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Online businesses: Are they yet viable in Zimbabwe?



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The internet is a powerful medium that presents great opportunities for entrepreneurs to use it for business.

As the above captioned examples show, innovative entrepreneurs have become millionaires and billionaires through online businesses.

The question now arises: Can one set up a viable online or internet business in Zimbabwe or Africa and really make money?

A number of businesses have embraced the internet, with website and social media presence. But these tools are mostly being used to complement the physical business and little real commerce is taking place online. In South Africa and a few other African countries online businesses are now commonplace.

Business models

The most popular models for online businesses are as follows:

1)     E-commerce: a model whereby goods and services are sold directly to consumers (B2C), businesses (B2B), or from consumer to consumer (C2C) using computers connected to a network.

2)     Lead-based websites: a strategy whereby an organization generates value by acquiring sales leads from its website. Similar to walk-in customers in retail world. These prospects are often referred to as organic leads.

3)    Affiliate Marketing: a process wherein a product or service developed by one entity is sold by other active sellers for a share of profits. The entity that owns the product may provide some marketing material (e.g., sales letters, affiliate links, tracking facilities, etc.); however, the vast majority of affiliate marketing relationships come from e-commerce businesses that offer affiliate programs

4)    Local Internet marketing: a strategy through which a small company utilizes the Internet to find and to nurture relationships that can be used for real-world advantages. Local Internet marketing uses tools such as social media marketing, local directory listing, and targeted online sales promotions.

5)    Advertising: a strategy whereby other companies pay to place their adverts on your website. Once your website reaches a certain number of visitors per day, advertisers would be prepared to pay for their adverts to be seen on your site.

Trust is the biggest challenge for online business

For people to buy they need strong assurance that you can be trusted with their hard-earned cash. Online buying carries some risks and customers are very risk averse. What if they send you their money and you disappear with it? What if they get the wrong product or you send them something defective or of poor quality?

One of the challenges that internet markets face (as does the general public) is that many internet products are outright scams or promoted with deception, making it difficult to know what one is buying. This is especially the case with products that are supposed to train or aid internet marketers in making money. While the quality of products has improved in the past few years, ethics is still often missing in internet marketing. Many so-called money making products are “empty boxes” in which there is essentially nothing there yet a buyer is to make money by reselling this empty box to others. Pyramid schemes are also still prevalent.

The consumer is unable to physically feel or try on the product which can be a limitation for certain goods. However a survey of consumers of cosmetics products shows that email marketing can be used to interest a consumer to visit a store to try a product or to speak with sales representatives.

Marketers will not be able to use the x-factor/personal touch factor/human touch factor to influence the audience as the marketing is completely based on the advertisement and the information that the advertisement might lead to websites, blogs and other channels.

If you can find a way around customers’ fears you will succeed in online business. You need to educate your customers, give them a strong value proposition, clearly defining the real advantages or unique solution that you are offering better than existing brick and mortar businesses. If you can move ahead into this new frontier ahead of your competitors, you will definitely make a difference to your business and to others.

If you haven’t read our new eBook Internet and Social Media- the New Cutting-Edge for High Performance Entrepreneurs, please download it at our website.


Get new ideas on starting, improving and growing your business through online strategies at the BusinessLink Inbound marketing half-day seminar on Thursday 23 August 2012 in Harare. See page 19 for details or visit our website or call our marketing executive Christine on 0772 854 301 now.

Special offer to first 3 BusinessLink Newsletter and online article readers to book: BRING A FRIEND AND GET 40% ($24) DISCOUNT.

Read more articles in the weekly newsletter, subscribe at our website http://smebusinesslink.com


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