart has achieved year-on-year growth of 400% since its inception.

Slape said: “Successful closure of the proposed OneCart transaction will contribute immeasurably to our centralised eCommerce capability that has specifically been established to concentrate scarce expertise, including Walmartpracticence, in a way that will accelerate the adoption of eCommerce best practise at Massmart.”

 

The Amazon slayer: open e-commerce

Source: Mint

The investing world is enthralled by a determined Beijing as it cuts China’s private sector down to size by relentless regulatory action. That’s good news for New Delhi: its more subtle manoeuvres in the same direction are going largely unnoticed.

Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc.’s Flipkart, however, would surely have felt the rising temperatures. Even as they weigh draft e-commerce rules that seek to restrict online marketplaces — not just theirs, but also the planned super-app by India’s Tata Group — a new existential threat lurks around the corner: a state-sponsored open network for digital commerce.

In China, homegrown stores like Taobao, Tmall and JD.com have an unshakable dominance in online retail. But now, the only other billion-people-plus opportunity open to American capital is also slipping away from its grasp.

It’s unclear how exactly India’s open e-commerce network will work — or if it will work at all. The template, according to the press statement, is the country’s highly successful Unified Payments Interface, a public utility that allows any entity to process real-time payments over smartphones provided a set of common protocols is followed. The UPI network has in a short time eclipsed proprietary card-based payments.

Fashioning a similar open network for online commerce will be a lot trickier. It’s easy to make a set of rules where there’s a simple, single-point objective of satisfying the central bank that the same funds aren’t being spent twice. Commerce, by contrast, involves far fuzzier outcomes. Did the consumer get the product she paid for? Did it arrive in one piece? Was the article genuine or a counterfeit? Was the returns policy enforceable? Additionally, brands selling online have to worry about resellers’ creditworthiness and their ability to manage complicated distribution logistics in a country with poor physical infrastructure.

The ministry says that merchants will be able to save their data under the open network to build credit history and reach consumers, breaking silos imposed by platforms “to drive innovation and scale.” Several questions arise: Are Amazon and Walmart-Flipkart, which aren’t directing even 10% of India’s $800 billion annual retail sales between them, stifling innovation to a point where the harm exceeds their positive influence from aggregating demand? Should they, therefore, be mandated to operate their merchant-onboarding processes according to some preset rules, eroding much of their power to determine what goes on over platforms in which they have invested billions of dollars? Like everywhere else, the danger with dominant marketplaces in India is that they will copy the bestselling ideas of merchants and introduce them as private labels. But is this threat currently so large as to require a systematic downgrading of platforms?

Not allowed to own inventory, the two dominant foreign-owned marketplaces have solved many of the underlying problems of trust by using a handful of large sellers they can control. This practice, challenged by some traders’ groups as discriminatory, is now in the crosshairs of India’s competition regulator. So intense is the scrutiny that Amazon’s joint venture with Indian software tycoon Narayana Murthy has decided to fold up by the middle of next year. The seven-year-old JV owns Cloudtail, the largest seller on Amazon’s India website. As the news website Morning Context notes, Cloudtail helped relatively smaller manufacturers — such as a saree brand from Rajasthan — acquire national reach on Amazon, something they may not have achieved on their own. Consumers are getting more choice than before. Once large platform-aligned buyers like Cloudtail are chased out, Amazon’s customer satisfaction scores could be hard to sustain.

As India deliberately de-emphasises the platform model, even the conglomerate Tata Group, which is planning a marketplace extending from fashion and lifestyle to electronics, may be handicapped if it’s unable to sell a cup of Starbucks coffee on its website. That’s because Starbucks Corp.’s joint venture in India with Tata makes it a connected party, which can’t act as a seller on the super-app, according to draft e-commerce rules. Ditto for Walmart Inc.’s separate wholesale unit. As an affiliated entity of Flipkart, it may not be allowed to hawk a shirt on the retail website.

