Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent a staggering 98% of business in South Africa today.
The fact that SMES also employ between 50 and 60% of the country’s workforce and are responsible for a quarter of the job growth in the private sector, according to global management consultant McKinsey & Company, means they truly are the backbone of the South African economy.
Yet it is SMEs that have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic. Lockdown regulations have wreaked havoc, with the cash flows essential to sustaining smaller businesses completely drying up in some instances.
But there has also been a significant silver lining.
Despite questions over the country’s technological capability, thousands of small businesses have found ways to maximise the digital space to not only weather the storm, but thrive in one of the most challenging trade climates in history.
“Digital and new technologies create an opportunity for SMEs to enhance their reach and efficiency at lower costs, overcoming the scale disadvantage they have relative to larger players,” the consultancy group says.
“SMEs can focus on key areas of competitiveness in their value chain, product, and/or operations and identify the best technology levers to enhance competitiveness.”
While bidorbuy CEO Craig Lubbe is unable to divulge specifics on how many SMEs currently are registered on the platform, he confirms that there are thousands of active SMEs using the platform each month.
“Many of these businesses have been attracted to the online world out of necessity due to lock-down restrictions. This has opened up our platform to wonderful diversity in both product offering and the individuals behind it all,” Lubbe says.
There is no doubt in his mind that South Africans have undergone a form of “digital-transformation” with the arrival of Covid-19. Schools and other places have already made the transition and “this includes businesses too”, he says.
“Many businesses have had their first experience in online trade in the past year and most have realised there is nothing mystical or difficult about it. These businesses have opened up their offering to more than just local trade and will likely benefit immensely as more and more South Africans move to shop online.”
One of the key drivers to SMEs’ digital success is knowing where to access their audience. Brands are trusted, and because bidorbuy has an established online presence and has built a loyal buyer base, it stands to reason that they channel their commerce through such sites.
“This translates to thousands of sales across 32 product categories every month. Bidorbuy integrates directly with websites and can update its stock in real time. For sellers selling on multiple platforms, this makes the bidorbuy channel a dream to work with,” Lubbe says.
Traders in consumer electronics, home & garden items and collectables have fared exceptionally well on the platform to date, and Lubbe hopes to build on this success in the grocery and household space.
That said, he also points out that the niche market represent a huge growth opportunity for smaller businesses, as there will always be people looking for items they struggle to find elsewhere.
Admittedly online shopping was still a relatively new concept to most people, but as it has grown so customer trust has been established.