It’s been my best and worst year since I started websiting. If I write everything you’ll swear I’m making it up. At it’s peak I was flying above the stratosphere with grand visions of Forward Multimedia going interstellar at ten times the speed of light! At its worst I considered scaling back and diversifying to the natural business complement of poultry farming.
Boy, you go thorough things and meet some real characters in life and business and then some. Fortunately I’m not psychotic else I would have already run amok and killed somebody. Also fortunately, if I did, I would get away real clean as you know in Trinidad & Tobago you can literally get away with murder.
As always, I present to you my year-end review as I officially complete 2016. I’ll state here at the beginning that any grand plans for 2017 have gone out the window. I’ve decided to stay small the way I am and really scale back as I said. I’m going to concentrate on personal website projects and other unrelated activities that will occupy my time, including the aforementioned poultry farming, I really wasn’t kidding about that!
I present my review, touching on general business at Forward Multimedia, but the focus is to highlight events that affect you as relates to websites and E-Commerce.
First Quarter 2016
January 2016 started out slow and tentative, I guess with the change in government. It gave me time to complete pending sites from the previous year, a few of which are still pending even at the end of 2016 and almost all of 2016 are still pending as we go into 2017… sigh. I was able to hit my targets still with a combination of regular WordPress and E-Commerce sites and on paper I’ve had a banner year!
Old clients out of the woodworks for website updates
While new website business was tentative at best at the start, I began getting calls from clients whose sites remain untouched since launch asking for updates and even calls to resurrect long expired sites. I attribute this to the economic uncertainty, perhaps even grasping at straws in an effort to be competitive in the new year.
Mobile App Inquiries
I never really pushed mobile app development in Trinidad & Tobago (see what I did there? Drop me a line if you did). The reason being I had to outsource to India, and while these Indians are great at what they do, in my experience they require a lot of babysitting and I don’t have time to babysit. So I’ve been deflecting most of the inquiries. Even without promotion, I am on the first page of Google for the keyword by the strength of my site alone (my mobile app page is not even indexed), so it’s in my interest really to start pushing.
Cybercrime incident inquiries
I also rank well for cybercrime (not in committing it!), and I began to receive many calls and email from individuals thinking I was the Cybercrime Unit because of my page. This continued all year unfortunately and it would appear that incidents are growing in number.
E-Commerce, PayPal assistance, Payment Gateway inquiries
E-Commerce interest remained at a steady clip but I started getting many calls and emails from individuals requiring assistance with PayPal. I helped as much as I could but let me state clearly DON’T BOTHER WITH PAYPAL because it’s still a headache and not worth the headache. Two alternative options came up later down the year that would negate the need for PayPal as a cheaper solution.
Second Quarter 2016
April and May started out hot and heavy but boiled down like bhagi in June. By the end of June only two sites for the year were completed, one from February and one from April, and that total would remain as is till the end of December 2016. Yes, for the entire 2016, only two sites have been completed.
First FAC payment gateway integration with Republic Bank
In May 2016 I got an E-Commerce project for a Magento online store and the client was a customer of Republic Bank. Republic came on board as the third local bank to offer the First Atlantic Commerce (FAC) payment gateway (the first was Scotiabank- who I don’t recommend). All of my previous integrations were via First Citizens Bank (FCB) and I enjoyed working with them so I was eager to see what the Republic Bank experience would be.
Fortunately, I can’t complain but truth be told, FCB was more personable while Republic seemed to be more business. In a straight up comparison with costs and rates for the solution, I would say that both banks are pretty even with no clear winner so it may boil down to a matter of preference, unless of course you are really nitpicky and number-crunchy.
I learned the hard way that Republic Bank has an additional fraud protection layer called Kount which ended up costing more to integrate which I had to pay out of pocket. It was also a nightmare to integrate. I did voice my concerns and pointed out that FCB’s solution was fine without it. After this integration I was happy to learn that Republic made it optional.
First FedEx integration with Magento E-Commerce
I’ve had an ongoing Magento project for an online store that will market internationally and the client preferred a more robust shipping system to calculate delivery instead of pre-determined rates due to the nature of the items. Magento has FedEx compatibility enabled by default and I worked with the local FedEx office to integrate my client’s account.
I was surprised how easy the process was and FedEx was on point with the process, I actually had very little to do and now we can ship with FedEx.
Please note that FedEx doesn’t do local delivery so if you are thinking about it, it’s only for shipping out of the country.
Third Quarter 2016
Despite the low completion rate I was able to hold my head above water financially with new projects in the third quarter. However, I was overwhelmed by a high work volume because of having about a dozen sites in progress which began stressing me out and unable to cope, so much so I had to cry uncle and stop taking on projects in September.
Enter local company similar to PayPal
In August I was contacted by a relatively new local provider similar to PayPal. At the time I was really busy so never got the time to meet and I couldn’t find the time to properly test. Before I can reveal who it is and endorse, I need to thoroughly test it first. Closer to the end of the year I did get the WordPress plug-in so I integrated on my site, but I observed a compatibly issue that I didn’t have time to troubleshoot so it remained on the back-burner.
In 2017 I’ll revisit this payment option and put it through the paces, give my full review and endorse as necessary.
Enter a local 'Cash on Delivery (COD)' company, integrating with Magento
I was also happy to connect with a local company that designed their own delivery module which was integrated on a client’s Magento website. As of ending of last year there were some minor tweaking to do after my initial tests but it looked very promising for local delivery and the programmer has indicated plans for a WordPress version.
What’s even more promising is their additional Cash on Delivery (COD) service which is the ultimate solution for offline payments. This is great for website owners who don’t offer online payments and is a second alternative to PayPal.
Fourth Quarter 2016
In an attempt to close out sites for the year, I gave all clients notice well in advance to finish projects by December 22nd or risk being at the back of the queue in 2017 when new projects would take precedence.
The effect was nil with none of them being finished, and I will start 2017 with eight WordPress and three Magento sites still in progress. To give you and idea what that represents, if I were to get these eleven sites to start from scratch in January as new business, I won’t have to take another new project till January 2018.
7% Online Tax
I wrote a full article about this back in October so I won’t repeat it here except to say it still remains an ill-advised, punitive tax that has zero chance of achieving the desired effect. Read that article here 7% Tax on Online Purchases Won’t Stop Shopping on US Sites.
First WordPress First Atlantic Commerce (FAC) Integration
Finally, a chance to bring down the cost of setting up an online store with the less expensive and more user friendly WordPress platform. This should open up local E-Commerce to smaller companies and individuals. This site should go live in early 2017 and I’ll do a full write-up on it then.
A local Mobile App Partnership
A while ago I met with an individual from a start-up at one of our e-Teck Parks who was developing his own app. Because of the number of serious inquiries I had over 2016, I decided to reach out to him to see if we can have some form of partnership so I can refer clients. I’m happy to say that this will come to fruit in 2017.
And there you have it. I have no idea what to expect in 2017 with the economy and the general state of our country. I live by the philosophy of doing what I can with what’s within my control and what’s out of my control makes no sense beating my self up about it.
That doesn’t mean to say that it’s going to be all doom and gloom, just not all roses and sunshine. I still see business websites and E-Commerce moving ahead as they are not optional business tools anymore and all business owners in Trinidad & Tobago recognize and accept that.
Lastly, I want to thank you, my readers and followers who have made my site and blog so successful. Every call I get is prefaced by “I’ve been reading your articles…”. I appreciate all of you and here’s to a successful 2017.