The winner may be someone pursuing a different business model for aggregating supplies. Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, controls both the largest chain of physical stores and the biggest telco. Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd. could carry its own inventory, using its $180 billion balance sheet to buy and stock third-party merchandise and sell it online or offline — or in a hybrid online-offline setup.

A deliberate assault on the economics of digital platforms will possibly rank among the most far-reaching separations of platforms and commerce seen anywhere in recent years — save China’s recent forced restructuring of Ant Group Co.‘s operations. America’s historic moves to segregate coal from railroads, commercial enterprises from banking, and television networks from programming took place in a very different era that ended with breaking up AT&T Inc.’s lock on communications in 1982. But the pendulum is swinging again. Lina Khan, chosen by President Joe Biden to chair the Federal Trade Commission, is a keen proponent of a more muscular approach to reining in tech platforms.

This shifting zeitgeist gives New Delhi the perfect cover to prepare its Amazon slayer, even though digital commerce in India is at present just a sideshow. Far bigger anticompetitive forces are at play in sectors ranging from telecoms and ports to airports.

But then, politicians like to invent challenges that don’t exist, rather than tackle those that do. An open digital commerce network is one such solution searching for a problem. Emasculating the economics of platforms will give a big advantage to retailers who are allowed to own inventory. It could turn out to be more efficient, but not necessarily more competitive.

 

Source: IOL

The Competition Commission is set to start its Online Intermediation Platforms Market Inquiry on Tuesday.

The commission said the inquiry would cover online markets that facilitate transactions between businesses and consumers (or so-called “B2C” platforms) for the sale of goods, services, and software.

According to the commission, online intermediation platforms include e-commerce marketplaces, online classified marketplaces, software application stores, and intermediated services such as accommodation, travel, transport, and food delivery. Examples of these include:

  • Takealot (including Superbalist)
  • Mr D
  • UberEats
  • Airbnb
  • TravelStart
  • Autotrader
  • Cars.co.za
  • Property24
  • Private Property
  • Google Play
  • Apple App Store

The aim is for the commission to get a greater understanding of the online markets operating in South Africa, and whether there are factors that may be hindering competition or undermining the public interest.

“This will ensure that these markets remain contestable and competitive, which is in the long-term best interests of South African consumers and businesses that depend on them,” the Commission, said.

It said said online markets have become an increasingly important channel for businesses to reach consumers, a trend that has accelerated under the Covid-19 pandemic and likely to continue.

“Online markets provide consumers with the convenience of comparing a wide range of options and then safely purchasing online. For businesses, the online markets offer a ready-made infrastructure to sell online and a means to reach an enormous number of consumers nationally and internationally,” it said.

The commission also stated that the shift to online commerce also meant that it was important for South African businesses to participate actively in these markets if they are to be part of the global and national economy.

“However, global experience is that a few platforms may start to dominate online commerce given the features of online markets and in some cases the conduct of the markets themselves. In those circumstances, businesses using the markets may be exploited or discriminated against, and consumers may not be presented with the optimal choices,” the commission added.

The commission said the inquiry would focus on three areas:

a) market features that may hinder competition amongst the online markets themselves,

b) market features that may give rise to the discriminatory or exploitative treatment of business users,

c) market features that may negatively impact the participation of SMEs, and firms owned and controlled by historically disadvantaged persons.

Last year, commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said the commission would investigate and create new regulations to prevent the abuse of dominance by big firms.

Takealot, which is part of Naspers’ South African internet properties, was pin-pointed as dominant in the South African digital market.

Naspers invested in Tencent investment and used it as a launchpad into the online industry with investments in big Internet players like Delivery Hero, Code Academy, Udemy, PayU, FlipCart, and Mail.ru.

Naspers’ South African Internet properties include Takealot, Autotrader, 24.com, OLX, Property24, and Careers24.

 

Source: MyBroadband

Online retail in South Africa more than doubled in just two years, thanks to the explosion in demand for home deliveries brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

This was one of the findings of Online Retail in South Africa 2021 – a study conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Mastercard, Standard Bank and Platinum Seed.

