Mon | Oct 25, 2021

Half of smallbiz yet to log on to e-commerce

Published:Sunday | March 7, 2021 | 12:14 AM

The few small enterprises that pivoted to online commerce since the pandemic, riding the wave of increased digital payments, are also finding it a more convenient way to do business, according to participants at ‘Let’s Go Digital’, a virtual conference put on by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, PSOJ.

“Since COVID, some 90 per cent of our business is now cashless,” said entrepreneur Janelle Pantry-Coke of Spaces Jamaica, an interior design store in Kingston. “After COVID, we are not going back, but forward.”

When the pandemic hit last March, Spaces’ walk-in customers came to a halt, said Coke, who called it “a total lockdown”. In response, she revamped her decade-old website and added a local bank-payment option.

“That opened up a lot of opportunities for our business,” Coke said. “We are back to regular open hours, but the convenience factor remains,” the entrepreneur told the conference.

Spaces Jamaica’s case isn’t typical as many local businesses still remain offline or have outdated websites and ineffective social pages.

More than 25 per cent of small ventures don’t have a website, over half are not selling online, and 75 per cent do not have a mobile application, according to Sheldon Powe, CEO of Innovate10x, citing local industry data at the forum.

Online sales of solid businesses will grow sales “exponentially”, Powe asserted. “Increased customers will result in increased sales, especially if you have a secret sauce on your chicken. They will buy and will tell friends, and then your growth will be through the roof, and it will be at lower costs,” he said.

Chris Reckord, CEO of technology company tTech limited, said that since the onset of the pandemic, the pace of transformation towards digitalisation has surprised information professionals, albeit that there were some shortcomings in the roll-outs.

“What we thought would have happened in the next three years is happening in three months,” he said. “It requires change, but it is a lot less about technology.”

Reckord noted that while many businesses buy the technology, they do not integrate it well into their systems or train staff sufficiently during the transformational process.

‘Let’s Go Digital’ is a public-private sector initiative to transition Jamaican micro, small, and medium enterprises into online commerce. Digitalisation can reduce costs, help improve customer service, and position companies for international sales, said converts and others who participated in Friday’s forum.

The conference included representatives of the PSOJ, the Ministry of Science Energy and Technology, Jampro, the Ministry of Industry Investment and Commerce, the Development Bank of Jamaica, the Jamaica Business Development Corporation, the Small Business Association of Jamaica, and the MSME Alliance.