The state of ecommerce entrepreneurs’ knowledge and skills

by Louis Janse Van Rensburg: Chairman: Heavy Chef Foundation NPC.
Every time I see the rise of an obscure ecommerce category, I’m reminded of Brad Stone’s The Everything Story . With juggernauts like Amazon, Alibaba and Facebook leading the front, of course, we can type in gobbledygook and chances are, we’ll be able to source it from someone, somewhere.

More ecommerce entrepreneurs are coming online, selling services and products on their own websites or via marketplaces. As I shared last week, it’s led to an increase in demand for these ecommerce entrepreneurs to upskill themselves - accelerated by obvious macro-factors.

In my continued investigation to create a picture of the skill and knowledge needs of these entrepreneurs, I want to focus on their perceived ability to market and sell online, as well as through what channels they do this. I also want to look at the areas of support that would be most valuable to them today.

Here are five data points from our own study, a United Nations report focused on African ecommerce companies, and a digital skills benchmark commissioned by The Chartered Institute of Marketing:

Graph 1: Ecommerce entrepreneurs in South Africa rate their overall business skills as just above average (3.4 out of 5 average rating).

Graph 2: Ecommerce entrepreneurs indicate that their digital skills have decreased in the last two years, particularly relating to their analytics and data skills (38% in 2018 vs. 25% in 2020).

Graph 3: Ecommerce entrepreneurs across Africa use Facebook (69%), their own websites (53%) and SMS (48%) as their main channels for selling products online. Specifically, they have recently seen sales through their own websites grow the most.

Graph 4: The top two skills-related challenges entrepreneurs face are getting the right people to help manage their operations (14%) and lack of support services/tools available (19%) to help them as demand increases.

Graph 5: Only 2 out of 10 ecommerce entrepreneurs say they have received skills training support from government or private sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I hope this shines a brighter light on the state of ecommerce entrepreneurs’ knowledge and skills, and the support they yearn for.

Useful resources:
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