From the moment they click onto an ecommerce site, customers develop a lasting impression of your brand. Creating a frictionless environment with an outstanding customer journey is helping even small, boutique offerings significantly boost their bottom line.
The last mile is the most important
Despite what many think, we have seen that the delivery of goods and services is the make or break of an ecommerce offering.
The importance of this last mile service is clearly demonstrated by industry stalwarts like Takealot (which acquired Mr. Delivery) and Yuppiechef, which put their own branded drivers on the road. The companies which have succeeded in the local market know that how fast you receive your item or service is the last, and most indelible, impression left with a customer.
Strangely, some of the biggest, and arguably most respected, retail bands still don’t have this part of the journey right. Fixed delivery charges can leave a bitter taste with customers. Being charged R150 for the delivery of a R50 item means shoppers will simply go elsewhere to buy or, at best, wait until they have a big enough order to make the delivery charge worth their while. The irony is that many of the big brands who employ this delivery billing model are the same companies which have spent millions on improving their checkout processes in their physical stores.
A site’s returns policy is also important. If there’s not a quick and simple returns policy shoppers are left disillusioned and unlikely to ever use the service again, much less recommend it to their friends.
Allow reviews – customers trust other customers
As consumers we want to know that someone else has done what we are doing and that their experience was good. Allowing reviews on your site means first-time users will see that others have successfully transacted with you and this de-risks the transaction for them.
And these reviews don’t all have to be glowing. Humans are, by nature, forgiving creatures. If we see that there was a glitch in the process for someone else, but the business was willing and able to quickly resolve the problem, we know that if we run into trouble there will be friendly staff who are able to assist us.
In fact, the human element should never be underestimated. De-risking the transaction process means having someone available to help at every stage of the customer journey. Some ecommerce sites have built their reputation around excellent online service. For instance, if a customer is inactive on a page for any length of time, they should get an onscreen prompt with a sales assistant who is able to guide them through the process and even help them find the particular product they may be looking for.
We trust what we know
The look and feel of the site can also help shoppers feel secure. Designing your site to have the same visual and experiential feel as the well-known ecommerce sites can help alleviate discomfort. Of course, companies should ensure their site is beautifully branded and clearly differentiated from their competitors, but the layout and step-by-step process can be modeled on those sites which have proven conversion rates.
The same could be said for security. While many customers are not necessarily looking for security seals, having your SSL security certificates up to date is imperative. Online banking has taught the average consumer that they should be looking for the ‘https’ in the URL bar as a minimum.
When it comes to payments, ensuring your customer has their preferred payment option is always a must. Having a complete bouquet of payment offerings including card, Instant EFT, and app-based payments such as Zapper and PayPal means you are far less likely to lose a customer as they are about to pay.
Make you sure you have value-adds
Buying goods and services online takes the personal touch out of the shopping experience. You miss out on the well-trained, smiling staff who can entice customers to support one store over other. Since there are so many online options to choose from when buying a product or service, adding unique value-adds can boost the first experience and lead to repeat business. Giveaways, free delivery, discounts, and coupons to share with friends all go a long way to make customers return and refer your business to their friends.
Create interactive websites
A common failing of some ecommerce stores is not updating their sites. It is important to ensure that you show that your products are selling. This could be done by having a top ten purchased items section or a ‘what’s hot today’ deals space that change regularly.
Using 360-degree images also go a long way to make customers feel confident about their purchases. More interaction can also be boosted using newer technologies like augmented and virtual realities. Experiential marketing is now making online shopping more exciting than real-world experiences and is helping companies to not only push merchandise, but build brands that excite and capture the imagination of the customer.
You’re not a number, but you are producing data
So much is being written about big data and machine learning to crunch the numbers and come up with meaningful insights into customer behaviour. While the larger companies are all using this now, even the smaller ecommerce sites can use their existing site information and analytics to look for trends. Analysing user behaviour leads to better user experience. Even small tweaks to the existing model can have a significant impact when it comes to basket or trolley abandonment and companies should be paying attention to these details.
Although it’s coming off a low base, ecommerce in South Africa is growing at a phenomenal rate. Ensuring you have designed a frictionless customer journey can set your company apart in an increasingly competitive market. From design to delivery, every user touchpoint is vital.
Now for hardware-as-a-service
Integrated ICT and Infrastructure provider Vox has entered into an exclusive partnership with Go Rentals to introduce a Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) offering, which is aimed at providing local small and medium businesses (SMEs) with quick, affordable, and scalable access to a wide variety of IT infrastructure – as well as the management thereof.
“Despite an increasingly competitive business environment where every rand counts, many business owners are still buying technology-based equipment outright rather than renting it,” says Barry Kemp, Head of Managed IT at Vox. “The problem with this is that the modern device arena has grown in variety and complexity, making it more difficult to manage, and to reduce the overheads of controlling these devices.”
According to Kemp, there is a global trend being observed in businesses moving away from owning and managing IT infrastructure. This started with the move away from servers and toward cloud-based subscription services, and now organisations are looking to do the same with the remaining on-premise hardware – employees’ desktop systems.
The availability of HaaS changes the way in which local businesses consume IT, by allowing them to direct valuable capital expenditure toward the more efficient and competitive operation of their organisation, rather than spending on hardware products.
