Category Archives: Business

Finding a middle ground between outlet and online shopping

We have all heard economists singing the praises of e-commerce, stating that soon all our consumerist needs will be met by online opportunities for purchasing products and services. Where does this evolution in lifestyle leave the brick and mortar outlet? Some would say the shop is becoming obsolete, but there is still a place for both sides of the shopping-coin.

Keeping true to brand identity on- and off-line

Consider the joy of walking into your favourite fashion outlet, hobby store or home décor supplier. Even before finding appeal in what the store has to offer, shoppers are confronted by the ambiance. These experiences are especially true of luxury brands where the storefront echoes the brand’s sophistication.

Although the physical experience of visiting such an outlet is location orientated, a similar “look and feel” can be achieved with a well-designed e-commerce site. A well-managed outlet will take special care to engage the senses of visitors with pleasant décor, music and inviting visuals. To carry a brand identity over into an online platform, equal attention must be paid to ensure the website echoes the sophistication and styling of the outlet.

A challenge in the world of online shopping is overcoming the absence of a client physically engaging in the merchandise. In the fashion industry, a shopper must decide whether they like a product’s appearance and price, as well as how it fits their body. Some web-based fashion suppliers have overcome this obstacle by allowing consumers to try clothing on in the comfort of their own home, and with their own existing wardrobe at hand, before committing to a purchase.

The human relationship

In our hyper digitalised world we often forget about the value of real human connection. A lot of client confidence lies in the ability to speak to an actual person who is knowledgeable about their product and approachable when it comes to negotiations.

Although online shopping provides convenience in other areas, consumers do value a personal relationship with a consultant or shop assistant when considering large purchases. Once a face-to-face sale has been made, future online sales through the same employee might be an avenue customers feel more comfortable exploring.

In the case of a purely online store, human interaction can still be achieved through personalised, friendly emails and phone calls wherein a particular employee ensures the happiness of a set portfolio of clients.

The critical balance

Some types of commerce are unavoidably dependent on offering a client the ability to try a product – for instance, a dealer of pre-owned cars must offer the option to test drive vehicles.  Even here the successful marriage between a brick-and-mortal dealership and online shopping is still the best way to ensure a convenient shopping experience. A client can browse vehicle models and options within their budget at leisure before visiting the showroom to narrow down their choices, effectively saving time for themselves and the dealership.

In the case of a business reliant on closing the deal at a physical location, it is tempting to see the online aspect as secondary to the outlet. With the world becoming more and more digitalised, shop owners can no longer deny the value of online shopping. It is important to realise the significance of both sales platforms and use them in conjunction with one another to achieve the perfect shopping experience


Know Your Ergonomic Rights

According to the Ergonomics Society of South Africa (ESSA), ergonomics is the science of work. The goal of ergonomics in the workplace is to design tasks, jobs, products, work environments, and systems in such a way that they are compatible with the needs, abilities, and limitations of people.

In November of 2013, the ESSA announced that they will be working closely with the Department of Labour to ensure ergonomic design is recognised in the South African legislation. This development will ensure the safety and sustainability of working conditions in our country so that our jobs do not negatively affect our overall health.

How do I enforce my ergonomic rights?

A worker should have the freedom to preserve their health while doing their job. It is therefore completely within your rights to approach your seniors with complaints about strain on your back caused by a non-ergonomically designed chair, poor ventilation, or any other undue strain to your body.

Not all problems concerning worker safety and comfort have been addressed in our legislation. There is, for example, no legal limit to what weight a worker can be expected to lift manually. A lot of airlines draw the weight-line for a single piece of luggage at 32kg in an effort to spare employee’s backs. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends a much lower maximum weight of 23kg, and that’s only if all other conditions are perfect.

Another example of holes in our ergonomic legislation is a lack of clear regulations when it comes to temperature control. International regulations do however dictate a summer bulb temperature of 23 to 28 degrees Celsius. In winter this range drops to 20 to 25.5 degrees Celsius.

Luckily space allocation is clearly stipulated by the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Environmental Regulations say that workers are entitled to 2.25 square metres of office space including their desk, chair, computer and accessories. Hopefully all aspects of our worker environment will soon be stipulated this clearly.

Promoting an ergonomic workspace

Keep in mind that your employer wants you to be healthy as well. A lack of health concerns in the office leads to employee absence, and profit losses. Office environments and control rooms where employees spend the whole day in a seated position should especially be concerned about ergonomically designed desk spaces and adequate lumber support.

It is your employer’s responsibility to have your workspace audited and certified by the ESSA. There are plenty of companies who specialise in office layout and ergonomic control room design.  These specialists can help with implementing the correct features and floor-plan to make your workspace as friendly as possible, and thereby promote your health.

The cost of implementing ergonomic design is easily validated when looking at the impact it has on worker happiness, days taken off sick and general productivity. Do everything you can to ensure your workplace is not harming your health, whether the legislation demands it or not.

Simple Ways to Reduce Your Overheads Now

It can be all too easy to just look at how much money you have coming in. But the higher your expenses are, the leaner your profit margin becomes.

Sometimes, improving the profitability of a business isn’t about making more money, it’s about spending less.

Outsourcing – There are many benefits to outsourcing, such as bringing in new perspectives and skills. But the biggest benefit is the potential money savings. Just make sure that you thoroughly understand the pros and cons of outsourcing, and make sure you partner with someone you can trust.

