Meet BFore, a local startup and online retailer that sells electronic items that include laptops, TVs, sound systems, cameras, cellphones and more.
However, BFore, previously a successful offline store, is more than just another online retailer, it also specialises in prepaid cellular contracts and is the first major online retailer to offer online credit and financing to its customers, something which the startup is focussing on maintaining and improving at the moment. Not only that, but there is more to come from BFore.
With a number of other online retailers already established in the increasingly popular space of online retail in SA, what was it that motivated BFore to be a part of it? BFore CEO, Richard Palmer explains that “the inspiration started from the fact that there are a high number of clients rejected by the cellular networks due to credit verification issues. We wanted to provide a contract type solution to customers without them having to go through the vetting procedures.”
As a result, BFore came up with what is a ‘prepaid contract’ scenario whereby they purchase packages currently supplied by MTN and then sell them to the client. The client can then pay for the package using a credit card, by EFT or alternatively applying for finance.
MTN was the natural choice for Palmer who having worked at the company was able to effectively master their system. Mark Atkinson, Creative Director at Red Giant Design who designed the website explains that “due to a long-standing relationship with MTN, BFore is now often able to secure exclusive special offers, which allows BFore to compete with other big online retailers. BFore will continue to search for avenues through which it can offer customers more choice when it comes to their cellular packages.
Previously, in order to purchase an expensive cellphone, laptop or television, you would have had to travel to a particular offline shop and apply in-store for credit. Now all users need to do is place an order on BFore.co.za and choose to apply for credit on checkout. They will be whisked away to the BFore online credit application which, on completion, will be reviewed by the BFore sales team. If all goes well, the customer will receive his/her new products in just a few days.
Palmer originally founded the business with Shaun Aucamp who now provides backup support to the company’s CEO. It all started with a very basic website design that was, as Palmer admits, “totally unsuited to our needs”. This resulted in one of the challenges faced when setting up BFore as they realised that when they attempted to improve the original version, the developer had, unbeknownst to them, registered the domain in his own name. On top of that, he required a substantial fee to release the domain back to its founders. Add to that the usual challenges associated with obtaining finance and it wasn’t an easy start for a startup in SA.
“Beyond that,” says Palmer, “there was lots to learn about advertising, through traditional methods and online through which the company received tremendous support from the design and support team at Red Giant Design“.
Now that they are up and running, the hard work continues as BFore will encounter challenges from online fraud, the constantly changing availability of stock and prices and of course, competitors. With more to come from BFore, this will certainly be an interesting space to watch.