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e-Commerce: Are we ready?

Posted by Wolfe
Wolfe
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on Tuesday, 17 July 2012
in Digital Blogs

When I decided to start an online business, I soon realised that finding a professional web designer in the local landscape is not an easy task, but let’s first talk about sex..

One evening roughly 10 months ago I decided it was time to lock away my typical South Africanésque male approach to romance and decided to try something different other than the usual steaks on a fire, award winning bottle of…brandy and dodgy Superette candles “plakked” all around the house.

After gathering some tips from the other side by secretly flipping through their “Guide to the Perfect Man”, aka. Cosmo & Womenshealth, I embarked on my mission.

The mission was simple…infiltrate Google under the cover of darkness and a closed study door and search for a select list of items that would aid in restoring faith in the concept that men can like to know “romance”….. With one eye on the door and one on the shopping list, my fingers nervously prompted the keyboard.

All I wanted was a little massage oil, maybe a scented candle and something playful like silk cuffs, all presented in a neat little box. At this point I have no shame adding that some instructions on the latter would have been an added bonus….instead….what I got was a mind-boggling, eye-opening education from the university of “Online Sex Shops”.

No matter how I rotated the image or at what resolution I set my screen, there were some items I just couldn’t figure out. Some products seemed to come straight from the prop box of Dexter…yes….you can buy half a body if you are a guy. The idea is to assault it with a blunt weapon and if you pay just a little extra it will even make the appropriate noises during the assault.

There were two types of stores. There were those that had more pics of naked women than there were products. Then there were those that were clean and serious in their approach and although they cater for men, they were clearly setup by women for women. The latter was obviously the perfect place to shop for what I wanted, but after wafting through pages of pretty flowers and pink fonts littered with articles on how to strengthen your PC muscles and how to help your man last longer, I felt a little out of my masculine comfort zone.

The entire experience made me realise that what the local online landscape needed was a place where women AND men can go shop for “inspiration” without feeling like you need to get to your nearest church and confess, a place that made you feel comfortable with the idea of wanting to bring a little adventure to your sex life. A place that had no gender bias, that catered for everyone, whether you are looking for a scented candle or something that requires a charger and instruction manual.

South Africa has enough online sex / lingerie stores. What we needed was a Premium Adult Boutique. And so….

My online business was born: www.sinsations.co.za

I felt so strong about my concept that I resigned from my job and got to work setting up my business. The biggest key element to getting my business off the ground was finding a good “Web Designer”.

It may not surprise you when I say that finding massage oil was easier than finding a web designer. I was dumbfounded by the fact that within the first 10 pages of my Google search I only came across roughly 4 local Web Design firms that seemed professional.

Given my limited choices, I sent an email to these companies as well as some other low-key ones I found lurking on forums. In my email I explained my concept and reassured them that I wanted something classy, fun, and modern. I also made it very clear I wanted NO nudity on my site.

Only 3 companies responded.

The first company told me straight forward that they would not like to do business with me due to the nature of the site, but if they had to, it will cost me roughly R45k for a customised e-commerce template. The second company told me they are not willing or interested in designing a site for me.

The third company said they will assist me, but asked that I do not mention their name and that there is no association between my business and them once the site is up and running. Fair enough! We had a meeting and I asked them to make 100% sure their staff are comfortable working on the project. They assured me all is well and so the process began….3 months later, after the festive season and after many discussions and planning I was ready to pay for development to begin. I filled out the required forms and asked for the banking details.

The following day I received an email from them stating that their staff was no longer comfortable with the content they had to work with and as result they regret that they can no longer continue work for me.

After that I went through another company that had a similar issue, but the workaround would be that only the business owners would design the site and they would not get their staff involved. Other than lack of communication, I felt that if my project only received ad-hoc attention, it just wouldn’t be good enough….so….off I went searching again….

At this point, although I could understand that some people may not be comfortable with the nature of the content, I was rather amazed that companies were so quick to turn away a customer. The cyber door was shut in my face before I could even explain myself properly. I found it ironic that everyone seemed to be okay with having sex, yet creating a website that aims to enhance the experience appeared nothing short of a criminal suggestion.

Then one evening towards the end of February while searching for more info on SEO, I came across a blog of someone that seemed to be very knowledgeable in the field of web design. I emailed him explaining my situation and asked if he could refer me to anyone. The response I received blew me away.

He understood what I was trying to achieve and said if I could send him more information he would consider designing the site for me.

It is now 4 months later and my site is up and running. The journey with iMod Digital has been nothing short of an incredible customer experience. Their team is super professional and an absolute pleasure to work with. They created a dynamic site according to my brief, but delivered so much more than I could have asked for.

Although my story has a happy ending *no pun intended*, I can’t help but feel some concern in terms of our e-commerce landscape. We all know that local e-commerce is climbing at a steady pace and rumour has it that we are soon going to experience a local e-commerce explosion. Although I am sure there are 1000’s of entrepreneurs out there, I have to wonder if we are ready to facilitate the growth and live up to the projected expectations?

Are web designers ready for the future, ready to compete and ready to be professional?

