It’s not that I have anything against the Internet. In fact, I earn my living by promoting the web. Maybe I’m just archaic in my approach to technology or maybe I’m just an offline consumer in a rapidly growing online world. Nevertheless, there are millions like me, and selling online goods or services to someone like me is tough! And probably the reason why my business bank account is currently R97 in the red.Fortunately, I have alternative means of income or I wouldn’t be able to eat from one day to the next. My point is this, though. If everything I would ever want to buy were available as an online catalogue, would I use the Internet to find them or buy them all? Would I sacrifice those trips to the mall? Would I buy a new fragrance without first trying all the testers available? Shoes? Clothes? Furniture? Food? What makes me use the Internet for some of them and not for the others?
Which brings me to my dilemma when I’m consulting with clients. If they want to market or sell their sand or towels or shoes or whatever their product is online, do I just give them a website? Do I recommend good ISPs and web hosting packages even when I’m convinced that their money would be better spent in offline marketing campaigns and in-store promotions? Maybe if I just went ahead and gave them the total package - search engine optimisation and all - my bank balance would stay in the positive for a little while longer each month. But in an economy where only 5,100,000 of a population of 49,660,502 use the Internet (http://www.internetworldstats.com/africa.htm#za) I wouldn’t feel warm and fuzzy doing it.
Don’t get me wrong – there are definitely opportunities for many types of businesses to thrive in this global online environment. The challenge lies in distinguishing the one from the other and figuring it is taking me on a broke but interesting journey.