Thursday, March 24, 2011

Changing small business with online technology

For almost a decade now South Africa has been lagging behind first world countries like the US and UK when it comes to internet connections speeds, download capacities and the ability to transfer large amounts of data via a website or email to clients and business partners. After much talk of infrastructure investment and undersea cables, the post Soccer World cup South Africa is much better of and much better connected to the world. Google even launching their ‘Street View’ technology in June, making South Africa the first African country to have this technology. The time now has come for businesses large and small to start transforming the way we use the Internet and technology to start and grow our businesses

Other countries in Africa have also started to take advantage of their new online infrastructure with web-cams being sent up in Namibia at the country's world famous Etosha National Park. With such technology being harnessed, businesses are now able to market themselves on a much smaller budget. For hotels and other areas of the hospitality sector, not to mention any other business, they can now place themselves to be seen online allowing potential customers to view, representatives including Phumlani Mohoil, CIO of the FIFA World Cup 2010 Organising Committee, Hennie van Wyk, Group Head of Technology for ABSA Bank, George Munyua, General Manager for Equity Bank Limited and Morgen Mufowo of Econet Wireless are already announcing their plans to increase revenue while taking advantage of a pre set infrastructure.

Despite objections being raised about the technology around invasion of privacy, there are mechanisms for users to remove their information from these websites. In addition, for countries that depends on tourism for most of their foreign currency earnings, but do not have significant marketing budgets. Being able to view a hotel or national park online provides an equal opportunities marketing platform for small and large businesses alike.

The benefits of Africa being connected to the rest of the world will be one of the topics discussed at the CIO Africa Summit (hosted by GDS International). Today CIOs need better business insights. Now they have been provided with the Business Intelligence tools and processes to deliver reliable, current, and secure data and accessible information they wish to discuss real tangible strategies that will help develop more effective performance.

With the installation of a new undersea fiber optic cable and an infrastructure securely in place, now is the time for Africa to truly embrace business online in order to bring down costs while boosting employee efficiency and innovation.

So are we still thinking with old limitations as a precursor when creating our business plans or looking toward new markets, or have we started to embrace the possibilities and opportunities presented to us by this new, bandwidth rich information and technology infrastructure?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Planning before you start a business online

Many of you reading this blog may be ready to start a  business online or have aspirations to do so. You may have a business plan looking for business finance or an investor that will help you start up or you may simply be aiming to do it all yourself. The internet of course dramatically reduces the start-up costs of many businesses and may just make it that more attainable of a dream. Today we know that with a good idea of a service or product you can literally start trading within a few months, providing you have the product ready or are able to provide the service that you are selling.

Before you start it may be a great idea to think things through a bot more carefully to ensure the time and resources spend on creating the business does not go to waste.

Establishing and maintaining an e-commerce business is not an easy task and requires thorough planning and preparation. For instance, not all products and services can be sold over the internet (i.e. automobile sales) and may require an in-person evaluation for that product’s sale. In addition, business owners should take into consideration the different domestic and international shipping costs, especially if they are seeking more than just local recognition. Once an entrepreneur is able to identify that an e-commerce establishment is suitable for their small business and have decided on the appropriate e-commerce structure, they should then plan to design and publicize their company’s products and services via a company website.

Every business owner who is considering an e-commerce strategy for their company should know the basic principals of electronic buying and selling. They should also be aware of how e-commerce functions before establishing an online business. Paid professionals can be hired to design and create their company’s website as well as provide them with different marketing tools and ideas to successfully target customers and generate profit. A professional website can yield the necessary traffic flow to the new business while improving the recognition and credibility of the company with its current and potential customers.

The internet is a resourceful tool for most entrepreneurs and their new businesses. It can serve as the electronic means by which business owners can communicate with staff and management via company e-mail in addition to providing a quick approach to ordering materials and supplies from their distributors. Through the internet, business owners can also sell goods at a competitive price, offer promotional services, and provide valuable product-specific information. A new business can also use the internet to create a user-friendly company website for visitors in which personalized “virtual” suggestions, at the time of purchase, can be made. Companies can also offer their customers with accessible means to buy and return products. Through direct internet auctions, storefront sales, and online shopping centers, a successful ecommerce business strategy can make online purchasing an enjoyable and profitable experience to both the customers and business owners.

As with every traditional business endeavor, online businesses need to aggressively market the products and services on their website. This often entails offering free gifts or services upon the purchase of products, providing numerous bargains, as well as finding other novel, resourceful ways in generating traffic to their company web page. One way business owners can accomplish this is not only by ensuring their website and services offered surpasses their competitor’s, but by making sure their online business has a competent team of customer service support. In fact, customer service is a more vital tool for an e-commerce business rather than the traditional business establishment. Through friendly and skilled customer service support, companies can make the consumer shopping experience hassle-free, address customer inquiries, and establish a strong rapport with current and potential customers.

E-commerce has certainly changed the traditional methods of advertising and selling a company’s products and services. With the introduction of the internet and the creation of company websites, small businesses can generate plentiful sales through e-commerce establishments and in the process, gain credibility and recognition among their customer base. There are many limitations of e-commerce and much research and planning needs to be done in order to successfully accomplish any online trade. A professional looking website needs to be created in addition to the recruitment of a solid, experienced customer service team. Once these components are in place, an entrepreneur can make his/her e-commerce business a successful and lucrative one.

So if you are happy that the above is all in order for your business and you are still satisfied that you can give it a real go then why not start with the next step of your venture today.