Interview with Alastair Tempest of Ecommerce Forum South Africa
In our interview with Alastair we discuss the impact of Covid-19 on the ecommerce industry and how Ecommerce Forum South Africa is addressing this internally to best serve their members.
What are your top tips to change and adapt your digital strategy to survive in a post pandemic environment?
Selling online is now “the new normal”. All companies, whether selling B2C or B2B should review their online presence, and ask – is my website a proper reflection of the brand image I wish to portray? Are the photos clear and appealing? Are the offers (pricing/Ts&Cs) clear and easy to follow for my customers? What online payment systems are we offering (EFT, Visa/Mastercard, etc)? Using a payment gateway which are experts in the field (like PayU or Peach Payments for example) is often the best solution. Then what about delivery? In the case of services this is not so complex, but for goods there are a number of ways to deliver – from the most expensive but certain which are couriers or express parcel carriers; to smaller local delivery services, or ‘click and collect’ solutions. If you have the means use your own delivery services, but be sure that you follow the COVID rules on deliveries set down by government (see our website www.ecomafrica.org). In the case of goods, keep in mind that in most cases the law requires you to accept returns within 7 working days of delivery, and so you need a contingency plan for that process just in case.
For those companies that do not yet have an online presence (no website for example) there are various “off-the-shelf” solutions which are there to help, like RedShift, Shopify, etc. Or you can use an e-platform like Brownsense, OLX, Gumtree, Takealot or Zando, etc. Alternatively, if your customers are active social media users, selling via Facebook or Instagram is a solution. Some of these solutions are South African, and deserve your consideration!
In post-COVID times, we may see a return to buying at stores, however, do not count on this. And keep the two important advantages of online in mind – first, your website is your shop window. Customers will visit it even if they then go to your retail store. So keep your website up to date and looking good. Second, it is far easier to provide customer service online. You will know who your customers are, what they like and what they buy. A satisfied regular customer is worth their weight in gold!
How have you changed your marketing strategy to better communicate with your members?
We now have a new Chair and Board – not as the result of the pandemic – which has helped focus our communications during this time.
What are the Do’s and Don’t’s for moving your business from a traditional retail focus to now focus online?
Embracing online is never an alternative for a physical presence. Look at Amazon Foods in the USA or Yuppie Chef here in SA. Both started as pure online offerings and found a physical presence in shopping malls an additional marketing benefit. Ecommerce must be considered as another marketing tool which businesses can use to reach their customers and sell products. In some cases businesses may concentrate more and more on digital solutions as consumers and business change their buying habits and adopt digital. An example is travel agencies which have progressively moved online. However, even in countries which (for various reasons) have embraced ecommerce more than the average, like the UK or Japan, ecommerce only represents a quarter of all retail sales.
How have you kept personally motivated and focused during this lockdown period?
Representing the interests of ecommerce, and working with government to ensure that safety solutions are in place to safeguard both customers and delivery personnel.
Thank you Alastair for taking your time to chat to us. We look forward to speaking to you again in the coming months regarding our plans for SAITEX 2021.