The increased connectedness of consumers is contributing to a more dynamic environment – one where expectations on what the buying experience must entail are evolving.
Thanks in part to the African mobile phone market that was expected to grow 6.2 percent quarter-on-quarter at the end of last year, people across the continent have come to rely on their devices as an important part of the retail process. In fact, the Online Retail in South Africa 2016 report published by World Wide Worx shows online retail accounting for one percent of the overall market in that year, equating to more than R9 billion.
In January 2018, South African retail sales showed that the market appears to be strengthening with a 3.1 percent year-on-year growth rate. And while there is still a long way to go, consumer confidence is also on the increase.
Technology provides an important link between the bricks-and-mortar and digital retail worlds. While consumers in the United States and United Kingdom are embracing a [predominantly] online-only buying experience, the South African market still requires a more integrated approach. Not only is this necessary to cater for those people who do not have access to online solutions, but consumers here still prefer the tactile experience of visiting a store.
Not just e-commerce
The gap between the customised and highly-personalised online environment versus the more traditional storefront is still significant here. Consider how your favourite e-tailers ‘know’ your likes and dislikes, purchase history, and can predict your wish list. Compare that to a shop environment where sales assistants have no insights into your buying potential and cannot offer any real value in terms of your purchase history.
Even e-tailers with shop fronts are not able to link the two, and cannot benefit from the online data they have at their disposal. Bridging the gap between digital and physical is now a key competitive advantage and those that can master it will drive growth into the future.
This will see retailers requiring an integrated platform to enhance personalisation and the customer experience. Imagine walking into your local coffee shop and making a purchase using your cryptocurrency of choice. From a retailer’s perspective, the potential of leveraging internet of things (IoT) insights into the store to take care of stock management, lighting and temperature control, and even water and electricity monitoring are immense.
Using a solution that can pull different products into a single platform empower the retailer to have that 360-degree view of their customers. Being able to pull together all user interactions, engagements, and transactions, and create a more tailor-made in-store experience, are essential elements to move away from the silo approach of old. Yes, it is a challenge to consolidate all the information from often quite disparate sources and analysing it in virtually real-time, but the right solution makes it possible.
Understanding and tracking marketing effectiveness across online and offline environments and determining which demographic gains the most out of a specific campaign, contributes massively to a more targeted sales approach that can be customised even to an individual level.
Retailers need this holistic approach to drive innovation and utilise an omni-channel customer environment. Granted, this is a buzzword that has been thrown around for several years, but it is only now possible to do so with the technology available.
Customisation and personalisation no longer need be limited to an online retail experience. It can transform the in-store one and not only grow customer loyalty but boost the ever-important business bottom-line.
A platform such as the redPanda Software’s Connected Solution uses disruptive technologies for improved customer engagement and to deliver a more inclusive experience across the online and offline sales environments. Furthermore, its partnership-driven approach means retailers can always keep abreast of the latest trends and onboard them into their operations.
By Leon Coetzer, UK CEO of redPanda Software