World-class customer experience key to e-commerce success

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Delivering a world-class customer experience is key to becoming a leader in e-commerce, with this especially the case in smaller economies such as South Africa where customers are more valuable and need to be treated with great care.

This is according to Nicholas Wallander, co-founder of SA Florist, an e-commerce marketplace that offers hand-made flower arrangements and artisanal gifts from local traders. Disrupt Africa reported in December 2014 SA Florist gained ZAR3 million (US$270,000) in funding from all five investors on South Africa’s Dragons’ Den television show.

Wallander said the success of e-commerce companies hinges on their ability to offer exceptional service in order to attract and retain customers. This is even more important in markets like “South Africa, which does not have the huge potential customer volumes evident in the United States (US) or United Kingom (UK). New customers are therefore valuable and need to be treated accordingly.”

“Traditionally, South African e-commerce has been dominated by a handful of large players. They did as they like due to lack of competition and very high barriers to entry such as high cost of warehousing, inventory, logistics and fulfilment,” he said.

This lead to a poor customer experience, which Wallander said SA Florist had sought to rectify since launching in 2013. In November last year, the startup launched its ‘Customer Experience Barometer, which allows it to dynamically track and score its customer experience.

SA Florist then publishes all reviews, aggregates the scores and presents this as a dynamic score on its homepage, aiming to give its customers the confidence that SA Florist delivers orders with the relevant care and attention.

“SA Florist is an online marketplace for the florist industry rather than a pure retail site and our customer’s experience having trusted us with their important purchase is our number one priority. We believe that each flower order is an emotionally charged purchase and needs to be treated as such. It’s not just a plain and simple online order,”” said co-founder Fraser Black.

“The startup’s back-end algorithm scores each florist on every order they fulfil, and notifies SA Florist on how long each florist takes to reply to each order, how long it takes for them to fulfil the order and how long it takes until the order is delivered to the customer. Black said the best performing florists then naturally receive the lion’s share of orders.

“Our overall customer experience rating is something that we are extremely proud of. It’s reassuring, not only for SA Florist, but also for our customers, in that we are all of the things that we claim to be,” said Wallander.

SA Florist strives to deliver an aggregated score of 4.6 out of five or higher. Based on 1,446 live customer reviews, its current ‘Customer Experience Barometer score is 4.5 out of five.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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