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Shipping may not be the most attractive aspect of e-commerce, but it’s certainly among the most important in a sector that FNB Merchant Services anticipates will reach R400 billion in South Africa by 2025.
Numerous studies have shown that effective delivery is a key influencer in a shopper’s decision to make an online purchase or not. And as much as delivery strategies have improved, some consumers remain sceptical that their goods will reach them on time, or even at all.
The onus is now on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to remove these doubts if they hope to grow their businesses.
“For merchants, shipping is likely to be one of the major factors they need to consider, both in terms of operations and costs,” says Anita Erasmus, head of business for Bob Group, an ecommerce ecosystem aimed at making e-commerce reliable, simple and trustworthy.
The group is an amalgamation between South Africa’s pioneering online auction and marketplace brand bidorbuy and logistics powerhouse uAfrica.
Erasmus says while courier companies are good at collecting parcels and getting them delivered, “there is so much more to it” when it comes to e-commerce.
“Setting up a successful e-commerce store is a multifaceted undertaking, requiring not only creating the store but also functions like payments, shipping and marketing. Bob Group’s aim is to assist merchants in areas where we believe we can make this process easier.
“Initially, our focus is on the marketplace, payments and shipping but we have exciting new developments planned for 2023.”
She says it’s important to remember that the selected courier company becomes a direct extension of a business.
“You need to ensure seamless integration between your online platform and the courier service, especially in terms of tracking parcels and communicating with your customers.”
Bob Group through uAfrica specialises in automated technology that facilitates this process, many aspects of which were previously done manually.
The system allows SMEs to get competitive quotes and ship from multiple couriers while also enabling them to generate electronic shipping labels with one click to request collections from multiple couriers. Features like packing slips, bulk fulfilment and inventory management are also available to streamline the order management process.
Automated tracking updates also ensure customers are always up to date on the status of their parcels.
“Ultimately, shipping success comes down to innovative technology and tight integration between your online store and the courier companies you use,” Erasmus says.
“The process starts at check-out. This is where your chosen shipping charge strategy comes into play. From picking and packing right through to last-mile delivery and maintaining communications channels with end users, companies like uAfrica can add value from the point of check-out”
Such technology will be especially useful to South Africa’s township and rural economies, ecommerce’s new frontier in the country.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a significant increase in the variety of products being offered online, with major growth in the clothing, food and cosmetics sectors. The shift is also being seen in the country’s townships.
While ecommerce uptake had initially been slow, it’s now surging. The 2022 South African Township CX Report, released in June, found that 70% of the 1,400 people surveyed made a purchase online in the past year. In the inaugural 2021 report, that percentage stood at just 28%.
Township-based clothing brands have sprung up and are thriving. The report found that most surveyed preferred buying locally-produced clothing labels, and with that has come greater demand for the items beyond the townships.
Effective delivery strategies are thus key if they are selling on marketplaces like bidorbuy.
“We believe there is still plenty of room for ecommerce to grow in South Africa,” Erasmus says.