Understanding customer needs and maintaining business agility 


Not understanding your customer needs is a tough situation to find yourself in when you are a business that relies on lengthy planning and approval timeframes, but not so much for e-commerce – unless you are not listening.

The key to growing a business online

We all know how the general needs of customers change over time. Selling heaters vs fans, jackets vs bathing suits, or Easter eggs vs Christmas paper are regular seasonal changes that happen every year. 

But has the retail industry become a bit lazy relying on what trends land on their doorstep (toilet paper in the infancy stages of the pandemic) vs something as random as poppits that have taken over primary schools in South Africa (as random as some parents may believe these silicone bubble wrap type thingamabobs to be)?

Speaking at the PayFast eCommerce Virtual Summit last week, Laurian Venter, Director for OneDayOnly shared, 

“Defining a product around the same old seasonal or annual holiday period is fine but what will set you apart is understanding the needs of your customer first.” She also highlighted how when the daily deals site launched back in 2010, it was not only about finding and negotiating a deal; it was about finding and negotiating a deal, that would sell by lunchtime. Without understanding the customer first and prioritising their needs, the site would not be moving between 200 to 300 deals to hundreds of thousands of shoppers every, single, day.

Venter, who was among other industry experts and thought leaders sharing their expertise, strategies, and insights to help entrepreneurs start, grow, and scale their online businesses, explained that her team has learnt over the last year to get that much closer to the customer and stay on top of what is happening on the daily news. 

“This past year has been devastating for some people so making sure we are sensitive to those needs – whether they be great deals on grocery items like bulk dishwashing tablets or have a selection of puzzles for those families in isolation became a priority for us.”

With the business agility taking centre stage from an operational standpoint, the infrastructure needed as much attention as the buying process. “When we began seeing the levels of orders coming through and the variety of what types of products people were ordering, we knew then that we would need to significantly improve our internal and client-facing systems too. 

The last thing a customer wants at the time of uncertainty is a system or process that fails them.” Last year, not only did OneDayOnly expand their supplier base by 180 brands and increase their subscriber base by 65%, but they also launched their shopping app which to date facilitates orders for more than 190, 000 customers.

“These changes and upgrades required dedicated training, ongoing improvements from a development standpoint, and a buying team that was focused on getting under the skin of the customer and stopping at nothing to find what the customer needed,” says Venter.

This culture still drives the business – from its humble beginnings in a garage to the 300+ team it is today and maintaining a scalable base from which the company can continue to grow – including an in-house photography studio and dedicated buying teams that now focus on specific genres of products.

Where to next?

Venter says that this year’s focus will be on people, customers, suppliers, and staff. Without her team, she believes the business would not have been able to pivot the focus to the needs of the customers as responsively.

 “An internal focus on training and development will also take priority so the business is able to nimbly adapt to the digital and customer service needs of the customers“ Venter concludes.

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Featured image: rupixen.com via Unsplash 



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