E-commerce is a tool that every business can take advantage of – from a single entrepreneur running a small business by himself to an enterprise with a larger number of employees. This is because it now encompasses a spectrum of payment systems; from paying via an electronic transfer, to a credit card online, to paying a barista through your phone.
E-commerce is no longer just for big companies and with consumers looking for online convenience; this becomes a huge benefit for SMEs to gain the competitive edge. It also no longer refers to just credit card transactions on online stores.
It’s not surprising that it is being embraced by SMEs; statistics from statista.com show 40 percent of global consumers have bought a product online – through a variety of devices. That translates into more than a billion online shoppers; a number that is set to grow steadily. Even the business-to-consumer market is set to reach $1.92 trillion next year, and South Africa will be no different when it comes to riding this wave, even if it catches the ride a bit later than the US.
Although only 11 percent of SA’s 15.6 million households access Internet at home on a device other than a phone, some 32.6 million South Africans older than 16 have cellphones, and half of these are smartphones. As a result, World Wide Worx notes the local e-commerce sector has been booming; growing by a mammoth 35 percent in 2014 to be worth R6 billion in value. And, while that’s just 0.8 percent of all retail, this is a sector that will continue to grow faster than bricks and mortar.
E-payments are the shopping way of the future – a valuable time saver for companies whose employees handle multiple functions.
For example, imagine the benefit of being able to immediately check stock levels while standing next to a customer who found you online, from your mobile device, then placing an order, running an invoice and accepting a payment – with all of these functions happening simultaneously via the cloud to sync with your accounting package.
Previously, this would have meant setting up a site that can accept online payments – but only via a bank’s payment gateway. Now there are many tested and trusted payment applications that will allow you to process payments simply, without danger, to your customer. These payment options are available in an on- and offline environment, which gives clients comfort when transacting electronically and, over time, they will integrate more and more into accounting packages.
There are clear advantages to e-commerce for both the seller and the customer. Many people who do not have credit cards can now take advantage of these easy-to-use solutions, and sellers can now open up expansion opportunities into other geographic territories, which are traditionally underbanked, such as many African countries.
A carefully crafted, integrated, e-commerce solution can free up time for small companies to plug more effort into growing their business, and hiring more employees, with the obvious benefits that brings to the overall economy. It also means you don’t need to keep a warehouse full of stock because you can more carefully manage inventory.
To take advantage of the e-commerce explosion, carefully analyse what your company needs – talk to experts in the software field about what these needs are and what solutions will best meet your plans. Make sure your solution is scalable and will grow as your company does, and make sure it’s also flexible enough to migrate to new systems or be updated as you need to.