Like the question, “what came first, the chicken or the egg?” “What is Terminal Africa?” Is an ambiguous question that can be quite tricky to answer. An acceptable answer is that “Terminal Africa is an online platform that helps entrepreneurs grow their business online”. Okay, but how you may ask? After all, growing an online business is not a simple straightforward task. There are multiple factors at play and numerous decisions to consider. To grow, you have to get new customers, convince them to try your product or service, satisfy them enough that they come back or at least tell others about you then repeat and repeat and repeat. All the while making sure your business expenses stay low and your profits stay high. I mean, it’s a lot.
Simply put, growing a business is very very complicated so Terminal Africa being a product that helps businesses grow, by default is also very complicated. In order to answer this question of what Terminal Africa is properly, I’m going to point out 4 major problems I believe businesses face when they are trying to grow online and how Terminal Africa provides a solution for each one. With this, the concept of Terminal as a product and what it really does should be much clearer to understand.
1. Visibility - It doesn’t matter which industry you’re in, chances are there are hundreds or possibly thousands of similar brands to yours on the internet. So the ability of a business to stand out and attract potential customers is very important. If you can't, your brand gets lost in the sea of content and potential customers go to the most attention grabbing competitor.
Many businesses in this part of the world struggle with being visible online because they lack a presence outside of social media. This means that apart from on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc. these kinds of brands are invisible online. & yes, social media pages are quite useful but it can also be limiting when it comes to telling a business story or history, managing customers and taking in orders. Mainly because most social media apps were built to help us socialise and not sell our entire brand to our customers.
For this problem of visibility, Terminal Africa offers both free and paid website services to business owners. For us at Termibal, we see a website as a piece of digital real estate for a business on the internet. Think of a website as your house in the online world. It is where your potential customers visit to find out more about your business. With a website, potential customers can learn all more about what a business does and what to expect from its service without assistance. Plus a website is available 24/7, so even when you’re asleep it can take orders and answer your customers questions. The usual repetive questions about the business location, process and prices are all available in a clear structured manner on your website. This drastically improves the chances of the customer making a purchase as the brand will come across as more professional and legitimate. Which is why like actual real estate, the value of a website tends to keep increasing over time.
A website also helps increase google rankings and meaning businesses with active websites are more likely to appear when searched online stand out from its competitors. In terms of referrals, it easily allows people to share your business and what you’re about, making it easier to grow by acquiring new customers.
2. Payments - As a business, getting paid is crucial as being profitable is the number one goal in any entrepreneurial endeavor. Businesses are hesitant about payments due to many reasons, the main one being that the process can be complicated, requiring a lot of form filling and bureaucracy. To avoid this, a lot of business owners simply rely on using their personal bank accounts for transfer payments.
For a business like this, it’s nearly impossible to acquire customers outside of their immediate region. The online world offers an amazing opportunity for entrepreneurs to interact and acquire customers globally but relying on bank transfers for payments makes it impossible for such a business to charge international customers. The problem is so deep that for many business owners, the thought of even acquiring international customers seems unrealistic despite the fact a solution exists.
With Terminal Africa, any business owner can charge and receive payments from anybody, anywhere in the world in up to 14 different currencies. By partnering with multiple payment companies like Flutterwave, Paystack, Stripe and ApplePay, we’ve made it possible for ambitious business owners to spread their reach and take on new customers without having to worry about how they will get their money. With our digital invoices and payment links, SME’s no longer have to limit their offerings to their immediate locations. The implications of this kind of payment solution for business owners looking to grow online are immense and it also ties in very closely to the next problem.
3. Logistics - Okay, so you became visible and got paid by a customer outside of your region. Now you have to send this customer whatever they paid for. What do you do?
Logistics has been a major problem for business owners due to similar issues seen in payments, the process can be complicated, tedious and downright discouraging. Entrepreneurs who constantly have to ship their products can testify to not only how difficult it can be to set up, but how hard managing the delivery setup can be. Logistic companies can be unpredictable and also unreliable making many business owners prefer to just serve customers that are located close to them.
For this problem, Terminal Africa has partnered with over 7 different world class logistic companies giving business owners an unprecedented way to handle deliveries. Our solution gives the unique ability to compare and choose between delivery services in a fast and easy manner. It also means businesses can send their products across the country and even internationally. All of this can be done from the comfort of their desktop or mobile phone.
Terminal also offers exclusive discounts on shipping rates to encourage SME’s to make use of the services. Some of the discounts are as high as 30% meaning we save them a lot of money on each shipment.
4. Insights - The problem of insights is easily the most overlooked of all the issues being faced by businesses struggling to grow. This is due to the fact that the value of insights aren’t always so clear to see, especially in the early stages. There is a general disregard for data collecting in our society and this has also affected our businesses.
By insights, I refer to how knowledgeable business owners are about their business / industry. Questions like what is your best selling product / service? What is your least selling product / service? Which is your highest selling month? Who are your top selling customers? Where are these customers located? Many business owners struggle to accurately answer these questions due to the fact they aren’t keeping records of their business activities.
And to be honest, I can’t blame them. Record keeping can be boring and monotonous, plus if it’s done on paper, those records serve as only reminders and can’t provide valuable insights to business owners. This is why the task of record keeping is usually pushed to the bottom of the to-do list because entrepreneurs are too busy worrying about making sales, attending to customers and generally surviving.
However, without these records it is impossible to generate insights and without insights it's impossible to accurately keep track of what you’re doing or make the right plans for your business. For example, if you can accurately point out what your least selling product is, you can decide to offer discounts or promos on it. Or stop offering that particular service entirely. If you know where your most important customers are located you can decide to run ads in that region to boost sales. If you know which month is your best selling month, you can increase your prices for that period and boost profits. If you know when you sell the least you can reduce prices in an effort to increase your sales for that period. The potential of insights are almost endless.
With Terminal, business owners can easily keep records and gain insights from their business activities. A lot of the records are collected and stored automatically as well, meaning you don’t even have to worry about keeping it up to date. Plus because these records are collected digitally, they can be used to provide accurate information in the form of graphs, charts etc. about what is working well or not for your business (insights). This in turn helps you as a business owner plan and strategize better. Terminal provides insight to business owners is through our interactive dashboard, which showcases a wide range of relevant data in a simple manner and is updated automatically.
Based on these problems and solutions, let’s try to summarise what Terminal Africa does to help business owners grow. First, it helps businesses be more visible and attract customers online by giving them a constant digital presence on the internet, this is done via a website. Then Terminal helps these businesses securely collect payment and deliver their services to customers both within and outside their region all from their mobile phones or computers. Finally, it provides business owners with valuable information based on their day-to-day activities, helping them make smarter decisions as they move forward.
So there you have it, Terminal is a fully hosted business platform for African SME’s. By offering digital solutions for businesses having problems with visibility, payments, logistics and insights we are helping them grow online in the best way possible. Getting started has never been easier as well! You can add your brand to the Terminal Africa family of over 1000 Africa businesses for free here! Let’s help you take your business to the next level!