SA start-up Snaply on Tuesday took the covers off a platform that will allow ordinary SA businesses the chance to run their own online stores.
The idea was conceived by Jonathan Page and Jonathan Smit, founders of website The Classifieds. The Classifieds, which has investment from online auction site Bidorbuy, is providing funding for Snaply.
Page, who is both MD of The Classifieds and Snaply, says the idea to build a platform that allows users to create their own online shops is not new. “There are several international competitors and a few expected to launch locally,” he says. But he says Snaply fills a market segment that has long been absent in the country.
Once users have created an account on the site, it allows them to build an online shop and almost instantly start selling products to potential customers.
For the time being, users can choose one of four pricing plans, each with its own features and limitations. The basic plan is free and allows users to load up to five products in the store at a time.
The most expensive offering is R250/month and allows users to upload 1 000 products at any given time.
The company is flexible, though. “Our system is scaleable and can accept up to 10 000 products. But we may only release that option much later,” says Page.
Setting up a store is as easy as signing up to the site and adding products to a marketplace.
“We wanted to make the launch offering as simple as possible and as easy to use as possible. I want to make millionaires,” says Page.
At launch, the site supports payment options through a system created by PayFast.co.za, an SA payments aggregator. PayFast allows credit card transfers, instant electronic transfers and payment through Ukash. Debit card settlements are planned soon.
Users have to sign up with PayFast to connect their stores to the online transactions it offers, which requires registration under rules of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act. However, Page says Snaply users can also use offline transaction methods or regular electronic transfer options.
“We wanted to get users a fully transacting store in minutes and not months,” he says. “Eventually, we want to incorporate other payment platforms such as PayPal and Google Checkout.”
Between launch at midday on Tuesday and late afternoon, the service had already signed up 64 customers.
The process to get an online store going in SA has often taken months of development. And business owners typically have to pay for bandwidth, too. Snaply users have the option of letting the company register a domain name for them, and will not charge for incoming bandwidth usage.
“Also, if people want to improve their brand presence with a real e-mail address and not simply ‘[email protected]’ we are offering e-mail addresses as well,” Page says.
These two services are bolted on, and are the first in a series of new features and products the company plans to offer in the coming months.
The ability to add blog posts will also soon be available, and new themes will be released to change the look and feel of users’ online stores. Snaply also develops themes for clients.
At launch, the only income Snaply will receive is the subscription to the service. However, Page has big plans to build a service similar to Google’s AdSense. “We want the smaller stores to advertise in the larger stores to get traffic. We are still thinking about how that advertising model will work, but effectively it will be our own AdSense,” says Page.
Page says Snaply is still in its infancy. However, he says he is looking at developing an ecosystem around Snaply. Having access to The Classifieds and, at a higher level, Bidorbuy, means customers can advertise and market across all the available platforms in the stable.
“Most people, when they start an online store, then ask ‘what now’? We hope to find a way for them to get the eyeballs on their stores,” he says.
For now, Snaply is only available in SA, but Page says the plan is to take the service to the rest of Africa. — Candice Jones, TechCentral
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