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Growing a franchise in a tough environment

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Modern day businesses in South Africa are dealing with a number of challenges that all contribute to consumers having less money to spend: rising living costs, currency instability and general economic uncertainty, writes Abigail Makhubele, business development manager: all sectors at Absa Business Banking.
In this landscape, business operations need to adapt to fast changing consumer needs (regardless of the industry). This is especially true in the local franchising sector where a highly competitive environment is coupled with international brands cutting into local brand share.
Big names such as Starbucks, for example, make it difficult for South African businesses and franchises to gain dominant market share. In an industry that relies on consumers’ trust in established brands; this can present a significant challenge to local brands trying to expand.
So what can give local brands the edge? Technological innovation is the differentiator here. Tech savvy brands that understand their target market and adapt their offering to suit the local consumer can gain an advantage. This includes implementing solutions that speak to current trends as well as the needs of the local market. “Tap and go” functionality and payments is only one small example of ways that pioneering businesses are incorporating technology into their offerings; and ultimately making the lives of their customers easier.
A tangible example of how one of Absa’s franchising customers is making use of technology to improve the lives of its customers is by SMSing chronic patients when their repeat prescriptions are due. By automating an essential critical reminder, the business is able to remove the stress associated with managing health concerns.
As such, being able to quickly assess the needs of the market and adapt accordingly by rolling out appropriate solutions will be the mark of whether a franchise will survive or succumb to the difficulties of economic uncertainty.
Overall, tenacity is the secret weapon of franchisees who are responsive to change and able to overcome difficulties.
Running a business and franchise comes with challenges even in the most favourable of times. Franchisees therefore need to bear that in mind and be agile enough in order to withstand and even thrive in difficult times.
The important lesson is that strong brands with top-notch customer service emerge victorious – making it imperative for franchisees to optimise this aspect of their business. Franchisees should analyse how they can add value to their customers’ lives and make the necessary changes to their business to enhance the overall consumer experience.