The study revealed that the total growth for online retail in South Africa in 2020 came to 66%, bringing the total of online retail in South Africa to R30.2-billion.

“The most astonishing aspect of this total is that it is more than double the R14.1-billion reached in 2018, in just two years,” said World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck.

“It is also 50% higher than the total forecast for 2020 three years ago, when online retail in South Africa was expected to reach R20-billion by 2020.”

Comparing the online retail market to traditional retail puts the figure into context.

In 2018, the R14.1-billion in online retail represented 1.4% of total retail, estimated at the time at R1.07-trillion.

Online had outpaced traditional retail growth throughout the past 20 years, since it came off a low base, but traditional retail still grew every year until 2019.

In 2020, it slumped as a result of lockdown as well as economic stress.

According to preliminary data from Stats SA shows, at current prices, total retail fell by 4.2%, to R1.05-trillion at current prices.

The percentage of retail made up by online retail sales came to 2.8% – exactly double the percentage for 2018.

“While equivalent growth cannot be expected for 2021, it can be stated fairly confidently that it will exceed the 30% growth of 2019, when expansion was organic and a factor of the evolution of shopping habits and retail strategies,” said Goldstuck.

“Those factors remain in place, along with the massive boost given to both areas of evolution since the pandemic began.”

This means South Africa can expect to see total online retail sales of around R42-billion in 2021, taking the online percentage of total retail to around 4%.

The findings were not a surprise, Goldstuck said.

In November 2020, Mastercard released the findings of a survey of 1,000 South African consumers, which found that 68% of respondents were shopping more online since the onset of the pandemic.

The categories experiencing the highest growth, aside from data and airtime top-up, were clothing, at 56%, and groceries, at 54%.

68% of these consumers said they used the time during the pandemic as a positive learning experience.

The demand for online entertainment also surged, with 52% of respondents saying they have spent more money on virtual experiences than they did before the pandemic.

The majority had participated in video calls for work or leisure (88%), three quarters (75%) had watched TV or films through an online subscription service, and nearly half (47%) had taken part in a virtual cooking class.

“This trend appears to be here to stay as 71% of respondents say they will continue to shop online post-pandemic,” said Suzanne Morel, country manager at Mastercard, South Africa.

 

The acceleration of e-commerce as the global Covid-19 pandemic revolutionises buying trends is giving rise to exciting new developments in the financial technology industry.

According to research by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), e-commerce’s share of global retail trade grew from 14% in 2019 to about 17% in 2020.

And the phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down.

“Businesses and consumers who were able to ‘go digital’ have helped mitigate the economic downturn caused by the pandemic,” says UNCTAD Acting Secretary-General Isabelle Durant

“But they have also sped up a digital transition that will have lasting impacts on our societies and daily lives … Developing countries should not only be consumers but also active players and thus producers of the digital economy.”

It is not surprising that ecommerce’s meteoric rise has birthed new financial products and technologies that are able to align with needs of merchants and consumers.

In March, the New York Times described startup fintech companies as “hot tickets” among investors, and with good reason. Any company A person with a beard

Description automatically generated with low confidence not investing in online banking and digital tools will be left behind as the economic landscape undergoes a complete overhaul.

The result is that some fintech companies have already begun to list on the New York Stock Exchange, and this is only the beginning.

Closer to home, FinTech magazine forecasts that the financial technology sector will be “critical to the recovery” of numerous countries in Africa in the wake of the pandemic.

Figures from early 2020 show that venture capital funding for African fintech startups had risen by 51%. It was reported that new fintechs raised almost $350-million (R4.9-billion) during the first quarter of 2020, with South Africa leading the way with $112m (R1.6bn) in investments.

Projects included virtual banking projects, consumer credit checks and finance apps.

Against this backdrop, it was a ‘no-brainer’ for South African internet auction and online marketplace bidorbuy to partner with local e-commerce payment solutions company Payflex.

