How pivoting daily during the pandemic made OneDayOnly better

We have, on a number of occasions already, touched on how the pandemic has impacted a myriad industries, with ecommerce in particular finding some success where others faltered.

One of the platforms that truly thrived over the past two years was OneDayOnly, but the time between now and the start of the pandemic in early 2020 was far from ideal for SA’s leading daily deals site.

This according to Laurian Venter, director at OneDayOnly, who we recently spoke to at ECOM Africa 2022, which took place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) this week.

Unpacking the turbulence of the past two years, Venter noted that the ecommerce platform had to pivot almost daily during the first few months, given much of the uncertainty surrounding restrictions and regulations.

This need to pivot necessitated a level of agility and flexibility that tested OneDayOnly greatly, but the result was a number of new features including an entire site redesign, signing up with a hyperscaler (Microsoft Azure), enhancing its mailer system, creating a self-service returns portal and adding new categories to its product portfolio, to name but a few.

To understand some of the challenges, along with how these ended up improving OneDayOnly in the main, this is what Venter had to say.

Hypertext: We would be remiss if we did not touch on the pandemic and the impact it has had on the local ecommerce scene. Can you offer us a OneDayOnly perspective on the challenges it presented and what the outlook is now?

Laurian Venter (LV): It has been a crazy two years. The initial challenges were around where to source stock and what to list on the site. Given that essential items were the only products permitted for sale at the time, we sold a lot of face masks and sanitiser early on.

Then we had to move and pivot the business on a nearly daily basis.

We started looking for other essential items, and that meant sourcing products like coffee, baked beans and toilet paper for our site – anything that our customers really needed.

At the time people could not go to the shops, and in many cases, they did not want to go to the shops. This meant that people were sitting at home and became bored, which is what inspired us to branch out into things like exercise gear, DIY products, so our offering changed on an almost daily basis during those months.

A few months on and now we are really seeing that customers are looking for experiences. It is not only about buying things anymore and people want a little more out of life.

So that is why we now have a dedicated travel buyer who is focused on doing great travel deals on OneDayOnly. Our wine sales have also exploded and we have a fantastic buyer who is extremely knowledgeable about the industry, so we are using that avenue to shine a spotlight on smaller winemakers in South Africa and support local businesses.

As a result of reacting to all of these challenges, our organisation has grown tremendously. We have for example, increased our staff by 30 percent in that first year and in 2021 we used it as a year to focus on consolidating.

It became important to say that although we have grown massively, how do we maintain our company culture.

Hypertext: We saw quite a bit of lobbying from ecommerce platforms to operate fully in the first few months of the pandemic, with government finally acquiescing. Has collaboration between the two parties improved since then?

LV: The discussions between ecommerce and government really ended at that point. It really was a challenging time for everybody as we did not know what was happening.

As no one had the answers, we were, however, able to navigate it together.

Now there is little to no interaction between the two.

Hypertext: We saw PoPIA come into effect last year, with many companies scrambling for compliance. How were things at OneDayOnly and does the regulation present any additional challenges for the company?

LV: We were cognisant of PoPI long before it came to the fore last year, so there were no major shocks on that front.

What we have always done is when launching or running massive subscriber campaigns via our newsletters, is ensure that they are all opt-in, where people have chosen to subscribe to it.

So we have always worked on and with first party data. I think doing so also brings a massive legitimacy to the business.

Hypertext: We have seen other large ecommerce platforms look to increase their physical footprint in SA. Is that something that OneDayOnly would consider or is the company looking to expand outside of digital?

LV: We constantly have to look at new ways of evolving the business, but we are also sticking to what makes us great.

We are South Africa’s original daily deals site. We offer awesome deals for a 24-hour period and that makes things difficult in terms of trying to turn around your product or have a retail outlet serving that.

That said, there are always ways for us to look at what our customers want and how can we fulfil their needs, so we’ll continue to look at that moving forward.


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