Updated: Apr 12
The world is evolving at an astronomical rate and with that evolution, our greatest ability as humans is to adapt to change and find a way to thrive. In 2020, businesses that operated in quintessential brick and mortar stores were faced with empty aisles, gym treadmills remained unoccupied, and our homes became our offices, our hotels and our safe haven concurrently. While an entrepreneur that owns a clothing store may have looked at this dire situation and felt completely hopeless, we propose that lockdown restrictions such as social distancing and staying at home opened up new opportunities for you to take your business online and optimize on the wide customer base available on the internet.
If you’re looking for more reasons why this is the perfect time to become an online entrepreneur, look no further:
1. Access to a wider market
Statistics published by Statista revealed that in 2018, 20,4 million South Africans had a smartphone. That number has most probably skyrocketed in 2020 as more industries digitized their services. It is also reported that during the lockdown, the percentage of South Africans who spent time on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram increased by a whopping 44%. If the numbers don’t lie, that means that as you endeavour to digitize your business, you can create an opportunity to access more potential clients. And with tools on Instagram such as sponsored ads, influencer/celebrity marketing and creating a YouTube channel for your business, you never know which customer might just come across your post and place an order. Though it is possible to have nostalgic moments about your physical store because of the pandemic, there lies a huge opportunity for a client in Cape Town to order your products from your Durban based stores (which would’ve been a tedious process had you not taken your business online).
2. Cost saving
The cost of keeping a physical office or store during COVID-19 has proven to be too exorbitant. Consider this: 3 million South Africans reportedly lost their jobs in 2020 meaning that 3 million people have lost their buying power. If the regular faces you use to see coming to your store aren’t coming anymore even as lockdown levels are lowered, its time downsize your physical store and open an online store. After all, rent would still need to be paid, employees would need to be paid and the extra cost of sanitisers, thermometers and other hygienic items might just be too much to bear. By taking your business online, you’d be cutting down on costs that you’d be unable to cover given the lowered buying power of consumers. It would be way more efficient to divert your finances to website creation, sponsored ads, online webinars/events and other online platforms for trading. This should be a BIG motivator to turn to e-Commerce.
Once faced with the probability of our new normal becoming a prominent feature of the world, and you’re convinced that to maintain your livelihood and that of your employees, the next question you should ask is: How should I digitize my business?
1. Incremental digitization
The transition to e-Commerce is no easy feat, but you most definitely do not have to do it all at once. It does require a bit of delicacy because after all, it’s not a one size fits all affair. If you own a grocery store in your small community that use to be filled to the brim before the pandemic and now, you’re faced with having a few people inside the store, you can use e-Commerce to create an online delivery system. You could either create a website or an app that people can use to order their products. Once an order is received, reposition your staff members who can’t be inside the store as delivery agents of the groceries. In that way, you still keep your physical stores or if you were to be radical, your physical stores could turn into warehouses that dispatch orders from clients. Taking these incremental steps helps you pace yourself as a business so that you don’t miss out on the opportunities available in the online space while still making sure that you don’t just “run before you can walk”
2. Remote working tools
If you’re in the services industry and heavily relied on your team members working collaboratively in the office (known as co-working spaces), it is imperative that you create online communication systems for that culture to still be maintained. So not only can you rely on the Internet for sales and engagement with your clients, but you can build online communication systems within your organization to keep staff members connected and accountable. This can range from using emails a lot more aggressively, arranging Zoom meetings for brainstorming sessions (think of the electricity costs you’ll save from not having to light up conference rooms and boardrooms) and working on Google docs, allowing other team members to edit documents in real-time. A great online communication system for businesses to use is Asana. It’s literally an online replica of a physical office. On the platform, you’re able to assign tasks to your team, track their progress and send updates systematically in a way that still maintains the formalities of your business. So, after all, there’s no need to panic about not being able to operate your business at your physical location.
The pandemic definitely made us reexamine the way we do business not just to curb the spread of the virus, but to push the boundaries of what business is. The more we diverge from going to central business districts to staying at home, businesses also need to find themselves easily available in people’s homes. Taking your business online now is a great opportunity that could be just the thing you need to take your venture to the next level.