An online PC store that started out in a bedroom in 2007 now has a factory and expansion plans in its midst. This is the story of Wootware; and considering its steady growth and presence on uAfrica's list of top 50 South African e-commerce sites, its story is a successful one.
We interviewed the founder of Wootware, Rory Magee, to learn about Wootware's secrets to survival in an increasingly saturated online tech market.
What sparked the idea for Wootware and how did it come into being?
Rory Magee: Having shopped online for computer components back in 2007, it seemed clear that there was an opportunity for improvement in the local market. We started up in a bedroom and fully bootstrapped the business from there. It wasn't uncommon for people to walk through the house to collect products. The first dedicated dispatch area that we used was in one half of my father's bedroom.
Since then, we've worked hard to build a team that's dedicated towards customer service. The number of customers that we've been able to assist has grown exponentially and we now occupy a factory, with expansion plans scheduled for the end of this year.
It’s been nearly a decade since you founded Wootware. How has the e-commerce landscape, and consumers, changed in SA since 2007?
Magee: While there are always new entrants to the market, it's also clear that the marketplace is a lot more competitive than it was back then. Computer components themselves have changed drastically, the gaming/modding markets have grown considerably. The percentage of users online in SA and those who are shopping online is also increasing dramatically. Customers are always seeking the retailer that can get them the best goods, at the most cost-effective price, the fastest.
How does your company differentiate itself from competitor online tech stores?
Magee: Product offering, customer service and support. Adding fun and playfulness to customer interactions. We also curate our product listings and offerings carefully. We believe in trying to focus on the best products to sell and to make it as easy as possible to get the most important information relevant to making a purchase decision from our site. We are here to offer help and advice where necessary and to help with customer's product choices wherever needed.
What e-commerce software does Wootware rely on?
Magee: Our store is run on a heavily customised and optimised Magento installation.
How is Wootware and its customers protected against cyber fraud?
Magee: Instead of processing credit cards and building the associated merchant fees and fraud risk into our pricing, we've opted to only accept EFT and cash payments so that we can keep prices as low as possible. Since no credit-card details are being passed to us, there's no risk of credit card fraud. We follow best practices to keep our site secure and any customer information that we do store safe. Customer passwords are encrypted and we apply any new security updates to our e-commerce platform as they're released. Our web host is also a top-tier platinum certified Magento hosting partner.
What are the biggest challenges associated with running an online store in SA?
Magee: Part of the excitement of running a business is precisely that it forces you think about challenges and overcoming obstacles in creative ways. The challenge of being able to focus on what's the most important thing and saying 'no' to the myriad of distractions or interruptions that may compete for time is one that stands out. Constantly learning and striving to improve how we serve our customers every day is another challenge that motivates us.
What is your long-term vision for Wootware?
Magee: To become the Newegg of South Africa. To bring joy to as many people as we can through our products and services. To further the learning and growth of each staff member at the company. More smiles, more wootage!
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