Payflex allows shoppers to pay off their purchase over six weeks, interest free, which obviously is also to the benefit of merchants as it will attract more consumers to their platforms.

“Payflex allows buyers on the platform to get the benefit of getting the product they want right away, but the flexibility of paying that off over six weeks, is a huge advantage. There is no catch and there is no interest charged on the repayments,” says bidorbuy CEO Craig Lubbe.

While bidorbuy is yet to see which categories are most popular for payments with Payflex, Lubbe expects that it will enable shoppers to have access to products that would, in many instances, be slightly out of reach in terms of value.

The marketplace also recognises that there is an ongoing shift from more established methods of payment such as EFTs (electronic funds transfers), to credit card and other contactless payment options.

“We also expect to see further developments within the e-wallet payment space,” Lubbe says.

“Because payment options are evolving as the needs of consumers change, we truly believe that we should offer our shoppers as much choice as possible. Not only does this include the wide assortment of new and used goods for sale, but also that our shoppers can pay in the way that is most convenient to them. Not every option suits the needs of every customer and we’d like to be as accommodating as possible to all who transact on our platform.”

Payflex CEO Paul Behrmann believes the partnership with bidorbuy will be a “win-win” for buyers and sellers on the marketplace.

“Our innovative payment solution helps buyers on bidorbuy purchase what they want to today – and pay for it later at no additional cost. And for sellers on bidorbuy, it makes it easier to close a sale by making purchases more affordable to buyers,” he says.

“At Payflex our primary ambition is to introduce innovative debt-free payment solutions that make shopping more accessible and affordable to all. By adding bidorbuy as a Payflex store, we can now offer thousands of Payflex shoppers the opportunity to shop with Payflex at the best marketplace in South Africa. A big-win for Payflex shoppers – which is a big-win for us”.

As part of the launch campaign, Payflex and bidorbuy will be offering new bidorbuy Payflex customers a number of promotions when they use Payflex on bidorbuy.

The partnership is very much in keeping with the latest international trends

In the United Kingdom, buy now pay later (BNPL) is the fastest growing payment method, with a growth rate that is double that of bank transfers and more than triple that of digital wallets, according to finder.com.

Its research shows that 37% of British consumers have used a BNPL service, and more than half of (52%) of BNPL users are using these services more during the Covid-19 period.

Similar statistics are being reflected in the United States, where a recent study found that 42% of respondents had used a BNPL service before.

Takealot competitor launched

Source: MyBroadband

New ecommerce player Everyshop has launched, offering South Africans a wide range of technology products, computers, appliances, and other products from leading brands.

Everyshop is part of JD Group, which owns many high-profile retail chains, including Incredible Connection and HiFi Corp.

Through these stores, JD Group offers consumers technology products, computers, appliances, and gadgets.

It also provides household goods, including furniture, mattresses, and appliances through Rochester, Sleepmasters, Bradlows, and Russells.

JD Group has a national network of 16 distribution centres that perform home deliveries to customers using their own logistics fleet and courier partners.

The increased need for convenience through online shopping has encouraged the company to look at new ways to serve its customers, which culminated in the launch of Everyshop.

Everyshop features products from the group’s existing product ranges and many new product categories and leading brands.

It currently offers products in 10 main categories – entertainment, fashion, health & beauty, perfect home, work & study, projects & DIY, lifestyle & leisure, fitness, cellular, and kid’s world.

Everyshop featured numerous big tech brands like Sony, HP, Acer, Apple, Canon, Dell, Epson, Garmin, Hisense, Huawei, JBL, LG, Samsung, Pioneer, and Xbox.

Delivery is available throughout South Africa and will be made from Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays), subject to payment and order confirmation before 12:00.

Depending on origin and destination, a delay of up to 24 hours may be experienced on delivery to outlying areas.

Everyshop offers many payment options, including debit, credit, and cheque cards, Maestro and VISA Electron debit cards, Discovery Miles, Visa Checkout, MasterPass, Call Pay, PayU Wallet, and Everyshop gift cards.

