Back to Business for SA SMEs

Published: 10 January 2019

Those who “fail to plan, are planning to fail” (Winston Churchill). It sounds harsh but hoping that you’ll make a success of your business this year, is not a plan, and (according to Karl Westvig, CEO of Retail Capital) hope is not a strategy.

So where does that leave you? How do you set yourself up to make the most of what is sure to be a darker year (no thanks to Eskom and load shedding schedules)?


With the odds stacked up against small businesses in South Africa, you’ll need to surround yourself with a winning team to reach the dream. Recognizing their achievements of the previous year will serve as great motivation for excellence and retention. If you anticipate any challenges or system changes, getting their input and investing in proper training can get you there faster. Inspire them by sharing the vision of the business and reward those who bring it to life as well as joy to the customer.


For any business (especially retail), the edge lies in “experience, experience, experience”. Access is Queen, but Convenience is King. Therefore, apart from providing an enticing in-store experience – with the rise of e-commerce – “convenience” means having a slick, user-friendly online experience (with quick delivery, of course).

Once you’ve made the sale, keep selling.

Some helpful tips to convert a fly-by-night to a frequent flyer:

• Re-engage: email is making a comeback as consumers are crossing over to online shopping and engaging them a with a personalized email, or even postcard (as a thank you – strategically displaying some promotions) can go a long way.

• Segment: the one-size-fits-all (spray and pray) approach is officially redundant and specific, relevant communication is the only way to increase open rates and sales.

• Reward: integrating information and data gathered from your customer management system and customer communication platform, can provide you with a powerful loyalty programme offering consumers rewards and discounts they actually want.

To develop this customer experience strategy, you should know your product and consumer back to front in order to truly optimize your offering.


In order to be the preferred choice, you need to keep moving with your macro- and micro environment. This necessitates you to re-adjust and take action to improve instead of just turning and bending without breaking (being flexible).

Having an omnichannel approach and diversifying your offering is just 2 ways you can ensure immediate results.

• If you have face-to-face, e-commerce and mobile covered, check your paid channels (Google ads and Facebook) to provide instant access and easy sales. Social media (Instagram and Facebook) has made it very easy to sell directly and provides an additional platform for consumers to access your product. Make sure your sales channels stay connected and that you provide fulfillment options (i.e collect, free-and same-day delivery).

• Diversification is key when making smart investments. That also applies to shopping, trade and retail. Before a consumer makes a purchase, they ‘shop around’, and providing them with digital journeys, product options and pricing alternatives can lead to instant conversions.


If you haven’t done so already, spend time and resources on updating old software and systems as soon as possible. This can be a costly exercise and making use of innovative and convenient business funding solutions is an investment guaranteed to show a return without affecting your daily operations.

Bring your back office to the forefront (and the modern age). Once you have done the necessary housekeeping and hygiene checks (remember to upgrade your security software, too), you might want to see how you can use technology to change frustration to elation:

• Explore virtual solutions for brick-and-mortar experiences;

• Replace physical loyalty cards with a digital version or virtual loyalty experiences;

• Upgrade your pen-and-paper or folder-and-binder fossilized financial system to a modern accounting platform that can be cost effective and a huge time-saver;

• Switch your heavy cash register to a cloud-based POS (point-of-sale) system that is more powerful and can give you access to online inventories, funding solutions and e-commerce features that can be integrated to your website and accounting platform;

• Evaluate your processes – old habits prevent progress. According to Jessica Thiele (Virtual Logistics Inc.) “If any process or order touches more than 3 people, it’s time to update your business strategy” through automation, integration and digital application.


If you do not measure your customer behaviour, you are essentially guessing what they want. It’s the age of algorithms – with data collected through behavioral analytics and customer management systems – your educated guesses can become informed decisions which will result in low risk, strategic investments.

Going into the new year, we can expect new opportunities and we should be prepared to grab them. Change is inevitable, and the one thing we are guaranteed of in the South African economy. Your survival depends on how well and quickly you adapt to that change, as “standing still is the most dangerous course of action” (Brian Tracy).

“Success doesn’t just happen. It’s planned for” and access to business funding should not stand in the way of yours.