key to growing a business online

What is the key to growing a business online?

When selling products or services online, it is important to know your customer and what they are going through or the life stage they are at; not just selling according to trends or special holidays or seasonal merchandise. This is the view of Laurian Venter, Director for the e-commerce platform, OneDayOnly, who spoke at the Payfast eCommerce Virtual Summit in South Africa in May. Online retailing experts shared their expertise, strategies and insights to help entrepreneurs start, grow and scale their online. 

We all know how the general needs of customers change over time. Selling heaters vs fans, jackets vs bathing suits, or Easter eggs vs Christmas paper are regular seasonal changes that happen every year. But has the retail industry become a bit lazy relying on what trends land on their doorstep, such as when toilet paper was hoarded in some markets at the beginning of the Covid pandemic? These were the questions considered by speakers at the summit.

Venter shared, “Defining a product around the same old seasonal or annual holiday period is fine but what will set you apart is understanding the needs of your customer first.” She also highlighted how when the daily deals site launched back in 2010, it was not only about finding and negotiating a deal; it was about finding and negotiating a deal, that would sell by lunchtime. Without understanding the customer first and prioritizing their needs, the site would not be moving between 200 to 300 deals to hundreds of thousands of shoppers every single day.

From its humble beginnings in a house garage to the team of over 300 it is today, the South African daily deals site, OneDayOnly maintains a scalable base from which the company can continue to grow – including an in-house photography studio and dedicated buying teams that now focus on specific genres of products.

Venter, who was among other industry experts and thought leaders sharing their expertise, strategies, and insights, explained that her team have learnt over the last year to get that much closer to the customer and stay on top of what is happening on daily news. “This past year has been devastating for some people so making sure we are sensitive to those needs – whether they be great deals on grocery items like bulk dishwashing tablets or have a selection of puzzles for those families in isolation, became a priority for us.”

With business agility taking centre stage from an operational standpoint, the infrastructure needed as much attention as the buying process. “When we began seeing the levels of orders coming through and the variety of what types of products people were ordering, we knew then that we would need to significantly improve our internal and client-facing systems too. The last thing a customer wants at the time of uncertainty is a system or process that fails them.” Last year, not only did OneDayOnly expand their supplier base by 180 brands and increase their subscriber base by 65%, but they also launched their shopping app which to date facilitates orders for more than 190, 000 customers. 

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