Wilma den Hartigh
The newly launched Kalahari Ads “Street Browser” initiative is helping emerging small, micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs) establish an online presence.
Bronwyn Johnson, head of marketing at Kalahari Ads, an online classifieds portal, says that more than a third of SMMEs do not have internet connectivity. This is a significant handicap, considering there are 3.9-million internet users in South Africa which they could be targeting with their products and services.
Johnson says that print classifieds have always been the preferred method of advertising to reach the local market. The next logical step is to complement print advertising with an online presence.
According to the 2011 Mobility Research Project conducted by World Wide Worx, 39% of urban South Africans and 27% of rural users are now browsing the internet on their phones.
This means that at least 6-million South Africans have internet access on their phones. All these users are potential customers.
Taking “Street Browser” to the streets
The “Street Browser” initiative was launched in early September at the Earth Fair Market in Cape Town, and it will be soon be rolled out nationally at most marketplaces across the country.
Teams of Kalahari Ads “Street Browser” representatives have been visiting markets and expos to introduce buyers and sellers to the initiative.
Johnson says that putting a face to the campaign is important as some vendors are unfamiliar with online advertising, or its benefits.
Many small business owners – whether they are plumbers, fresh-produce sellers, electricians, antiques traders or crafters selling handmade jewellery at a market – don’t think to advertise online.
Some people also perceive online advertising as difficult and don’t trust the internet for fear of falling prey to online scams.
The new online concept is already working very well in the service industry.
Reaping rewards of online advertising
Online advertising means that a business is always being promoted. It also reduces the need for a business owner to undertake face-to-face marketing.
“It makes it easier for the right buyer to connect with the right seller,” she says.
Johnson adds that she has already received reports of how well the adverts are working.
Advertising online also makes it possible for vendors and small business owners to get access to new markets.
If a vendor is selling homemade jams, it could create a bigger demand for the product and expand the opportunity for sales at other markets.
Johnson also hopes that their initiative will make it less daunting for South Africans to start small businesses.
“If there is someone who has been reluctant to start a small business because he or she didn’t know how or where they could advertise, this is a great platform,” she says.
How does it work?
“It works in a similar way to a Facebook page, almost like a storefront on the site,” Johnson says. Business owners can promote their products, set up business listings and update their movements between marketplaces.
There is no restriction on who can use the “Street Browser” initiative. Any small business owner can create a profile on the Kalahari Ads website, using either a mobile phone or PC. Kalahari Ads is also one of the safest classifieds of its kind as all adverts are read and moderated to ensure safety for users.
The standard service will always remain free, but Kalahari Ads plans to introduce premier placed adverts, similar to paid-for advertising that appears on Google.
Adverts have a shelf life of 30 days, after which they will expire. Business owners will be notified in advance and given the option to renew or cancel the advert.
Helping businesses diversify
According to the 2010 SMME Survey, sponsored by the National Youth Development Agency, diversification to sell to a variety of consumer segments is important for business competitiveness.
Principal survey researcher Arthur Goldstuck was quoted saying that SMMEs need to diversify more actively if they are to be more sustainable, profitable and resilient to market changes.
Johnson says that Kalahari Ads is giving street merchants the opportunity to do just that, with a platform they have never used before or considered using.