The online shopping platform does not currently support collections. It is, however, planning to launch collection points in the near future.

Source: MyBroadband

JSE-listed Imperial announced that it has acquired Parcelninja on 1 February 2021 in one of the largest e-commerce deals in South Africa.

Parcelninja was founded in 2013 by Justin Drennan, Ryan Drennan and Terence Murphy and it launched its first commercial services in October 2014.

It offers South African online shops an affordable outsourcing solution for all their fulfilment needs.

They integrate with most existing e-commerce engines and offer smart product warehousing, picking and packing, courier optimisation, and real-time reporting.

Parcelninja is therefore a logical fit for Imperial and helps the company to achieve its ambition of strengthening its digital offerings.

“This acquisition supports Imperial’s strategic ambitions to accelerate our digital capabilities and expand our logistics and market access services into last-mile distribution, e-commerce fulfilment, footprint and scale in Africa, while ensuring local relevance for our clients and principals,” Imperial said.

South Africa is experiencing an unprecedented e-commerce boom, with transaction rates peaking at higher levels than Black Friday.

After many weeks of crippling retail restrictions which formed part of the national COVID-19 lockdown in March and April, unlimited ecommerce was allowed from 15 May.

The new regulations allowed all goods to be sold through ecommerce platforms, except for alcohol and tobacco products.

South Africans flocked to online shopping sites to buy products which were not allowed to be sold during the level 5 lockdown.

Many online shopping sites saw record sales on products like gaming consoles, laptops, vacuum cleaners, treadmills and home gym equipment, and media players.

A source close to Takealot told MyBroadband the company is now generating close to R1 billion in sales per month – around double their usual volumes.

Takealot did not confirm these numbers when it was asked for comment, but other ecommerce players also told MyBroadband their sales have more than doubled in recent weeks.

Online shopping volumes have increased so rapidly that many online retailers are struggling to cope with demand.

Takealot’s distribution centres, for example, have been overwhelmed because of the increased demand. This, in turn, has resulted in deliveries being delayed.

Many other online shops have increased their expected delivery times by over a week to address logistics bottlenecks.

Big jump in payment processing – PayGate
The companies which have the best overview of online sales volumes are online payment platforms like PayGate and PayFast.

PayGate chief sales officer Brendon Williamson told MyBroadband they have seen a marked increase in transactions since unlimited ecommerce was allowed.

“On Saturday 30 May our transactions per minute increased by double our pre-lockdown average with liquor, food, and gaming being the biggest drivers,” said Williamson.

He added that they were experiencing transaction peaks four-times higher than that of Black Friday 2019.

He said lifting the restrictions on ecommerce resulted in many people using online stores to buy products they could not purchase during level 5 of the lockdown.

“We knew this would be the case and so we had always planned to scale our systems to meet the high volumes of transactions,” said Williamson.

“The reality was we had to boost capacity by 700% just to meet consumer needs in level 3.”

While the current boom in ecommerce sales is expected to subside, sales will still be higher than usual.

“While we will see some correction during June, we expect our monthly volumes for the rest of the year to settle at around 40% higher than last year,” said Williamson.

“We believe the simplicity and efficiencies of digital commerce will keep consumers coming back for more.”

Continued growth since April – PayFast
PayFast founder and MD Jonathan Smit told MyBroadband they have seen unprecedented week-on-week increases in the number of online payments made since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown.

“Following an initial dip at the beginning of April, the weekly trendline in total sales volumes shows incremental growth,” said Smit.

PayFast saw steady week-on-week growth throughout April, which continued into the first two weeks of May in anticipation of ecommerce opening up.

“Working off an already high baseline in the middle of May, total payment volumes grew by 20% in the first week after ecommerce restrictions were lifted and by another 17% the week thereafter,” said Smit.

PayFast transactions peaked in the final week of May, with another 7% growth compared to the previous week.

“The first two weeks of June have seen slight dips, which is in keeping with monthly online shopping trends that generally spike towards the end of the month when most people get paid,” he said.

