Street merchants will be getting a virtual opportunity with the launch of the Kalahari Ads ‘Street Browser’ initiative, aimed at getting emerging SMMEs with no Internet connectivity on to an online platform to maximise their business opportunities.

This is according to Bronwyn Johnson, head of marketing at Kalahari Ads, who says that the new initiative, which will roll out nationally in South Africa from the 8th of September, will involve Kalahari Ads taking to the streets to introduce emerging street merchants to a platform many of them have never used before.

“We will be showing them how to extend their physical presence into the ‘always on’ marketplace offered by the Internet via their smart-phones and their computers,” she says. “Our virtual street browser teams will be engaging with merchants and consumers at the market places and showing them how to utilise the online platform to their benefit both on PC and mobile phones.”

Johnson says that a large portion of emerging businesses solely use their mobiles as their means of connectivity on ground level, but more than a third of SMMEs do not have Internet connectivity even though there are 3,9-million internet users in SA that they could be targeting with their offerings.

“According to The Mobility Research Project conducted by World Wide Worx this year, 39% of urban South Africans and 27% of rural users are now browsing the Internet on their phones, meaning at least 6-million South Africans now have Internet access on their phones.

“By meeting with buyers and sellers at markets and expos, we hope to generate brand awareness, show buyers and sellers how simple it is to use the free Kalahari Ads service to promote their products, set up business listings and update their movements between marketplaces,” says Johnson.

“We chose to take our virtual platform to the streets because we wanted to meet with them where they are – on the streets.”

The Street Browser initiative will launch on the 8th of September at the Earth Fair Market in Cape Town, and thereafter will have a presence nationally at most marketplaces across the country.

Commenting on the partnership between market owners and merchants, Johnson says that both market owners and their merchants will benefit from the online exposure their adverts receive as well as the additional platforms Kalahari Ads will offer through social media platforms, blog and mobi-site. “This will essentially extend their online presence way beyond anything they have ever considered previously.”

The SME Survey earlier this year stated that SMEs need to diversify more actively if they are to be more sustainable, profitable and resilient to inevitable market change. Johnson adds that Kalahari Ads is giving street merchants the opportunity to do just that, with a platform they have never before used or considered using.

“SMME support has been a part of our company’s DNA from launch in January and when we began building our platform, we included business advertising as part of the product roadmap from the beginning,” she says.

“With over 3,9-million Internet users in South Africa alone, micro businesses cannot afford to be without an online presence and it is incredibly important for targeting potential customers as part of their business development,” Johnson says.