If you weren’t paying attention then it could have snuck up around you, but these days SA has a very healthy, and fast growing, eCommerce ecosystem.
In SA we’re used to getting things long after most of the rest of the world – think satellite TV, cellular phones and ordinary TV (way back in the 70’s). That’s the downside. The upside, as we’ve come to expect, is that when we do eventually “get it”, we get the best there is and we take it one step further than anyone else – think Digital Satellite TV (we were one of the first), GSM digital cellular (with free voicemail, retail stores and prepaid airtime) and, well, the cool test pattern….
While eCommerce has been in SA since the late 90’s (Amazon, Kalahari.net, Bid or Buy), its only now that online shopping is really coming into the mainstream. There have been a few false dawns and some busts along the way (think Style36, 5Rooms and Kalahari.com), but it really feels that now, we’re finally getting somewhere. The reason it feels that way is because of all the complementary and eCommerce related services that are popping up all over SA – and thus creating our eCommerce ecosystem.
While we have had traditional couriers in SA for many years, today couriers like DPD Laser, Courier IT and Aramex are offering eCommerce delivery as well. This sounds like what they were doing before, but not quite. The couriers who know what they’re doing have eCommerce specific pricing, understand that not everyone sits at home all day waiting for their delivery and have processes in place to deal with returns. Some of them even accept Cash payments on behalf of their vendors. Expect to see every courier offering these services in the future and look out for the ones that go the extra mile with options like same day delivery and arranging a delivery window with the customer so that you don’t have to wait around all day for your new pair of shoes to be delivered.
We’ve also had payment gateways in SA for ages, but the new ones, like Peach Payments, i-Pay and SnapScan are introducing disruptive technologies to the mix and they are beating the incumbents. Peach Payments, part of the Google Umbono project) offers a very easy to use, frictionless payment gateway solution with the best fraud detection in SA and is now used by some of the biggest online stores in the country. i-Pay offers a great instant EFT option that integrates with the big banks’ online banking platforms so you can do your EFT immediately and the merchants get confirmation immediately, thereby eliminating the wait. And if you don’t know what SnapScan is, you’ve been sleeping for the past few years and obviously don’t know what online shopping is either, so don’t worry.
A lot of couriers offer 3rd party logistics solutions, but Parcel Ninja is the only specialist eCommerce warehousing company in SA at the moment. They have stolen a march on everyone and have made it almost too easy for companies to start selling online without having to worry about their logistics. With the chaos packing system and their iPhones and scanners, you can tell that everything that is done at Parcel Ninja is cutting edge. We expect more companies to follow their lead.
We all know Mr Delivery, but did you know that it was bought by Takealot.com so that now they own their route to market? Mr Delivery is also doing deliveries for Pick n Pay’s online store and you can expect many more to be using this efficient and innovative delivery avenue. Pargo has also recently launched with their pick up service that is tied in to 7Eleven, Fresh Stop and other stores that are spread all over SA. Select your closest one and collect your online shopping at your convenience.
Aside from all of the companies mentioned above that fall into the traditional silos associated with eCommerce, we also have complementary eCommerce services coming through such as Morpheus Commerce and Feed Monster. All of these are homegrown services that either enable eCommerce, or make it more efficient and frictionless.
Not bad for a country that is so far behind the curve in terms of eCommerce…