22 June 2014

Zimbabwe: Explore Online Business Opportunities

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Every battle is won before it is fought.

News that PayPal has extended its services to Zimbabwe from Tuesday was greeted with great excitement on various social media platforms. Zimbabwe was not the only country to be under PayPal ban. Nigeria, with Africa's biggest number of internet visitors also had no PayPal access.

Although we have had access to online commerce for some years, via MasterCard and Visa cards issued by local banks, it was difficult for one to trade internationally as most customers overseas are wary of credit card fraud. In fact, estimates indicate that 1% of all online credit card transactions are fraudulent. As a result, many people are afraid to leave their credit card details on websites as they can be stolen and used to make fraudulent purchases.

That is where PayPal comes in.

When a person opens a PayPal account, they can make purchases online without leaving their credit card details. The risk of losing money is greatly reduced when one buys through PayPal. A majority of customers would rather buy through PayPal than use their credit cards online.

Although the service just introduced to Zimbabwe is "send money" only, that is, it only allows Zimbabweans to make purchases online using their PayPal accounts, it is still a big step forward in opening up a secure and trusted payment facility for electronic commerce online.

This is because with your PayPal account, you can access other online facilities that will enable you to be an online merchant, receiving payments from all over the world. (For full details see the article How to open a PayPal account in Zimbabwe by Tendai Chakuzira, in the April issue of BusinessLink magazine-http://smebusinesslink.com/magazine).

Now that we can sell online and have a secure payment platform trusted by customers globally, what are the opportunities available in online business?

First let's look at why the Internet world is so full of opportunities for business. There are over 2 billion internet users worldwide and over 5 billion mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. This means a staggering number of potential customers exist for your product.

The advantage of an online business is that startup costs are very low, when compared to a brick and mortar business. These days you can start a website or blog for a small fee, and build it into an asset that will get you customers from all over the world, just like a shop or restaurant in a good location gets the owners lots of local clients.

Although you can sell anything through the internet, digital products are much easier to deal with because they can be delivered instantly online.

We are talking of things like eBooks, music, photographs, videos, courses and similar products. One can also do work like consulting, designing, writing or even business linkages through the internet and reach customers from different parts of the world.

If you are a good graphic designer, for example, you can create a good website, and use it in conjunction with other marketing media to market yourself to a global audience.

If you are in the music business, you can sell your records to people in all parts of the world online. Apart from reaching the millions of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, you can also sell to non-Zimbabweans who enjoy your type of music -- all online.

Did you know that Beyonce's last album, the self-titled one which came out in December 2013, was released only online and not on CD as per traditional music distribution? The artist turned to Instagram and Twitter instead of traditional marketing methods to spread the word about her album release.

Within 12 hours, 1,2 million tweets were posted about Beyoncé and within the first 24 hours more than 430 000 albums had sold for US$15,99 each on iTunes. Of course you will not be able to sell as much as the superstar, not when starting anyway, but if you have a good product and market it brilliantly online, you can build a successful business.

The platforms for distributing your digital products online are already available. For example, I recently started using DPD (http://getdpd.com/) to sell my digital publications and I am finding it very good.

You cannot hope to make millions online instantly, but if you take time to learn how internet based business works, develop a product that people want and market it well, you will get results. Once you get started online, you can always add more products to your offering since you would have already built a cyber store front.

I urge those who want to start online businesses not to go in blindly, but to attend courses or read books that will give them the knowledge and skills required. One book I found useful is Internet Prophets by Steve Olsher, which has over 20 case studies of entrepreneurs who have built multi-million dollar online businesses that we can all learn from.

You will find more resources on entrepreneurship on my website http://smebusineslink.com.

lPhillip Chichoni is a business development consultant who works with SMEs and entrepreneurs. You may contact him by email, chichonip@smebusinesslink.com. You can also visit http://smebusinesslink.com.

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