Digital channels make it easier for businesses to participate in online trade
DURBAN - South African businesses are having to adapt quickly as the coronavirus outbreak makes it increasingly difficult to physically interact with customers.
This has seen a shift to digital channels to maintain a connection with customers and the critical flow of cash and trade.
"Those practicing social distancing will be drawn to the internet to search for items online. If customers are unable to visit their preferred store physically, it is more than likely that they will look for an online extension of that store," said Simone Cooper, Head of Business Banking at Standard Bank Group.
She adds that prior to the coronavirus outbreak the online shopping phenomenon hit mainstream in the country and local shoppers have come to expect both an online and offline presence from retailers and businesses, as they seek convenience and easy access to goods and services. It is likely that post the coronavirus crisis an online presence will become increasingly important as consumer habits are permanently impacted.
One of the biggest barriers for small businesses wanting to trade their products online is the cost and complexity of setting up an online platform. However, Cooper highlights that "there are ways to set up an online extension of your business that are affordable, and easy to understand – even for those without access to technology resources".
The technology to support electronic transactions payments has also evolved to become safer and more convenient, allowing for payments to be made securely 24/7, anywhere and everywhere.
It is, however, important to stay vigilant when conducting any form of online trade. As consumers spend more time online in search of updates on the coronavirus pandemic, hackers will try take advantage of vulnerable internet users.
Cooper said, "To take precautions to prevent fraud from taking place. It is advisable to consider a digital platform that allows for you to run your businesses knowing that the systems and payment mechanisms are secure".
During this period of uncertainty, many small business owners will be concerned about what will unfold over next few months and whether they will receive payments on time. But cash flow is more important than ever for small businesses as the health and economic crisis unfolds.
Cooper adds that the adoption of an online trade platform also eliminates what can be a time-consuming and frustrating process – collecting payment from customers. “Chasing outstanding accounts, managing reconciliations and dealing with the reversal of payments are some of the challenges facing businesses and take time to resolve. This can be done electronically to avoid a negative impact on cash flow so that there is enough money in the bank to pay staff at this critical time.”
To mitigate physical engagement, Standard Bank offers an online commercial solution in the form of its SimplyBlu e-commerce offering. This solution allows for business owners to set up an online extension of their business, where customers can continue to purchase stock from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
The solution enables businesses to begin trading on the Internet for a R350 once-off set up fee. After that, a monthly subscription fee of R350 pm (excl. VAT) is payable as well as regular card transaction fees for merchants.
SimplyBlu which is powered by Simplify Commerce by Mastercard is a simple, secure and feature-rich platform that makes it easier for businesses to accept electronic payments regardless of payment brand. It is the first service of its type to be offered to small businesses by a financial institution in South Africa.
One of the advantages of SimplyBlu is the same-day settlement, into a Standard Bank account. This settlement process solves the problems associated with cash flow problems that often cripple small businesses.
Standard Bank has activated its business continuity measures to ensure that it continues to offer the same level of service as expected by customers during the lockdown.
Banks are considered an essential service, which means Standard Bank's branches, call centres, point-of-sale services and ATMs are operational during the lockdown.
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