Smit added that they have registered over 7,000 new merchant accounts over the lockdown period, surpassing any other high-volume period of registrations, such as the lead-up to Black Friday.

Online stores suffer major delivery delays

Online retailers in South Africa are struggling to deal with the onslaught of orders during the country’s coronavirus lockdown.

  • Takealot is suffering delays of between two weeks and a month. One MyBroadband user sent the publication a screenshot of an order that had been placed on 26 May but was due to be delivered by 30 June. Consumers have also complained of an inability to get hold of customer service agents in order to schedule returns and get refunds
  • Yuppiechef customers have complained of slow delivery and of changing stock. One reader complained of her order being changed to “out of stock” three times
  • Makro consumers have been complaining of delayed deliveries, incorrect orders and a lack of access to anyone in customer care to deal with returns or refunds
  • Online grocery app Zulzi has also been plagued with complaints of incorrect deliveries, lack of customer service and outstanding refunds

By Vukani Mngxati, CEO for Accenture in Africa

COVID-19 is a global pandemic, evolving at unprecedented speed and scale. It is creating a universal imperative for governments and organisations to take immediate action to protect their people. Self-quarantine. Social distancing. Community spread. These formerly obscure terms are now everyday words. New habits and behaviours are forming that in many cases are not likely to go away after the crisis passes.

And while the impact to the economy is not fully known, both direct-to-consumer (D2C) and business-to-business (B2B) organisations are scrambling to meet the immediate needs of their marketplaces. In particular, those who have viewed digital commerce as a secondary channel now need to reorient every aspect of their business towards a digital commerce mindset. There exists an opportunity to double-down on digital commerce, augmenting existing offerings and creating new lines of service.

While this represents an opportunity to grow revenue, attract new customers and drive channel shift, it depends on digital channels and capabilities having appropriate scale and stability to handle the crush.
Reassure your customers and employees

There is unprecedented confusion on what, where and how to buy things, as customers are concerned about who to buy from, whether they are paying a fair price or even whether they will be able to find the essentials they need.

Unfortunately, some businesses who proved to be opportunistic and exploited customers by loading prices of critical items, contributed to this issue. This may have yielded profits in the short term, but in the long term, they will lose market share as customers are increasingly gravitating towards companies that are truthful, transparent and driven by a clear purpose.

These principles extend through customer channels and their engagement with retailers, as well as into B2B relationships and how companies work with their distributors, wholesalers, or manufacturing direct suppliers. This is amongst other confirmed by a study that was released in collaboration between the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Accenture in January 2020, which indicates that companies who execute stakeholder-eccentric leadership, display stronger financial performance.

If this was the case then already, this pandemic that currently affects the whole of mankind, has no doubt brought the need for human-centredness to the fore. Companies who can demonstrate these attributes will deliver a differentiated level of customer service and make themselves more relevant and connected to their customers – old and new – on an ongoing basis.

Stabilise your digital channels, platforms and infrastructure

With the closure of cafés, restaurants, bars and hotels and the grounding of airlines, much of this demand will need to be met by the grocery sector, online. That’s the new reality as mass quarantines and unpredictable retail stock availability cause online commerce to skyrocket. While this represents an opportunity to grow revenue, attract new customers and drive channel shift, it depends on digital channels and capabilities having appropriate scale and stability to handle the crush. Businesses must flex quickly to capture the opportunity, and systems must be prepared to withstand the increased loads.

Reconfigure and extend your offering for seamless online delivery

With the closure of retail establishments, and the disruption of supply chains, the rules for merchandise and inventory have fundamentally shifted. Historical data on what sells online vs. offline is out the window. Companies now have a lot of inventory that they are sitting on in retail outlets that they need to figure out how to get online.

Businesses that have historically invested in digital commerce sales tools will likely have an easier time adjusting to this new, digital first economy, while those that have only made moderate strides will be more greatly disrupted. For example, traditional auto auction houses are shutting down, while on-line auctions are fast becoming the norm – even in a reduced volume business, those that are digital-prepared are seeing increases. As businesses are realising the value of e-commercialising, this will in all likelihood also lead to a decline in the need for brick and mortar operations.

