THE STORY OF RARU: WHAT TO AVOID AS A SMALL BUSINESS IN E-COMMERCE AND OPERATING ON THIRD-PARTY PLATFORMS
Many companies struggle to fulfill their orders in peak and off seasons. Failure to fulfill orders and lack of responsiveness to customer queries and complaints hurts businesses. This was the case with Raru, an online store founded by pioneers of e-commerce in South Africa.
Raru was started in 2014 by Neil Smith, Waine Smith, and Jose Pereira. These brave men co-founded Take 2 which was the forerunner of Takealot. Until its liquidation and closure in 2022, it was a reputable e-commerce platform. This was after eight years of operating and carving out a niche in the online retail space with a focus on gaming, electronics, and entertainment.
Raru’s closure may be reflective of your online store and business practices in general. It is a reminder that your business is always going to be as good as the last order you delivered or service you rendered.
According to various media sources, Raru started receiving a steady stream of complaints via Hello Peter throughout 2022, a platform designed to help customers review businesses and services. The complaints varied from customers not getting refunds promptly, to prolonged delays in receiving items they had purchased. Some reviews on the platform called Raru a scam and warned prospective customers of the challenges they faced when dealing with the online store.
According to several media sources, Raru started receiving a steady stream of complaints via Hello Peter throughout 2022, a platform designed to help customers review businesses and services. The complaints varied from customers not getting refunds promptly, to prolonged delays in receiving items they had purchased. Some reviews on the platform called Raru a scam and warned prospective customers of the challenges they faced when dealing with the online store.
To mitigate the complaints, a common business practice is to offer alternative products or items similar to the one a customer is trying to purchase. This is something Raru attempted to do, but failed to deliver alternative products on several occasions. The last resort is for a business to offer a refund, something that many can ill afford, and something which SMEs understand all too well. In the case of Raru, they not only failed to refund angry customers but did not follow legislation that they cited to protect themselves from refunding customers once it was clear they were unable to help them in their purchasing journey:
“…..the refund takes 30 days to process, “as per the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act…..”
Even after 30 days, refunds were still not forthcoming. It is difficult for a company to recover when it repeatedly fails to deliver and stick to its word.
It is imperative that business owners be sensitive to customer queries and complaints, and respond to them as soon as is feasible. Customers may not always be right, but they need to be respected at all times.
Now that you know what to avoid below are a few suggestions on what you can do to ensure you keep your operations going and customers keep buying from your online store.
What to do:
- Email – It is recommended that you respond immediately to a customer request (even if the first response is an automated message that acknowledges and gives an idea of the next steps.) This not only shows courtesy but also professionalism in maintaining customer engagement. We know being an entrepreneur is full of juggling and prioritising, automating your communication frees you up to focus on the important things.
- Stock Levels – Keep your stock levels accurate on your online store and third-party platforms to avoid any back-and-forth with customers. It’s crucial and worth the effort.
- Accurate Production Descriptions -Product descriptions should be accurate and detailed. Use keywords to help customers understand specifications, but never misrepresent the product for profit.
- Honesty – Be honest with customers when they have questions or complaints. It will save you headaches. This applies to when customers can expect the delivery of their orders and processing refunds. Surprisingly, customers are understanding, especially for small businesses.
We hope this was helpful to you. If you have any questions or suggestions, or if you need help. Please feel free to reach out to us via WhatsApp at +27788200729, or send an email to email@example.com.