Andy Higgins is one of South Africa’s most successful ecommerce entrepreneurs – he started Bidorbuy, helped to launch Takealot and PayFast, and is now making online shopping easier through uAfrica.
He has also served on a number of boards – including One Africa Media, which operates Africa’s largest portfolio of online classifieds businesses.
To support technology startups, Higgins also launched Geekfund, which backs talented technical individuals to work on products.
The MyBroadband community was recently given the opportunity to ask Higgins questions about ecommerce and business in South Africa.
Here are the best questions and answers from the “Ask Andy Higgins anything about ecommerce” discussion. You can view all his answers here.
rpm – In South Africa many eCommerce players are launching online marketplaces, including players like Takealot and Makro. Do you believe Bidorbuy will be able to show growth in this more competitive market?
bidorbuy is growing albeit not at the pace we would like. Similar to how eBay has managed to re-invent itself somewhat in the USA, I believe something similar is required from bidorbuy. Time will tell.
Mephisto_Helix – I’m curious, in starting something as big name as Bidorbuy and having had a hand in Takealot and Payfast, do you still have the same nerves when launching a new venture?
I must say as I get older (and hopefully a little wiser) my appetite for risk is reducing. It certainly is not an easy road starting something from scratch. Now, I would rather back younger versions of myself financially (see www.geekfund.io).
vorman – What are the key aspects to turn ‘browsers’ into buyers?
People will buy from you for three main reasons: Price, Convenience and Variety. Find the reason that appeals to a particular browser and you will be more likely to convert then into a buyer.
RustyPrincess – Do you ever think Amazon would launch in SA? What do you think would happen to the existing players in the space if this were to happen?
“Ever” is a long time. I don’t see it happening any time soon. I just think they have bigger fish to fry elsewhere.
If they did ever enter the local market, they probably would not do so without buying a local player. As much as these businesses are online, they still require a significant local presence in order to operate. This would be a problem for direct competitors but I don’t think it would be the end for niche local operators – in fact it might even be positive for them. Bear in mind that more than half of Amazon’s sales are by 3rd party sellers through their marketplace.
eg2505 – If you had to restart your Ecommerce journey with bidorbuy, what would you do differently this time?
I would charge for our service from day one. We did not charge for our services for the first two years.
MtraX – What are your projections on growth of eCommerce in South Africa in terms of year on year and as a % of retail in SA?
I have given up trying to predict the growth. In the earlier years I was hoping we would see some kind of exponential growth i.e. a tipping point, critical mass, knee of the curve or whatever you want to call it. This happened in a number of other International markets but not in South Africa as far as I can tell.
I am however confident that online will continue to grow significantly faster than offline retail. As a broad range say online will grow at 20 to 40% per year with offline growing low single digits.
PhireSide – What are your biggest hurdles in terms of growth in the South African online commerce space, and do you foresee the growth to continue at the current pace or wane off after a number of years?
I think some of the historic barriers like connectivity and payments are now largely non-issues. Logistics is still a barrier (but improving). I do think there is an inherent “shopping mall” culture in South Africa that is slow to change but I also believe that there is still a lot of room for growth. I think growth will at least continue at the current pace for some time to come (or hopefully even accelerate).
lonelyRanger – What is the single most prominent thing that you see new online shop owners do/get wrong in South Africa?
They try to do everything perfectly from day one. Rather launch an imperfect site quickly and cheaply, start making sales and then make many small improvements by iterating quickly. Don’t be afraid to experiment e.g. with small amounts on paid advertising (using Google, Facebook etc.).
Icemanbrfc – Growing up into a successful businessman, who has been the one person who inspired you to go out there and become the person you are today?
I have taken inspiration from multiple sources (not just one). I like the attitude towards life in general of Richard Branson.
I have also read many books on personal finance. The aspiration to become financially independent I think has been a strong driving force to become successful in business. IMO, there is no better way to build wealth than to start a business.
I think personal finance skills are not taught enough in schools and in general not passed down to our children.
Mysab – What have you found to be the most effective marketing technique for your ecommerce businesses?
Hand down word of mouth. Provide good customer service and give a good reason for your buyers to talk about you.