Power up your value proposition through power networks

All evidence points to the fact that the economy will continue to decline and that there will remain a requirement for social distancing for time to come. For this reason, customers will keep on abandoning brands they’ve been loyal to and migrate to companies who can deliver what they need in the fastest, easiest and most cost-effective manner. Better yet, if they can get it all from one single, service provider. This will require businesses to move beyond just creating ecosystems, to establishing power networks through symbiotic partnerships and collaborations to collectively expand their value proposition all together. At the same time, it is an enabler to establish lean and mean operations in an uncertain economic climate, whilst accelerating growth exponentially.

Leverage new behaviours for new growth

Naturally, the national lockdown forced business and society to start doing things differently. Gyms are helping their customers to stay fit through online fitness programmes. The healthcare industry is using virtual assistants and hotlines to respond appropriately to the COVID-19 crisis. Restaurants are providing online cooking classes. Consulting businesses and academies are providing information and counsel through webinars, online learning tools and systems. Businesses are enabling their staff to work remotely and are using online platforms such as Microsoft Teams to conduct meetings. Parents are using online mechanisms to educate their children, and tertiary students are tapping into online learning.

All these new behaviours can be leveraged for new business growth. For example, as South Africa has just moved to level 3 of the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, only a portion of our children are able to return to school, and only some tertiary students are able to return to their educational institutions. This necessitates an extreme acceleration of the virtualisation and digitalisation of education, supplemented by substantially increased access to the internet, especially for those learners in disadvantaged and rural areas.

Unlock the potential of emerging trends

There is a myriad of trends that are emerging in this COVID-19 world, that present businesses with new potential avenues for growth. Health and safety are for example currently the first and foremost priority for both business and society and will in all likelihood not just remain a trend but become part of the new normal. Whilst discretionary spend is generally bound to decrease significantly, people on the higher end of the market who have been robbed of the pleasure of traveling for leisure, may be more likely to spend money on luxury items such as jewellery, to spoil themselves. In addition, every single person now requires enhanced access to the internet, more efficient technology and mobile devices to live, work and play from anywhere, at any time. This is a time to conceptualise novel solutions for at-home activity, at-home education, at-home entertainment and at-home workspaces.

Reassess relevance and reframe your strategy

Some of our industries that have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic are the tourism, entertainment and beauty sectors. Businesses in these sectors have no choice but to reassess their relevance and adjust their strategies accordingly. While people are no longer able to go out and explore the whole wide world, the tourism sector will have to innovate ways to bring the whole wide world to them, by i.e. creating virtual tours or expanding their offering to include entertainment such as gaming. Entertainers can leverage online platforms to create worldwide events and distribute their material digitally. Hairdressers and beauty salons can provide ‘how to’ channels on a subscription basis and develop e-commerce channels for their customers to get the necessary products quickly and effortlessly.

Unlock the value of data to engage consumers optimally

As the landscape we find ourselves in is changing faster than ever before, the wants and needs of customers are also evolving at an unparalleled speed. The businesses who will be able to successfully deliver on these wants and needs, are the ones who are ever attuned to exactly who their customers are, what their preferences are, and what they may also need in future, before they even know it themselves. To this end, it is critical to acquire the most suitable technology to intelligently collect and interpret client data. However, in this ultra-competitive online race, it is no longer sufficient to simply deliver what customers want and need, it is also important how you deliver it. The businesses who will grab and retain their target audiences’ attention, will be the ones that leverage high technology to create immersive virtual spaces and continuously deliver the most engaging digital experiences.

Embrace e-commerce as a necessity, not just a priority

In conclusion, in this brave new COVID-19 world, digital commerce is no longer a priority, it is a necessity for the very survival of business. But whilst establishing their e-commerce facilities, business should never lose sight of what is first and foremost for their customers: Trust, relevance, convenience and economy.

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