COVID-19 and the national lockdown have had a tremendous impact on South African businesses. While some have been able to pivot and react as essential service providers over the past few weeks, the vast majority face the challenge of staying relevant and financially stable during this time. It is increasingly forcing businesses in the country that have been reluctant to adopt ecommerce locally, to do so.

This according to Warrick Kernes, founder of the Insaka eCommerce Academy.

He explains that businesses which never considered these online platforms necessary are now scrambling to position themselves for a, “delivery-centred retail reality”.

“The monumental shifts we are seeing around the world as a result of the coronavirus have proved a game changer for the eCommerce sector. So many industries are struggling, but ours is not. Ours is the solution,” Kernes points out.

The founder predicts that under government’s necessary, but challenging, five-level lockdown exit strategy, ecommerce will be the fastest way to inject life back into the thousands of small businesses that are now on the brink of bankruptcy.

It is not SMEs that are struggling at this time either, with the likes of Edcon faltering at the moment, as well as Associated Media Publishing and RebelTech having to close its doors as a result of COVID-19.

“This really is a seminal moment for ecommerce and for the industry. The secret is to position your business to take advantage of the exponential acceleration in eCommerce over the long term,” says Kernes.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, ecommerce in the country was growing at a steady pace, but still contributed a small percentage of the total retail sales in South Africa. Previously ecommerce was expected to contribute 2 percent of total retail by 2022, but now that number is anticipated to increase significantly, in the view of Kernes.

“As things stand, the South African ecommerce space has just been accelerated by two to three years. Right now, for anyone who has been retrenched, for professionals looking to set up a secondary income, for stay-at-home mothers looking to create an income source or any South African with a drive to succeed, the ecommerce space is hugely exciting,” he enthuses.

It is why the Insaka eCommerce Academy has partnered with the likes of PayFast to host a virtual summit later this month, 25th to 28th May, focused on assisting businesses in navigating this space in the coming months and years.

“The impact of the lockdown and the anticipated lengthy return to ‘normal’ are going to fundamentally change the way many people shop,” notes Johnathan Smit.

“Businesses have to adapt and embrace ecommerce either as a sole distribution channel or to augment their existing physical channels,” he concludes.

It should be interesting to see whether an embracing of ecommerce can help businesses avoid the same fate as other companies this year.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]