How To Build An E-Commerce Start-Up From The Ground-Up

Globally, three quarters of e-commerce start-ups fail. Massmart mogul, Colin Fleming claims that e-commerce will never be a “big force in South Africa.” Yet, a number of local e-tailers are gaining substantial market share against some serious odds. In a recent interview with IT News Africa, PayGate CEO Peter Harvey projected that “2015 will see many more new e-commerce start-ups along with continued growth and innovation by established niche players.” Google South Africa predicts nothing short of an e-commerce revolution. Clearly there are as many optimists as there are prophets of doom. Like all digital entrepreneurs, e-commerce start-up founders are being challenged more than ever to prioritise innovation, optimise the user experience and implement competitive price positioning.

Two Of World Wide Creative's Own Heavy Chefs Become Start-Up Founders

Heavy Chef’s founding agency, World Wide Creative is proud to have two aspiring e-commerce major-leaguers on its team of digital marketing specialists – project strategist, Kimaal Baker and designer, Grant Taylor. By applying the Heavy Chef philosophy of “practicing what you preach,” Kimaal and Grant have used their respective digital expertise to further their own online ventures.

MANSHOP: A New Online Destination For Men’s Grooming

Presenting MANSHOP – the brainchild of Kimaal Baker and his business partner. As an online grooming and styling store for men, MANSHOP provides a premium, niche product offering. With its carefully curated selection of brands, everyday face and body products take on a more specialist nature. Essentials for the modern man. In this way, Kimaal Baker and his business partner have been able to position the brand beyond the competitive reach of major supermarkets and retailers. Baker’s broader strategy includes vertical integration in the supply chain “to include manufacturing, importing and distribution.” For now though, his top priority is to ensure that the retail business model works efficiently.
 
When choosing a CMS (Content Management System) for MANSHOP, Kimaal considered Wordpress, Magento, Shopify and a custom-built solution. It was important that the solution provide a workable middle-ground between every digital start-up’s most valuable commodities – time and finance.

“I’d worked with Wordpress quite a bit in the past and I found that the Woocommerce plugin covered all the bases in terms of functionality. The plugin was also well supported with a bunch of third party plugins that could really customise the store experience,” says Baker about his eventual choice of CMS. The development process was bolstered by Kimaal’s experience as a digital project strategist coupled by unrelenting perseverance and conscientious planning.
 
About becoming an e-commerce start-up owner, Kimaal says: “Not every passion or hobby can be turned into a viable business and the only way to figure this out, is through market research.”
 
Sockscription: A Subscription Service For Sock Connoisseurs

The idea for Sockscription came to Grant Taylor’s fiancé Deidre, while they were sitting around a campfire making a futile attempt at toasting marshmallows without setting them alight. Reflecting Grant’s super simple approach to life, Sockscription as its name suggests, is a sock subscription service that sends customers a pair of socks each month. One month, three month and six month plans are available. According to Taylor, “each pair is randomly chosen so it’s like a better version of the lucky packet.”

As World Wide Creative’s head of design, Grant also has a working knowledge of PHP and CSS development, so adding his own modifications to an open source Wordpress template was the most time-saving and cost-effective solution.
About the design of the site, Grant says, “it was important to me that the site be visually appealing, so I use bold imagery and colours with a dash of humour. I add the odd animal here and there, because people fricken’ love them.” The creation of Sockscription was a relatively easy but time-consuming process, with the greatest challenge being the building of the site’s back-end. The entire build process lasted five months.
 
In addition to the website, Grant makes use of a Facebook page which has become the site’s primary digital marketing channel. As Grant’s first business venture, Sockscription is bound to evolve and grow along with the aspirations of this digital solopreneur. Bless his cotton socks.

In a recent interview with Ventureburn, Peter Harvey remarked that, “five years ago we’d load ten start-ups onto our payment gateway for every established business. Now the ratio is more like 100 to one.” With a dramatic increase like this one, it’s easy to understand why a number of market analysts claim that in time, today’s e-commerce start-ups will present a significant challenge to the retail status quo. And with Africa set to experience its own Mobigeddon (Mobile Armageddon), the opportunities for e-commerce to scale across multiple devices will be endless.

 By Renee Fortune, World Wide Creative, @reneejoyfortune
 
This article is featured in the Heavy Chef Quarterly Review - Development Edition. This issue tackles some of the toughest questions around web development and features a range of curated content including interviews, infographics and opinion pieces. Download it here.
 

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