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Caring for today’s online consumer

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The local online shopping pool has increased drastically since 2014

E-commerce in South Africa is expected reach 1% of overall retail this year, according to research by Arthur Goldstuck of World Wide Worx. This amounts to consumers spending over R9 billion online.  

The challenging economic climate in South Africa due to a weaker rand, increasing costs of energy and higher interest rates, has added pressure to consumers. Because of this, 3,2 million South Africans are shopping online, and are driven by lower product costs, faster and flexible delivery and safer ways to pay.

“Millennials are the main online shopper, and most of them do research before making a purchase,” says Michael Richards, managing director of SiteMeUp Online Marketing. “This means that well written content with thoughtful planning into user navigation is required to improve the user experience.”

A well designed site also needs to carry across the company’s brand message quickly so that users will know they are on the right site and that they will find what they are looking for.

“Our research has shown that 50% of beauty shoppers don’t know which brand they want to purchase, so we have channels of communication set up to answer any queries, and help them make informed choices,” says Dr Alek Nikolic, executive director of SkinMiles.com, a new online store selling skincare products. SkinMiles.com provides a skincare hotline during office hours, enabling the consumer to direct questions to a qualified person. SkinMiles.com also has a loyalty programme whereby you can earn “SkinMiles” that you can redeem at leisure as they never expire.

Goldstuck states that South African ecommerce is relatively conventional, and has not seen the same level of innovation seen in major Western markets. This indicates that there is tremendous potential in this market for new business models and even underexposed product categories. With this in mind, South African e-commerce entrepreneurs can tap into the over three million online shoppers in South Africa with innovative and hassle-free websites.

One of the most important global trends in e-commerce is the focus on the customers’ journey and ensuring that their needs are met from start to finish.  

“We want our customers to feel as if they have been given the same personalised service as if they’d been for a consult and received the advice from an expert in the skincare field,” says Nikolic. “The personal touch is very important to us and we feel that we meet that need for individual attention.”

Another concern of the online shopper is that their personal details will not be used fraudulently. A recognised and secure payment gateway is essential.

“We have gone to great lengths to ensure the safety of our customers’ details by putting various security measures in place,” says Dr Nikolic. Their website is Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encrypted and uses a strong protocol version and cipher suite. Credit card payments are processed on a Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCIDSS) compliant gateway with 3D secure transactions, where users require a One-Time Pin (OTP) to complete the transaction.

SkinMiles.com has sourced high end skincare products from around the world and made it available online to South Africans. “Being part of SkinMiles.com allows our brand, Dermaceutic, to be made widely available to the end consumer,” says Justine Campbell, director of Conquest Aesthetics, distributer of Dermaceutic. “It also enables our brand to be easily accessible to the consumer who can’t always have access the likes of doctor prescribed skincare products.”

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