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E-commerce Day aspires to build sustainable virtual businesses

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SA’s leading e-commerce industry players have set up E-commerce Day, an initiative to support and help growth South Africa’s online shopping sector.

E-commerce Day, a platform of events and activities, will take place on 10 March. E-commerce industry players − including PayFast, bidorbuy, PriceCheck, uAfrica, xneelo, The Digital Media Collective and Lulalend − have banded together to establish the networking platform to help local entrepreneurs start or expand their e-commerce businesses.

The launch comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed online shopping in SA’s retail sector, fuelling a dramatic increase in the number of local e-shoppers.

The movement is spearheaded by Ecommerce.co.za, an online portal which provides information that focuses on key pain points and areas of interest for entrepreneurs and retailers in the e-commerce space in Africa.

E-commerce Day seeks to connect online entrepreneurs to each other and a wider network of e-commerce experts, and showcase the tools and innovations available to build sustainable virtual businesses. Various events and workshops will be held on the day, such as webinars, podcasts, expert panels, workshops and demos.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have helped consumers become more familiar and comfortable with online shopping, giving the industry a significant shot in the arm. However, the founders of the initiative believe there is still a need among e-commerce businesses to understand how to improve their sales and marketing, reach customers, leverage networks and build better businesses geared for future growth.

“To give smaller e-commerce retailers the best chance of success, it’s vital that established stakeholders in the industry collaborate to provide them with the support they need to grow, as well as remove any unnecessary barriers to entry,” says Tom Stuart, CMO at Lulalend, and one of E-commerce Day’s partners.

A Mastercard consumer spending study found 68% of South African consumers are shopping online more since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Over the past five years, the e-commerce sector has seen a steady and predictable growth trajectory of between 25% and 30% per year,” says Colleen Harrison, head of marketing at PayFast.

This trajectory has been accelerated by COVID-19, with January 2021 seeing a 100% year-on-year increase in total payment volumes processed for the month.

With the sector’s growth already fast-tracked by between three to five years, small and large players alike have a unique opportunity to take the industry as a whole to the next level, notes Harrison.

E-commerce Day will help address the challenges online entrepreneurs face, such as unnecessary barriers to entry, cyber security, customer experience hiccups and return/refund policies.

“We’re backing this initiative because we understand just how important e-commerce is in South Africa,” says Athena Turner, brand manager of xneelo, a Web hosting company.

“The benefits of e-commerce include lower start-up costs and the ability to reach a wider market. It’s also possible to start your new venture as a side hustle, trying out your ideas before investing all your time and resources. But within all of this opportunity lies a skills gap, and because the industry is so new, we don’t have a cohesive community. E-commerce Day is the first step towards changing that.”

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