This year, focus on your brand, marketing and service

by Melissa Rowlston: Founder and managing director of Maverick Marketing.
The South African ecommerce industry is poised for 10% growth in the near future, according to a statement released by BobGroup in January 2024. This is a sentiment echoed by the financial institutions, the large retailers and the ecommerce body of South Africa. Online shopping in South Africa is booming. We are fast becoming adopters of ecommerce with marketplaces, grocery stores and the big fashion retailers innovating novel strategies to help South African shoppers grow into mature online consumers.

But the trends are not only skewed to the likes of Takealot, Bash, Checkers Sixty60 and the like, the entire ecommerce market is growing. The smaller players are also taking the industry by storm.

The majority of South Africans are very price sensitive, and you see it in online shopping. The stores we manage with competitive pricing do incredibly well. However, do not think for a moment that our luxury goods stores are not making a killing – those with a brand presence knock it out the park, proving that brand trumps price in certain sectors, and there is a healthy market for luxury brands. We know the companies who pay attention to marketing reap the rewards.

Take Fieldbar, the luxury cooler box company who has taken the market by storm. You will pay R2 200 for a cooler box - and Fieldbar cannot keep up with demand. These are cooler boxes, yes you heard me right, which do the same job as the white Styrofoam ones with a rope that we used to take to Durban beach when we were kids. They have done it so well that knock-off sites are popping up all over the place, trying desperately to ride the coattails of a brand that has succeeded so tremendously they are now selling in Harrods in London. Fieldbarsa is one of the more blatant of the fake sites – promoting “Fieldbars” at half price when no one else in South Africa can get their hands on the real deal. When it sounds too good to be true, it clearly is.

Which brings me to my next point: ecommerce is still anyone’s game. If you do it right, then you will have a nice healthy business in a booming industry. And anyone can and does do it. From the brilliant Fieldbar to the fake Fieldbarsa, and everything in between. From the mom-and-pop shops to Takealot and Bash. But the key is doing it well – and that means getting your product to market! Yes, you heard right, its not just about ecommerce, it’s about marketing.

There is no foot traffic in ecommerce, there are no shopping malls and there are no billboards. To get customers to your site you need a host of different mechanisms to market, and sitting idly by with a beautiful website and amazing products just doesn’t cut it.

E-retailers are getting creative. Bash has grouped all its brands under one banner by building a marketplace - it believes a shopping mall is the way forward. Yuppiechef is ploughing money into omnichannel - dedicated to growing the brand on all fronts. Checkers Sixty60 is killing it with unparallelled service. While the luxury brands, like Fieldbar, focus heavily on marketing and premium partnerships. But don’t think it's all a bed of roses, there are many ecommerce sites that never get off the ground. The smaller outfits who don’t have the cash to invest in marketing, the dime a dozen drop shippers, the aspirational go-getters who don’t pay attention to their product offering. Ecommerce takes lots of work, particularly setting up a presence and getting yourself to market.

What is the trend for 2024? Its growth, growth, growth and more growth. It’s about having a killer product. But more than that, it’s about focussing on brand, marketing and superb service. If you are going to do ecommerce – do it right.

Useful resources:
Maverick Marketing
Maverick Web are world-class, award-winning, South African Shopify Experts. We design, develop and build custom e-commerce solutions.
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