5 things to do before you set up an online store in SA

If you read our recent article about creating an online store for your products, then you may know some of what I am going to cover today. But here’s something you might not know… there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes of an online store to ensure it runs smoothly. Did you know that SA’s largest online store, Takealot, employs over 1 200 people? Here’s why you need to think about this before you dive in.

As the saying goes, ‘do it well, or not at all’. This couldn’t be more true for the online store space, and it is what sets SA’s top retailers apart from the rest. What do Superbalist, Takealot and Zando have in common? Fast turnaround times, easy payment systems and great customer service. That’s what it takes to compete in this market and stand out in the sea of online stores that consumers have access to.

So before you get set up with your WooCommerce website, let’s take a look at what you need to put in place first.

Stock continuity

There is nothing worse than trawling the internet for a product that you want to buy, finding it at a great price, and with free shipping, and then it’s sold out. Unless your customers are extremely loyal to your online store, they are going to go elsewhere. Make sure you have stock on hand or be upfront about the wait time if you know that you can get stock or make your product within a few days.

Customer service

When you are an established online store, you may have a call centre of customer service agents to help your customers find what they need or answer any questions about your products. However, when you’re just starting out, it’s likely to become the responsibility of you or a member of your team that already has a full time job elsewhere in your business. Make time available in their day to ensure that customers’ queries are answered courteously and timeously.

Product packaging and shipping

How your product arrives at your customer’s door is as important as the process they go through when buying it. Think about your brand message and how it comes across when you are packing your product. If your brand values are sustainability and eco-consciousness, then don’t pack your product in a wad of plastic bubble wrap and expect your customer to be impressed. Also remember that it needs to be someone’s job to pack parcels, print waybills and call the courier to collect the package.

Administration of the order

On that note, there is also some work to be done behind the scenes to ensure that the order process is followed in a way that is efficient and sustainable. When an order is received from the e-commerce website, usually via an email notification, who will be responsible for ensuring that this order is produced or that stock is collected for packing? Will it be the same person that is packing the orders and sending them off for delivery?

Money matters

Now that you’ve made a sale, sent the order off to the customer and all is well, how do you receive your money? Some may think that you just automatically get paid via the website but that is not always the case. Payment gateways, such as PayFast, PayGate or PayU are the most recognised ways for customers to pay for goods in South Africa, but they are still payment gateways – not cash in hand or an EFT directly to your bank account.

In general, these payment gateways are a convenient way to be able to accept all the major credit cards, InstantEFT and even Masterpass (Zapper). However, you still need to request a payout to get the money from the gateway into your bank account. Think about who is going to do this job and make sure they know when and how to do it to avoid costly bank fees.If you would like to do a comparison of fees, there are plenty of articles comparing the different platforms online so you can make your choice with peace of mind.

So, as you can see, there are a few more things to think about than just your products and a website. Set yourself up for success by considering all of these things before you get started building the platform. And once you have all of these in place, a slick online store and a fool proof plan to get the customers to your website, you will be on the road to success.

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