Unbreakable Man specialises in indestructible style and resilient accessories for men – and they count on Bob Go to fulfil and ship their orders of bracelets, cufflinks and more.
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.
When I started Unbreakable Man, it took me about a month and a half to get samples and get them selling online. I specifically chose men’s jewellery because I have a background in jewellery and it was an easy product to sell online. More importantly, it is an easy product to ship with the couriers. Setting up my online store on Shopify was actually the easiest part of my process, with my online store taking me just four days to set up. 11 years later, I’m still on Shopify and very happy to have the power of
Shopify on my side as a small business.
What did you find was the easiest or simplest part of getting started online?
When I finally ‘discovered’ Shopify in 2012, it was a revelation – an ‘A-ha!’ moment. I had tried all the other platforms including, WordPress, PrestaShop etc. and found these platforms an exercise in pure frustration. When I landed on Shopify, I was hooked. It took me four days to upload my products, connect payment gateways and set up my domain, and four days later I had my first sale. Using Shopify definitely made setting up an online store the easiest part of my business.
Thinking back, how did you approach the task of online marketing and what resources do you use nowadays for inspiration or functionality?
Back in 2012, getting traffic was actually a lot easier to do than it is today. Our strategy at that time centred pretty heavily around SEO, email marketing and social media, and we did it all manually. We painstakingly worked through each page on our site to make sure that our pages were SEO-friendly, and then created rudimentary graphics for our mailers and social media posts from what few tools were available. Now we use primarily Canva to create cool graphics, Offeo to create short format videos and rely on HootSuite to schedule our social posts and report back to us across our social media channels from one dashboard. We may also be using a little bit of AI to help us with things like graphics and copy.
Which platforms would you recommend for ecommerce, accounting, shipping, marketing (etc) and how do you stick it all together?
For me, I believe that there is only one platform for ecommerce, and that’s Shopify. We’ve been with them for 11 years and we’ve watched Shopify evolve and become not just a tool for ecommerce, but commerce as a whole. From the very beginning of Unbreakable Man, we would exhibit at expos and shows using Shopify POS to make sure we captured inventory, order information and customer details correctly. Now their POS is used by huge retailers across the world! We’ve watched invaluable tools like Bob Go evolve around Shopify and become a crucial part of thousands of merchants in South Africa.
From an accounting perspective, I really like QuickBooks. It connects to Shopify, syncs orders and customers, is easy to manage on a cellphone and easy to understand.
Marketing is largely handled by Shopify in the form of posts and mailers and shipping is exclusively handled by Bob Go because of the excellent software that the folks at Bob Go have created. When (formerly) uAfrica first came out with its shipping app, it completely revolutionised how my team and I shipped out orders.
To tie it all together, we use Shopify as the core of our business and integrate everything into that. Our social media is integrated, accounting is integrated and shipping is integrated. For me running a business is hard enough – your processing shouldn’t be difficult too.
What would you say are the current pitfalls of starting an online business in South Africa?
This is a tough question and something I’ve thought about a lot over the past 2 years or so. I will say that starting a business in South Africa today is easier than ever. It’s easier to register a company, setup a website, or ship products and get some form of marketing up than ever before in human history. But that in itself makes the market more competitive. So I would warn a new business against selling ‘generic’ products’ with low margins in a competitive space. I think marketing is harder and more expensive now than it has ever been, with fewer conversions per click than perhaps there were 5 years ago. And I think any online retailer today has to have a strategy to sell in-person in some form, whether that be at pop-ups or shows or markets. A sale is a sale.
What, in your view, is the thing holding most companies back when trying to decide whether to sell online or in a traditional bricks and mortar store?
I think the only thing defining ‘online’ and ‘in-store’ these days is the merchant’s own mindset. Does it really matter where you’re selling? What matters is that you are, in fact, selling. I do think that with an online store, the costs are fairly low in comparison to opening a permanent, physical store, but I would encourage merchants to look at in-person selling opportunities like shows, markets and other forms of physical sales. It seems a little counterintuitive, but the more people you physically talk to, the more people will visit your website and buy. Selling online and in-store are no longer mutually exclusive.
Moving on to Bob Go now – how long have you been a Bob Go merchant?
I have been a Bob Go merchant for about 7 years now. I think we were one of the first twenty merchants to sign up, so it’s been a long, fruitful and happy relationship. It’s been a pleasure to watch the system evolve around merchants’ needs and specific gripes to what it is today.
What is your favourite feature on Bob Go at the moment?
Bob Go is a vital part of our business and has helped us save time and money, while helping our customers have a better online shopping experience. For me, the best feature though is the returns functionality. Returns were always this hard and frustrating task; Bob Go turned it into something that can be done in a couple of clicks.
What would you like to see on Bob Go that isn’t currently available?
I would like to see Bob Go offer a way for local merchants to ship internationally. I understand there are all sorts of compliance boxes to tick when it comes to shipping abroad, but the world has become a much smaller place, and we are seeing increased traffic and queries from the rest of the world. It would be nice to be able to sell internationally and manage our global orders from the Bob Go dashboard too.
What advice would you offer someone that is considering starting an online business in 2023.
My advice is the same as it was back in 2012: just start. Get products, start online and get them sold. Business really is that simple. It’s navigating the details of that (marketing, shipping, accounting, taxes) that will give you grey hairs! But I will say that it is one crazy adventure and one that you will learn so much from – even if you fail.
Get your men’s accessories from Unbreakable Man today. Shop now.