Standard Bank offers SMEs e-commerce in a box

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Small business owners generally have difficulty building an online store and finding secure payment gateways.
Small business owners generally have difficulty building an online store and finding secure payment gateways.

Standard Bank has introduced SimplyBlu, a digital solution that aims to ease the process of setting up and managing an online store, as well as securely accept card payments.

Targeted at small businesses, SimplyBlu is the latest step in Standard Bank’s digitisation journey, and enables users to process in-app payments, e-invoicing and e-receipting, as well as monitor and control fraudulent activities.

With SimplyBlu, businesses can begin trading on the Internet for a R500 once-off set-up fee. After that, a monthly subscription fee of R575 is payable, as well as regular card transaction fees for merchants.

“Part of Standard Bank’s purpose is to drive growth on the African continent, and this means enabling businesses to grow,” Zweli Manyathi, chief executive of personal and business banking group, said yesterday at a media briefing in Rosebank, Johannesburg.

“Smaller enterprises don’t have as much access to a whole host of resources that big companies have. Therefore, the role that Standard Bank has to play is one that asks what we can bring to the customer, to lower the cost of doing investments so that businesses can truly grow.”

Manyathi noted SimplyBlu is aimed at supporting entrepreneurs by reducing the cost of getting a business online, adding the bank is working on a few products and services that will enhance the ability of entrepreneurs to be effective in running their businesses.

Lincoln Mali, head of card and emerging payments at Standard Bank, added: “Small business is so important throughout the world and plays such a vital role in the regeneration of economies. When you think about small business in the South African space…it is the engine we must unlock to be able to get more people into jobs and succeeding in the economy.”

Explaining the significance of SimplyBlu, Mali highlighted that the young generation wants the convenience to shop anywhere. Therefore, Standard Bank created a transaction environment that matches what small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs can offer to the market.

Navigating hurdles

Based on customer feedback, discussions and focus groups with business owners, Standard Bank says it was able to identify several friction points hampering customers. These, said Mali, came in the form of difficulty in building an online store, the number of vendors they must deal with, the different people they must speak to about Web site domains, and finding secure payment gateways, to name a few.

Similarly, government has been vocal about the challenges confronting small businesses. The state believes supporting small firms will go a long way in stimulating the country's entrepreneurial ecosystem as well as job creation.

For Standard Bank, addressing these challenges meant leveraging its partnership with Mastercard. The new online platform is powered by Simplify Commerce by Mastercard, which is described as a simple, secure and feature-rich platform, making it easier for businesses to accept electronic payments regardless of payment brand.

According to the ‘blue bank’, its new solution is “the first service of its type to be offered to small businesses by a financial institution in SA”.

Despite the growth of e-commerce within the South African landscape, it only contributes 1% of total retail sales, said Nelisa Zulu, head of merchant solutions in SA at Standard Bank.

Looking at Standard Bank’s merchant base, only 2% of total turnover is contributed by e-commerce, revealed Zulu. “One can definitely see space for e-commerce to grow in South Africa, as consumers become more tech-savvy and more trusting of digital platforms.”

In understanding the challenges faced by SMEs, Standard Bank saw the opportunity to develop a platform that aligns with the digital journey, she added.

“We partnered with Mastercard in the creation of a solution that reduces the barriers to entry, but also allows small and medium enterprises to be part of the growth of e-commerce. This has given birth to SimplyBlu.”

Lincoln Mali, head of card and emerging payments at Standard Bank.
Lincoln Mali, head of card and emerging payments at Standard Bank.

Online business unlocked

Ntozinhle Lifestyle, a popular boutique offering accessories, leather goods and handbags inspired by Ndebele culture, selling via social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, now also has its own online store powered by SimplyBlu.

It is part of the group of local small businesses that Standard Bank partnered with during the pilot phase of the new service. They also include NativeChild, Skinny Sbu Socks, B_busyinc and Pimville Gin.

Sphelele Chikowi, Ntozinhle Lifestyle founder and CEO, told ITWeb SimplyBlu will make selling much easier.

Explaining business processes, Chikowi said customers had to, via WhatsApp, place orders, send proof of payment and where goods had to be delivered. “It will cut a lot of admin and also build trust because sometimes people don’t trust transactions conducted via WhatsApp.

“SimplyBlu is backed by Standard Bank, so people will have peace of mind that it is a reputable business and trust that the business is not one of those fly-by-night operations.”

Launched four years ago, Ntozinhle Lifestyle employs over 50 people, made up of 40 women doing the beadwork, five guys focused on the leather goods and five others to run the day-to-day business.

Commenting on the motivation to open a business that offers products with an African theme, Chikowi said: “Beadwork has always been there but I’ve had to think out of the box, reinvent and come up with new ideas and products, which is what I will say has kept it going. The response of the people has also been amazing and has been huge motivation to continue my work.”

In regards to deliveries, Chikowi noted the company will continue its partnership with Fastway Couriers. “We have a good relationship with them and we will be able to link their platform that caters for online stores.”

In addition to the online store option, small businesses will be able to add a URL to a social media post that customers can click on and be directed back to the online store’s landing page in order to complete a purchase, concluded Mali.

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