Macaroon Collection has become a #SuccessStory by supplying premium lifestyle accessories, including bags and international-brand footwear, plus their own Roon jewellery range. We sat down with owner and founder, Michelle du Plessis, to chat about her ecommerce journey and what advice she would give to entrepreneurs who are just starting out.
When you built your online store, how long did it take you to complete the journey from concept to launch? You can include a background as to why and how you started selling the goods you sell.
So when I started selling “online” in 2012, online shopping was not a thing. It may have been in Europe and the USA, but here in South Africa people would look at me with an odd expression and ask “Do you actually make money like that?”.
When I started selling my first few handbags, I didn’t have an online store. I just took a few photos and made a post on my Facebook page saying “Hello friends, who want to buy a bag?”. I had five bags… I sold seven. And so, Macaroon Collection was born.
It wasn’t until 2013 when someone told me about ecommerce that I discovered a platform to create a website to sell my products on. And it was in 2015 that I discovered the wonderful world of Shopify and started the journey to making Macaroon Collection a fully-fledged online store.
What did you find was the easiest or simplest part of getting started online?
The easiest part for me was the fact that I already had products to sell. I knew what I was selling and that I needed an online presence. I must be honest in saying that there was no “difficult” part. I would suggest to anyone who wants to start selling online, to simply take it step by step. Register an online store, get your domain, then work through the platform you chose (be it Shopify or WooCommerce or whichever you have selected), and fill in the information as you go.
For me, the most challenging part of the online space is getting the right product photos/images. They take time to shoot and very often photography costs a lot of money to get quality photos to sell your product.
Thinking back, how did you approach the task of online marketing and what resources do you use nowadays for inspiration or functionality?
To be completely honest, I have a Masters’ degree in Marketing and currently lecture Digital Marketing at the University of Pretoria, so I kind of have a cheat card there. I just did what I do best – strategically plan my marketing.
I use a range of platforms from various social platforms like Facebook and Instagram, and then Mailchimp and Google. I also play around with various apps on my phone which create amazing content.
There are two key factors one must consider when planning and executing your marketing:
1. It must be planned and intentional; and
2. Content is King.
Which platforms would you recommend for ecommerce, accounting, shipping, marketing (etc) and how do you stick it all together?
Hands down – without question – Shopify is the way to go for your ecommerce store. I have worked with people who have their stores on other platforms and compared to them, Shopify is not only miles ahead of the game, but it is super user-friendly.
Accounting I work with SageOne.
Shipping – Bob Go (Of course! There is no other option).
In choosing software or platforms to work with, you need to assess which one is going to give you what you need. Each business is different, and each person is different. So, depending on your needs and your financial recourses (we all have budgets to work within), you choose your platforms from there.
What would you say are the current pitfalls of starting an online business in South Africa?
Covid forced everyone online, so the competition is TOUGH. Everyone who wanted to start a side hustle thought they could open an online store and one of two things happened:
1. A whole flood of drop-shipment, bad-quality imports hit the South African online market; or
2. Really bad customer service was given and/or online stores failed within a year or so.
Both scenarios resulted in a lot of people losing faith in the online stores of South Africa. This is tough for us as established businesses to overcome. I often have clients calling me asking me “are you real?” or “how do I know I am going to get what I see online”. Do not get me wrong – I am a big advocator for entrepreneurship (the reason I am doing this interview is to encourage people to start their own thing) but the problem is that people think it is easy. If you want to start an online business, you must ensure that you are providing a great service for a quality product, and creating a sense of TRUST with your customers.
What, in your view, is the thing holding most companies back when trying to decide whether to sell online or in a traditional brick-and-mortar store?
A brick-and-mortar store is a whole other ball game – one I played in for sixteen months back in 2015/2016 and will never subject myself to again. The hours, the staff, the shoplifting, the pressure – it was just not for me. I will say that I take my hat off to the people who own and work in physical retail stores. It is a whole other monster.
As for online – again, people think you can set up an online store cheaply and without much capital; but this is not true. Buying and holding stock requires some of your cash to be tied up too.
I have been in business now for eleven, going on twelve years, and I still say to so many other entrepreneurs that while the business is going strong, I have made peace with the fact that cash flow will always (and I mean, always) be the challenge.
Moving on to Bob Go now – how long have you been a Bob Go merchant?
I stand corrected, but if I can get all my squirrels to stand still for two minutes – I do believe I have been with Bob Go since 2015. [This is correct! Michelle has been a merchant since February 2015!]
What is your favourite feature on Bob Go at the moment?
Bob Go is my favourite feature… All of it! The simple fact that I no longer have to write a waybill is magic!
Add to it that, when I get an order on Shopify, it is all integrated. I go onto Bob Go, and a few clicks later my courier is booked (and I get to choose from a variety of shipping companies that provide the best service at the best rate for the specific area I am sending a package to). That’s not all though: I get an email, the courier gets notified and my client gets their tracking details – all in one seamless process.
I often have courier companies who call me asking if they can be a service provider for me. And I simply say to them – “If you are not on Bob Go I will not work with you. Sorry! Call Bob Go and get onto their system – then you will have my business”.
What would you like to see on Bob Go that isn’t currently available?
International shipping. I think the South African online industry needs to break into the rest of the world – especially Africa. I looked at integrating another shipping app onto my store, but it is just tedious. If Bob Go can add an international shipping partner (or two), my life and the lives of a host of other e-commerce stores will be drastically changed (for the better).
What advice would you offer someone that is considering starting an online business in 2023?
Stop thinking and start doing…. It is not always easy, but it is so rewarding. Good luck!
Visit Macaroon Collection for the most luxurious premium lifestyle accessories today.