With very little fanfare, we launched our webshop the week before Christmas. Not really the ideal time, but hey, it was ready, we thought we might sell a couple pints to people still undecided as to Christmas dessert. In the week before, I started furiously stockpiling pints of ice cream, the half litre containers of ice cream “for taking home” that really were the reason for the shop to exist in the first place. I dragged my manager in and out of vintage outfits at a 7.30am photo shoot for the webshop, I flogged our poor webmistress to get the damn thing up in record time (and very beautifully, I must say), and I very nearly turned away family members who wanted to purchase pints, in case they depleted my precious reserve of pints that I was convinced would disappear in record time once we launched the webshop. Well, we launched, we held our breaths, and… nothing happened.
Three weeks later, I think I’ve sold maybe five pints of ice cream in the shop, total, and at least three of those were to people I know. After our pre-Christmas nonevent, we thought things would pick up in the new year, when people return to work and start actually reading all the fabulous online press attention we have been receiving. Not so much. So here I am, scratching my head, doing quite a decent trade in pints as a sideline at our scoop stalls at various markets, and from people popping by the kitchen door, but with a webshop that’s deader than an ice lolly in winter.
It only really occurred to me this weekend, after spending an hour showing my mother how to right click, copy & paste photos on her computer, that there is one thing I totally didn’t think about: South Africans just don’t shop online.
I spent five years in the States in my early twenties, and even now I dimly recall my initial awe at how anything, absolutely anything, can be purchased online in the country that pretty much pioneered rampant consumerism. Within a couple months though I was buying everything from second hand furniture to clothing from the comfort of my desk, without a second thought. But when I try to recall what I have actually bought online in this country since returning in 2006, I draw a blank. A couple books? Heirloom seeds? I’ve bought a lot of both since 2006 – but on American websites, and sent to relatives in the States to bring out on their holidays.
While I haven’t totally given up on the webshop, I do feel that I might have misjudged the South African context. South Africans are definitely more web savvy than they were even two or three years ago, but online purchasing of food items is still relatively uncommon. Woolworths has now entered the fray, which will hopefully make it a bit more mainstream. But for now, we are still processing email, phone, twitter and other not-on-our-beautiful-webshop methods of ordering.