At Yoco we are the venture for small businesses. We are our customers! In October 2017, we opened the doors to the first Yoco store in Parkhurst, Johannesburg. With the majority of our card reader sales and sign-ups taking place through the online store, this was quite a departure from what we knew about offering card machines to potential merchants.
Since the official launch of the store on a warm November evening, we haven’t looked back. We have now become a retailer like many of our customers, and feel that we have deepened this connection as we continue on our path as a venture for SMBs.
So, here’s why we decided to open up our very first retail store, how we went about it and what we learned (and are still learning) along the way. If you are thinking of opening your first outlet, we hope you find some of our learnings useful.
Why open a physical store?
Since 2015, 18 000 new businesses have signed up and bought the Yoco card acceptance solution nationwide. The majority of these sales were made through our online store, making Yoco an eCommerce company. As proud as we are of this growth, eCommerce makes up less than 2% of total retail in South Africa.
With this reality, we wanted to see if opening a physical store had the potential to unlock a new growth channel for us. But it is more than just a potential growth channel…
When we started Yoco, we sold a single product that let micro vendors and other small businesses accept card payments for the first time. One product and one website, and that website showed you that single product, how it worked and how to buy it.
We needed a new way to interact with our diversifying customer base and the new products we offer. The store provided an opportunity to address the needs of more complex businesses with the point of sale software, integrations and hardware. We found that an in-person experience is incredibly useful for both ourselves and our customers.
The idea behind the store is to give business owners like us an opportunity to try out our products and have a hands-on experience with our card machines, Point of Sale App, integrations and hardware. We also wanted to create a space for events and special moments and a support desk for troubleshooting problems. See the full journey leading up to the store, in photos, here.
Setting up the store and learning along the way
Designing a store with a brand that has such a strong identity was a good base to work from – but it was still far from easy. After spending many hours brainstorming everything from concepts to tone, here’s some of the conclusions we came to:
The customer journey within the store was probably the most extensive conversation we had. We wanted to focus on creating the most delightful store experience possible.
Some of the questions we asked were:
- Where do we want people first to go as they enter the store?
- How do we want traffic to flow?
- What items should we stock?
- Where should we place the counter?
- Being a mobile payment company, do we even need a counter?
We worked hard on getting the smoothest and most effortless processes in place. If you sign up for Yoco in-store, it’s as efficient and straightforward if you visited our website. It was a very proud moment when the first of many entrepreneurs walked out of the store 100% set-up and ready to use his Yoco device within 20 minutes.
In addition, we made sure all the items in the store are completely mobile because we want the freedom to adapt as needed. The counter, tables, hardware and everything else can easily be moved around and adjusted, or packed away in the back.
Smells and Sounds
The atmosphere of the store is key to the experience, and smell and sound play a prominent role in this. We asked ourselves – what does Yoco smell like?
After much discussion we decided that having a fresh smell was the way to go. After multiple options and 30 smell tests later, we found what we were looking for – a smell that embodied “growth” and felt clean and fresh.
When it came to music, we brought in an expert. We’re lucky enough to have a bonafide rockstar on our team (check out Grassy Spark if you have not already) who helped curate a playlist. If you’re creating a store playlist and don’t have the privilege of knowing a real life musician, services like iTunes and Deezer are great for discovering music to suit a certain mood.
Materials and colours
If you’re opening a physical store and already have an online presence, the materials and colour you choose will naturally be an extension of your online identity.
We picked the playful Yoco blue for areas that we wanted to get some attention. It’s a beautiful colour to work with and helps break the seriousness. The overall look and feel of the store is clean and minimalist, and the Yoco blue helps break that.
The wooden oak drawers, shelves and demo tables add a sense of stability and seriousness, something that’s very important when you’re selling a product that’s so crucial to running a business. The concrete floor is not only modern but also hints back to the pure and straight forward values we keep as a company.
Setting up a physical store is hard. No one really talks about the difficult parts of getting started – everything takes longer than you think and there’s loads of stress and last minute aha moments.
But all that sweat is well worth the human contact, sharing hundreds of new beginnings, and seeing your first customer walking out of your store happy. Nothing inspires us more than that entrepreneurial ambition.
Come visit us at the Yoco Store on the corner of 4th Avenue and 11th Street, Parkhurst in Johannesburg.