I write often for tech publications and online media, and try my best (and fail hopelessly) to keep up with the billion daily changes in the digital field. That said, I’ve picked up on a number of conversations with people in the ecommerce arena that ask about the SA eCommerce Awards. So here’s the low down, including all the details.
First there was Jump Shopping (now uAfrica.com), an online shop itself, which pivoted into the online price comparison space in 2006. While setting that up, it interacted with most of the ecommerce sites in South Africa, and noticed many were not living up to their delivery promises, website designs were poor, few had an SSL certification, and so on. To combat this, it started the eCommerce Awards, to recognize the online shopping websites that do things right.
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Kirsty Henderson from uAfrica.com says: “Initially we had a judging panel from the ecommerce industry, but they unfortunately were not spending much time evaluating, and since they were part of the industry, tended to be biased. Nowadays we use a mixture of independent judges and systems.”
Since the earlier award-earning process meant that customers were rushing to Jump to vote, people had commented on the awards being biased, especially when Jump would skyrocket in traffic rankings for the months that the awards were being held. Nowadays, the eCommerce Awards has its own website, and in 2012 over 300 website nominations were received. Each website tries to garner as many votes as possible within a certain period, and after the voting for these, the top 40 websites make it through to the next round. These are then listed on the website.
To whittle down the Top 40 to the Top 20, a design evaluation is done by an independent design company, and 2012 sees Druff Interactive filling these shoes. Meanwhile, uAfrica.com checks things like the website’s social media status, website feed, how the website’s payment process works and so on — these are merely stats and yes or no tickboxes, nothing opinion based. This gives a Top 20 list which uAfrica.com starts to focus on and scrutinise. They look closely at the shopping process, they buy something undercover from the website and test the delivery and support channels, they watch feedback and rate the process overall. The results are published along with the winners.
So what is it like to enter the awards? “We’ve quite enjoyed the experience, it perked up our eyes on who else is out there, and we updated a lot of things on our website. I think it improves the industry as a whole,” says Ardi Coetzee from EasiOnline. Kalahari‘s Customer Service Manager, Nikki Laue, agrees: “The awards are great, definitely something we enjoy participating in. I hope we win!”
The sponsors all get media exposure, but also keep the process fair and independent, and this year the 7th Annual South African eCommerce Awards some of the sponsors include AramexSA, Druff Interactive, PayFast and BizCommunity.com.
Do the awards achieve their goal of improving service standards and the level of ecommerce in general? Simply put — yes! Delivery is improving: last year, almost 45% of the orders to determine the winners arrived in under 24 hours and 82% in 48 hours. A good deal of websites are now offering free delivery in a specials format, which seems to work very well.
Last year’s winners can be found here, and this years Top 40 has just been announced (in alphabetical order). Fifteen October sees the Top 20 announced and on the 15th of November, the big moment arrives — winners and runners up are congratulated.
Voters can win an iPad just for voting, and the websites earn bragging rights, award seals and badges, lots of press exposure and recognition of their excellent offering. So, if you are in the industry of online buying, keep your eyes glued to the eCommerce Awards to get a feel for which websites are doing things right.
Jess Green previously worked for bidorbuy after selling UbuntuDeal.co.za to them in 2011. Both are ecommerce websites currently in the 2012 eCommerce Awards.