I’ve wanted to write this post for a while now and have just not found a gap to sit down and collect all my thoughts. I’ve got service providers moving in and out today, so I’ve decided to take a break for an hour and do this instead of getting through my busy inbox. I’d like to, hopefully, encourage discussion and engagement through this piece as it’s a topic I’m very fond of and interested in.
For the past few years I’ve heard digital front-runners talk of e-commerce becoming hugely popular in South Africa and although I agreed completely, as the years went by I was waiting to see and feel the impact – I believe that that moment has arrived. To give you some insight into my experience – I’ve received around 11 requests for e-commerce websites in the past two months, from South Africans, of which iMod Digital has taken on a handful and referred a handful away to trusted colleagues. That’s a huge number of enquiries and with a closure rate of 80% out of those 11, that’s quite incredible if you ask me. iMod Digital is a boutique digital marketing agency, we don’t advertise much and we don’t have the same market penetration as some of the bigger agencies, so if we’re getting this many enquiries, imagine how many people/companies out there are looking for e-commerce solutions!
This leads me onto two points:
I see a lot of South African e-commerce websites appearing on the Internet, through the news, through agencies bragging and so forth, but what I’m not seeing is e-commerce sites that are truly beautiful to look at and incredible to use. Most of them have either a template-feel to them or a smash together feel – it’s easy to identify a great e-commerce site, go look at the cart and the interactions thereof. The cart is probably the most intricate part to building an e-commerce website and is often one of the last things a designer/developer deals with and in many cases it is rushed, repurposes or the likes, this leaves an e-commerce website that isn’t truly beautiful. I was going to screenshot a few sites but decided against this for the sake of the agencies that built them – I’m not here to flame anyone, but rather just raise the point that I feel there’s a huge amount of room for e-commerce sites that are far more attractive and appealing. I think a lot (hopefully most) of people would agree with me when I say – a really well designed website with great user journey will add to the bottom line – we all know how powerful CRO can be.
I understand that beautiful and well thought out design takes time and that applying functionality to said design is time-consuming, which warrants a fairly large expense, but in a market space that is getting busier and busier, yet still uncrowded, it’s those great websites that are going to stand out and lead to the most business – a worthy investment.
So, my questions is, where are all the beautiful e-commerce websites in South Africa, or are we still not there yet?
The second point I want to discuss I’ve mentioned already and that is the whole market place getting busy and therefore the paradigm of getting a great website puts you above your competitors comes into effect. We’ve seen that with “normal” websites, where people have used these cookie-cutter prebuilt theme solutions and as time has moved on, it has been recognised that although these solutions can, and do, work, having a bespoke design aligned perfectly with your brand does result in more, and better, business. I believe that as the e-commerce market place builds in South Africa, so will the same shift occur – brands and companies will realise that having something that looks and functions better than their competitors will give them an edge in the digital marketing sphere and it’s this edge that is ripe for the picking right now! Those brands and companies that exploit the e-commerce market place with high quality and seamless user journey websites will stand themselves in excellent stead, they’ll be ahead of the curve and their model will be sustainable for a good amount of time before a new technology comes into play. I’m leaving m-commerce (mobile commerce) out of this discussion as that’s a topic for another day altogether, but it’s something to be remembered and definitely thought about carefully – the same applies, an m-commerce solution that is beautiful and functions in proportion will, again, put a brand or company ahead.
Both of these points work hand in hand and both of these points, when applied, could be the solution to an entirely new income stream for a company, an income stream that operates on a 24/7 basis and an income stream that could perplex day to day operations.
Now, I want to know what YOU think, where are all the beautiful e-commerce websites in South Africa?