South African e-tailers are experiencing a surge in customers thanks to the convenience and pervasiveness of mobile devices supporting online shopping apps. With people expecting a seamless customer experience between an app, online store, and fulfilment of order, a business cannot afford to experience any downtime. Hyper-availability has become an absolute necessity in this regard.
Additionally, making sense of the influx of customer data reflecting likes, dislikes, shopping preferences, and so on have become critical to competitive advantage. Business continuity, therefore, needs to incorporate more than availability and must extend to intelligent data management.
With Black Friday (23 November) and Cyber Monday (26 November) here, local e-tailers are bracing themselves for another bumper year. In recent years, retail sales both in-store and online have grown significantly with customers eagerly snapping up the deals on offer.
Of course, while attention turns to the availability of e-tailers during these peak times, care must be taken not to forget the rest of the year. Research shows that South Africans are likely to spend more than R45-billion in online shopping this year with over 60 percent making a purchase from an overseas retailer. And with the remainder shopping exclusively on local e-tailing sites, businesses need to be aware of the reputational and financial damage of not being accessible.
Purchase at will
More than 18 million South Africans currently shop online. Furthermore, by 2021 these shoppers will spend an average of R2,700 on their e-tailing purchases. Competition for visitors are therefore at an all-time high for online shopping sites. If a site is not available when a customer wants to make a purchase, chances are he or she will simply move on to the next one.
Consumers do not care about things such as load-balancing servers or uptime percentages. They care about going online and being able to make a purchase from their preferred device at a time that is convenient for them. But even with availability being essential, e-tailers should leverage insights derived from data for a tailored buying experience.
This is something that the traditional online shopping giant Amazon has done really well. You log in to your account and get a personalised version of the site that speaks to your previous purchases, the items on your wish list, and even what you liked and disliked in the past. Granted, many other local and international sites are doing this, but it gives a glimpse of what is possible by intelligently managing data.
The e-tailer of today must, therefore, combine accessibility with analysis for a well-rounded customer experience. It is certainly about dealing with capacity issues during sales like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but it is also about knowing what to offer people based on an understanding of their shopping history. Even more so, plugging in to unstructured data such as that generated by social media provides even greater insights on the customer.
By Kate Mollett, Regional Manager Africa South at Veeam