The days of ripping off customers with shoddy design and selling them customised templates for thousands of Rands will come to an abrupt end when more companies like iMod Digital start to emerge as viable business solutions.

Historically entrepreneurs have carried a large economic responsibility and there is no doubt that their contribution will continue in cyberspace. The only doubt that remains is whether current Web Design firms will be there to facilitate the transition or is this yet another opportunity for current brick & mortar entrepreneurs?  

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Comments

Chris M
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Chris M Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Thank you

Thank you very much for your kind words. We wish you all the best with your shop and hope that it launches you forwards into success.

Wolfe
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Wolfe Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Re: Thank you

;)

Charmed
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is here to answer your questions about MyDL!
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Charmed Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Site

Hey Wolfe

I took a look, at the office... all in the name of work you know :p Very nicely done. :D

Wolfe
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Wolfe Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Re: Site

Hey Charmed

Well...the fact that you risked....oh wait....no risk as it was in the name of work.... ;)

Anyway....thanks for the compliment....as I mentioned, it wouldn't have happened without Chris and his team.

Now I am just curious as to which pages you visited as we don't sell sunglasses :)

redsaid
redsaid
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. - Arthur
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redsaid Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Amazing story

Firstly, congratulations on launching the new business venture. If the going ever gets tough again (but hopefully it won't!) just remember: fortune favours the brave!

I am often staggered at bad service in this country (and I'm actually busy writing about a blog post right now about an online shopping experience that soured), but your story takes the cake! Look, fair enough if companies turn down work based on moral values (although it smacks of hypocracy, in this case), but wow, agreeing and then turning around a few months in is absolutely UNBELIEVABLE.

But really, also? Can people honestly afford to turn away business in this economic climate??? They clearly have not struggled enough yet. And yes, they clearly did not pay any attention to your briefs.

Wow... just wow. Anyway, glad that it worked out well in the end.

Wolfe
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Wolfe Friday, 20 July 2012

Re: Amazing Story

Hey Reds...

Yes, it is a sad state of affairs, or a very good one when companies turn away customers.

When arguing morals in this case, one must be careful to cast the first stone. However I do not think this is so much a moral issue as it is a maturity issue.

But, thanks for the congrats ;)

Muscadecipio
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Muscadecipio Thursday, 19 July 2012

Grats and best of luck

Grats on the site Wolfe. It is awesome and I see that your designer used my favourite content manager, Wordpress. In the hands of an expert you can do magic with it and these guys are magic.

Grats also on taking the jump into a niche that is still somewhat taboo in SA. for the longest time I have wanted to open a bricks-and-mortar shop like this but my small dorp has a heart attack any time anybody even mentions it. A few brave souls even tried putting "items" in their ordinary shops and got blacklisted by the local morality police PDQ. *Sigh*

Wolfe
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Wolfe Friday, 20 July 2012

Re: Grats and best of luck

Yip, they are magic! I am not technical in any way, so I appreciate feedback from those in the "know".

it's interesting that you say it's a Taboo topic. I also thought so at first, but every single person I have talked with (family & friends) ended in them opening up telling me how great they think it is and what they have been missing / enjoying in their sex life.....ya....not exactly the kind of feedback you want when it comes from family ;)

The point is, I think our conditioning through society in terms of what's acceptable has in some cases deprived us from expanding our horizons and allowing us to enjoy many things. Wouldn't it be great to live on a beach your entire life surviving on R20 a day for food selling shell jewelery? .....yes it would....but society says No no no..to further illustrate..if I told you to invite a stockbroker friend of mine to dinner, you would do so. If I told you to invite a beach bum friend of mine to dinner, you may hesitate...why? ;)

My point? It's all about perception!

justen
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justen Thursday, 19 July 2012

Awesome Post

Wolfe, firstly thank you for this post. I really like it because I can relate to your "fact finding" adventure, as I've had a few in my life. It's also really refreshing to get an opinion on the state of digital agencies / web development companies in South Africa, from the clients perspective. Working in web design & digital marketing myself, we regularly see how this unregulated industry easily screws over honest & visionary clients. Partly due to the fact that anybody with a computer can pose as a web designer, partly because clients' lack of knowledge paints a huge target on their backs. The notion of e-commerce in this country is not new, but I still struggle to find decent stores to this day! And it's really sad to see that moral values (hypocritical IMHO) are keeping people from embracing sexuality. It's 2012, you know!
I'm really impressed by your site (kudos to Chris & iMod), and I think you've really managed to set yourself apart through classy and stylish interpretation of an emerging market that turns into sleaze all too often. I really think you'll do great!
You've managed to successfully combine two concepts that are still, to an extent, taboo to the more conservative South African: Adult Shopping & e-commerce. Keep it up! You might see my name on a couple of orders soon ;)

Wolfe
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Wolfe Friday, 20 July 2012

Re: Awesome Post

Hi Justen

Again, I sincerely appreciate feedback from those in the "know".

It's interesting how there is a perception that people do not embrace sexuality, yet, SEXPO attracted over 65 000 visitors last year......and this year they project the number will grow substantially (no pun intended)

I personally think we do embrace it, just not openly ;)

I am glad you like the site, we have some great things in store for future and all the positive comments are truly appreciated and shows us we are on the right track.

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