“The rental costs are up to 50% lower than if they buy these products through traditional asset financing methods. Furthermore, using HaaS gives businesses the ability to scale up and down depending on their infrastructure requirements. Customers on a 12 month contract can return up to 10% of the devices rented, while those customers on 24 and 36 month contracts can return up to 20% of the devices – at any time during the contract,” adds Kemp.
More than just a rental
HaaS gives business access to repurposed Tier 1 hardware from vendors such as Dell, HP and Lenovo, equipped with the required specifications (processor, memory, and storage), and come installed with the latest Microsoft Windows operating system, unless an older version is specifically requested by the customer.
Kemp says: “Where HaaS is different from simply renting IT hardware is that businesses get full asset lifecycle management, such as having all company software pre-installed, flexible refresh cycles and upgrades, support and warranty management and transparent and predictable per user monthly fees.”
The ability to upgrade during the contract period means that businesses can keep pace with the latest in technology without needing to invest on depreciating equipment, while ensuring maximum productivity and efficiency for employees. Returned devices are put through a decommissioning process that ensures anonymity, certified data protection, and environmental compliance.
Businesses further stand to benefit from Vox Care, which incorporates asset management and logistical services for customers. This includes initial delivery and setup in major centres, asset tagging of all rented items, creation, and the repair and/or replacement of faulty machines within three business days – again in the main metropolitan areas.
Vox Care also assists in the design, testing and deployment of custom images, whereby HaaS clients can have the additional programmes they need (security, productivity tools, business software, etc) easily pre-installed along with the Windows operating system, on all their machines.
Kemp says HaaS customers can get further peace of mind by outsourcing the day to day management of their desktop environment to Vox Managed Services, as well as leverage the company’s knowledge and expertise to manage and host workstation backups to ensure business continuity.
Says Kemp: “Hardware-as-a-Service allows businesses to reduce the total cost of ownership of their hardware and ensure they only pay for what they use. Making the switch to a service model helps them take advantage of the global move in this direction, and to turn their business into a highly functional, flexible, low cost, change your mind whenever you want workplace.”
Seedstars seeks tech to reverse land degradation in Africa
A new partnership is offering prizes to young entrepreneurs for coming up with innovations that tackle the loss of arable land in Africa.
The DOEN Foundation has joined forces with Seedstars, an emerging market startup community, to launch the DOEN Land Restoration Prize, which showcases solutions to environmental, social and financial challenges that focus on land restoration activities in Africa. Stichting DOEN is a Dutch fund that supports green, socially-inclusive and creative initiatives that contribute to a better and cleaner world.
While land degradation and deforestation date back millennia, industrialization and a rising population have dramatically accelerated the process. Today we are seeing unprecedented land degradation, and the loss of arable land at 30 to 35 times the historical rate.
Currently, nearly two-thirds of Africa’s land is degraded, which hinders sustainable economic development and resilience to climate change. As a result, Africa has the largest restoration opportunity of any continent: more than 700 million hectares (1.7 billion acres) of degraded forest landscapes that can be restored. The potential benefits include improved food and water security, biodiversity protection, climate change resilience, and economic growth. Recognizing this opportunity, the African Union set an ambitious target to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.
Land restoration is an urgent response to the poor management of land. Forest and landscape restoration is the process of reversing the degradation of soils, agricultural areas, forests, and watersheds thereby regaining their ecological functionality. According to the World Resources Institute, for every $1 invested in land restoration it can yield $7-$30 in benefits, and now is the time to prove it.
The winner of the challenge will be awarded 9 months access to the Seedstars Investment Readiness Program, the hybrid program challenging traditional acceleration models by creating a unique mix to improve startup performance and get them ready to secure investment. They will also access a 10K USD grant.
“Our current economic system does not meet the growing need to improve our society ecologically and socially,” says Saskia Werther, Program Manager at the DOEN Foundation. “The problems arising from this can be tackled only if a different economic system is considered. DOEN sees opportunities to contribute to this necessary change. After all, the world is changing rapidly and the outlines of a new economy are becoming increasingly clear. This new economy is circular and regenerative. Landscape restoration is a vital part of this regenerative economy and social entrepreneurs play an important role to establish innovative business models to counter land degradation and deforestation. Through this challenge, DOEN wants to highlight the work of early-stage restoration enterprises and inspire other frontrunners to follow suit.”
Applications are open now and will be accepted until October 15th. Startups can apply here: http://seedsta.rs/doen
To enter the competition, startups should meet the following criteria:
- Existing startups/young companies with less than 4 years of existence
- Startups that can adapt their current solution to the land restoration space
- The startup must have a demonstrable product or service (Minimum Viable Product, MVP)
- The startup needs to be scalable or have the potential to reach scalability in low resource areas.
- The startup can show clear environmental impact (either by reducing a negative impact or creating a positive one)
- The startup can show a clear social impact
- Technology startups, tech-enabled startups and/or businesses that can show a clear innovation component (e.g. in their business model)
Also, a specific emphasis is laid, but not limited to: Finance the restoration of degraded land for production and/or conservation purposes; big data and technology to reverse land degradation; resource efficiency optimization technologies, ecosystems impacts reduction and lower carbon emissions; water-saving soil technologies; technologies focused on improving livelihoods and communities ; planning, management and education tools for land restoration; agriculture (with a focus on precision conservation) and agroforestry; clean Energy solutions that aid in the combat of land degradation; and responsible ecotourism that aids in the support of land restoration.