South Africa’s small businesses can now easily grow their basic Web sites into fully-fledged cloud-based online retail businesses, says MTN Business.
Greg Hatfield, GM: Marketing, Products & Solutions at MTN Business, says for many local SMEs, an online presence is little more than a digital advertisement. Small businesses typically do not have the technical resources to spend time developing a Web site, or they may not even be aware of the importance of having a Web site, he says. SMEs tend, of necessity, to focus on their core business and depend heavily on word of mouth to get business.
“But an online presence has become crucial for businesses to thrive in today’s market,” says Hatfield. Underlining the importance of an online presence, the 2012 SME Survey conducted by World Wide Worx found around 410 000 SMEs in SA had a Web site, and those with a Web site were far more likely to be highly profitable than those without. Around 150 000 SMEs in SA said they would not be able to survive without their Web presence. Hatfield explains that a well-designed site, with effective SEO and use of back links, attracts customers far beyond those that would have been reached by word of mouth alone.
But a presence alone is not enough. Hatfield notes a Web site can actively contribute to revenue growth. This is particularly important for South African small businesses, which traditionally battle to become profitable. The most recent SME Survey found 38% of local SMEs are not making a profit, and only 17% are ‘strongly profitable’. Expanding into e-commerce is a cost-effective and efficient way to grow a small business, says Hatfield. He notes according to Statista, worldwide B2C e-commerce sales amounted to over 1.2 trillion dollars in 2013 alone, with 40% of Internet users buying goods online. “The online retail market is growing fast. SMEs cannot afford to miss the opportunity to tap into this trend,” he says.
Once an SME has a site that attracts good customer volumes, it is well placed to implement an electronic payment gateway and start selling products and services online. As it grows, the business can plug in accounting tools and ERP solutions to its online payment systems, and start functioning as a fully-fledged efficient cloud-based business.
This logical progression in business growth informed the development of MTN Business’s new Build Your Business Online (BYBO) suite of solutions for small businesses this month. BYBO aims to give small business owners access to a set of the most crucial business tools in a single, affordable package, starting with the basic online presence – all the way through to e-commerce functionality and cloud-based management capability.
MTN’s BYBO packages are designed around affordability and simplicity, with a basic online presence priced at R60 per year. Packages including e-commerce capability start at R200 per month and include a merchant account, 100Mb product catalogue capacity, which allows the business to showcase up to 200 products, as well as management tools for tracking order status, managing stock levels and generating invoices. With the integration of SAP B1 from MTN Business as a full ERP solution, businesses can also benefit from a comprehensive cloud-based accounting and sales management package. Additional products, including e-mail and SMS marketing tools, directory listing services and consulting services, are also available as part of the BYBO suite.
“Now, a business can easily grow from a start-up to a significant online retailer without needing in-house technical expertise or major investment. We give businesses all the tools and advice they need to grow,” says Hatfield.