The small business sector has had to undergo a lot of changes and challenges in the last year. The move towards digital transformation was fast-tracked and while many businesses didn’t survive, those who were ready to ride the digital wave were able to meet the challenges head on. 

Now that the dust has somewhat settled, a handful of important small business trends have emerged that affect not only business processes but also business outcomes. And while trends may change over time, understanding the latest, key trends will help you respond as quickly and efficiently to any challenges that your customers and your business might face.

Top five key business trends in South Africa:

Cashless payments are the norm

Cashless payment has been a developing trend for many years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has popularised many of the more modern options and moved their progression forward significantly in South Africa. 

Cashless payments are not only a socially-distanced alternative, but they’ve proven to be safe and secure payment methods that remove a lot of the steps that a cash withdrawal requires. While most of us are familiar with EFT, the likes of SnapScan, Zapper and Tap to Pay have become everyday payment options that South African consumers expect to see.

According to the 2020 Roger Wilco Customer Experience Report, 60% of South Africans who switched to another e-commerce website did so because payment was easier, even if the product was more expensive. If you’re on the brink of creating a website for your business, keep this in mind.


Alternative funding sources are available

The pandemic has put many businesses in a tight spot. While funding and extra financial support is vital for growth, traditional business loans aren’t always possible, particularly for unregistered businesses. Unless your company is registered or you are about to embark on the registration of your company, alternatives will have to be sought.

Luckily there are a number of funding sources available in South Africa. From Government funding and personal loans, to venture capital funding and even crowdfunding, there are ways to access capital to either keep your business afloat or maintain growth.


Business diversification is encouraged

Gone are the days of single focus businesses. Diversification of product or service offering has become not just an up-sell technique but also a survival technique and consumers are happy to see it. Levi’s no longer only sells jeans, but a range of clothing to suit their jeans, for example.

If you can diversify your offering  in a way that makes sense to your business, you’re giving your customers more choice while increasing your chances of making more of a profit.


Paid digital marketing is vital

While organic content is still highly relevant, boosting this content is vital to getting it seen in a country where e-Commerce is booming and consumers are faced with adverts all day long. While businesses don’t need to invest in every single advertising platform or channel available, putting money behind the following popular channels is vital today:

  • Google search advertising
  • Display advertising
  • Social media advertising: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube


Loyalty programs are a must

Customer retention in the form of loyalty programs and membership subscriptions have become increasingly popular as consumers place more and more attention on getting value from brands. Consumers will easily switch brands if another is able to provide more bang for their buck, and loyalty programs are an easy way to convince them to come back.

Loyalty programs come in a number of shapes and sizes, but the most common ones include:

  • Tiered membership discounts
  • Refer-a-friend benefits
  • Discounts for bulk or long-term purchases
  • Points programs

By adapting your business towards these trends you’ll be setting yourself up for a strong position in the small business market in South Africa. While the pandemic and all its effects are still with us, you’ll open your business up to the adaptability required in the current climate.