Remortgaging – Paying off a mortgage can be one of your biggest monthly expenses. Not satisfied that you got the best deal? Remortgages, also sometimes called second refinancing, is the process of paying off your current mortgage with the proceeds of a second one. It basically entails the transfer of a mortgage from one lender to another, so as to get a better interest rate or change the repayment amount.

Relocate – On the other hand, if you’re renting, then you might want to consider moving to a more affordable venue. However, you need to think about this carefully. If your business relies on its location, for instance a restaurant or a hair salon that relies on foot traffic, moving might not be the best idea. Even so, however, you can still try to renegotiate your monthly rent. In many cases, an owner would rather reduce rates than have a site sit empty for a year.

Go green – you’ll be amazed at how much a few green changes at work can save you in the long run. From reducing your paper usage, to decreasing your monthly utilities bill, there are many ways your business can benefit while you help the environment.

Buy second-hand If you need to buy equipment or furniture, go for the used option. You can buy items that are as good as new for a fraction of the cost.

Interns – There are always students and graduates who would be grateful for any help. Rather than hire more full-time staff, bring in one or two interns who will be happy for the opportunity. While interns typically aren’t paid a lot, do endeavour to make it worth their time by giving them practical work experience they can learn from, rather than just making coffee.

Your net profit is equal to how much money comes in, minus how much money goes out. As complicated and confusing as the market place can be at times, the success of your business essentially boils down to those two forces. The difference between the inflow and outflow of cash.


How Malls Manipulate

Malls really aren’t just four walls that are housing different shops. It is usually a massive area containing multiple shopping outlets and franchises. But, things aren’t that simple as malls require shoppers to purchase as much as possible in as short a space a time. How they manipulate shoppers is worth investigating, so that we can combat it in ourselves and perhaps use it in our businesses.


We tend to use our senses in a complicated way: for example, we don’t just decide we want food based on taste alone. Something can look appetising but taste awful and something can look awful but be delicious. Similarly, we associate positive sense engagement with whatever caused it and other things closely associate with it. This is why malls play positive music that makes us feel comfortable. This way, we associate nice music with nice things. Our rational faculties are lowered a bit, meaning we’re more likely to think something is a good deal when it’s actually normally-priced; we think that we need a product, when we really don’t, due it being so “nice”.


As signage manufacturers, in South Africa, New York, Hong Kong, will tell you, the most important element of signage is the property of being memorable and functional. Thus, signs that are big don’t necessarily mean they will be remembered: they will just be big. Smart designs and spacing in malls means we learnt to associate particular colours and fonts and smells with particular elements of the mall. Even the spacing of the mall means we keep travelling further to obtain a sign and direction: meaning we pass shops we other might not have in order to acquire a sense of direction of where we are. Thus, one clever way malls do this is to occasionally and unequally space out maps and directions, meaning you’re forced to wander, increasing your chance of buying.


You can put things in a better light, literally. Even making them shiny can, for example, slow people down which gives you more time to sell products and increases the chances of customers buying things from you store. People also believe shiny cars drive better, despite the fact that a clean car has little to do with a car’s interior – by definition.

Bigger numbers

If you put $200 next to $400, the former looks better. Indeed, if you priced a tie for $200 by itself, it might look crazy. But put it next to a $400 tie and suddenly it looks amazing and obvious as a purchase. This is known as anchoring, where we pin a specific measurement against a figure provided: in this case it would be in the high triple digits. This is a smart way to get people to pay unnecessary amounts where they otherwise would not have.

All of these are methods malls use that we should watch out for but also utilise in our own attempts to sell and get more customers for our businesses.

Etiquette for International Business People

In our globalised world, we often find ourselves needing to do business with people who live on the other side of the world. However, every culture has their own way of doing things. What’s acceptable in your home country might be offensive elsewhere. And a simple misunderstanding can damage a perfectly fine business relationship.

Here are some basic guidelines on social interaction in a multi-national business context.

Cultural awareness

There’s no universal set of business etiquette rules that can be applied around the world. Every nation will have its own set of rules and standard practices, so it’s important that you familiarise yourself with the particular culture of the people you’ll be doing business with.

Make the effort to find out what’s going on in their home. That way, you won’t appear ignorant and insensitive. For instance, if you understand the concept of “face” in many Asian cultures, you will know the implications it has for business conduct. Never “lose face” in front of contacts if you want to be respected, and avoid causing your Asian contacts to “lose face”.

Take cues

When doing business in another country, take your cue from your overseas colleagues. This is especially true for where to draw the line with personal space. In some cultures, men might be very unreserved in their affection with one another, so it would be normal to greet business associates with a hug. However, in that same culture it might be highly improper for a male associate to greet a female contact in the same way.

If you’re not sure how to act, hang back, observe your environment closely, and check what the locals do.

Time zones and language barriers

Aside from the cultural differences you’ll encounter, there are the more obvious differences of language and time. It’s important that where you can, you make allowances for these differences. Want to send a brochure or report to colleagues in China? Remember that not everyone speak English, so provide a Mandarin translation. Need to make a phone call to Hong Kong? Check the local time first.

Be tolerant

There’s always going to be something that will seem like a strange way to go about conducting business to you. For instance, Germans are well-known for their punctuality. But in many African and South American countries, on the other hand, scheduled appointments are often treated like a general guideline rather than an absolute rule.

In occasions like this it is vitally important that you be patient and adaptable. Be tolerant and non-judgemental towards everything that is new and different.