From a services sector point of view, banking certainly
leads the way and has proven beyond a shadow of doubt that South Africans, as
individuals, are increasingly embracing the electronic self-service space; but
can the same be said of businesses?
In 2012, Afrox took the leap into the e-Commerce space,
recognising the potential for customers of unlocking many benefits unique to
trading online; benefits such as 24/7 availability adding to the ease of doing
business, transaction transparency and consistency and, more obviously, a host
of efficiencies. These are just some of the advantages which spring to mind and
should reverberate with any business that depends on a supplier to fulfil their
But how to deliver these benefits and meet customer
expectations wasn’t and still isn’t a simple matter. Going to online trading was
a big step for all of us at Afrox, especially for the gases, welding and safety
equipment side of the business. We had no industry-specific example to follow
and, in a tough and competitive climate, had little to go on, other than
customer feedback, to build something that made sense to and worked for
customers. And it was the voice of the customer that was actually the single
biggest factor in us becoming E-Enabled in 2014!
It is only two years on and the Afrox e-Commerce platform
now hosts 15,000 registered customers and handles over 300,000 online visits every
year, a mix of existing repeat and new customers. At last count, there were more than R200m in
orders via the online Afrox eShop and some 450,000 transactions, which points to us being
on the right track. I wouldn’t claim the platform is perfect by any measure, not
quite yet, but I do think we have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that our
eCommerce platform innovates for users, is increasingly more transparent and,
most importantly, is serious about the business user experience.
But it is a journey, learning from customers as we progress.
Afrox has moved from a space where we had to ask customers to ‘consider’ our
online trade offer to a point where the demand for online services has forced
us to stand-up, pay attention, tuck-in our shirts and act on your needs and do
Now our aim for customers is to build on and continuously
enhance the available services and increase the ease of trading with us online.
There is no doubt eCommerce will play a growing part in the reach of an already
strong Afrox brand, which is widely trusted for quality and, importantly, for
adding value to businesses aspiring to success.
To round up, let me be clear; we are grateful for the
position you, our business users, have placed us in, for the opportunity that
has enabled us, like the banking industry, to shape our particular market space
and we promise to keep on evolving, and above all, listening, after all that’s
how it all started for Afrox, with the voice of you, our customer!
African Oxygen Limited