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Etail expectations rise

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The increased connectedness of consumers is contributing to a more dynamic environment – one where expectations on what the buying experience must entail are evolving, says LEON COETZER, UK CEO of redPanda Software.

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.

Value-driven insights

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.

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How to rob a bank in the 21st century

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In the early 1980s, South Africans were gripped by tales of the most infamous bank robbery gangs the country had ever known: The Stander Gang. The gang would boldly walk into banks, brandishing weapons, demand cash and simply disappear. These days, a criminal doesn’t even have to be in the same country as the bank he or she intends to rob. Cyber criminals are quite capable of emptying bank accounts without even stepping out of their own homes.

As we become more and more aware of cybersecurity and the breaches that can occur, we’ve become more vigilant. Criminals, however, are still going to follow the money and even though security may be beefed up in many organisations, hackers are going to go for the weakest links. This makes it quintessential for consumers and enterprises to stay one step ahead of the game.

“Not only do these cyber bank criminals get away with the cash, they also end up damaging an organisation’s reputation and the integrity of its infrastructure,” says Indi Siriniwasa, Vice President of Trend Micro, Sub-Saharan Africa. “And sometimes, these breaches mean they get away with more than just cash – they can make off with data and personal information as well.”

Because the cyber criminals operate outside bricks and mortar, going for the cash register or robbing the customers is not where their misdeeds end. Bank employees – from the tellers to the CEO – are all fair game.

But how do they do it? Taking money out of an account is not the only way to steal money. Cyber criminals can zero in on the bank’s infrastructure, or hack into payment systems and even payment documents. Part of a successful operation for them may also include hacking into telecommunications to gain access to one-time pins or mobile networks.

“It’s not just about hacking,” says Siriniwasa.. “It’s also about the hackers trying to get an ‘inside man’ in the bank who could help them or even using a person’s personal details to get a new SIM so that they can have access to OTPs. Of course, they also use the tried and tested method of phishing which continues to be exceptionally effective – despite the education in the market to thwart it.”

The amounts of malware and available attacks to gain access to bank funds is strikingly vast and varies from using web injection script, social engineering and even targeting internal networks as well as points of sale systems. If there is an internet connection and a system you can be assured that there is a cybercriminal trying to crack it. The impact on the bank itself is also massive, with reputations left in tatters and customers moving their business elsewhere.

“We see that cyber criminals use multi-faceted attacks,” says Siriniwasa. “This means that we need to come at security from multiple angles as well. Every single layer of an organisation’s online perimeter need to be secured. Threat isolation is exceptionally important and having security with intrusion protection is vital. Again, vigilance on the part of staff and customers also goes a long way to preventing attacks. These criminals might not carry guns like Andre Stander and his gang, but they are just as dangerous – in fact – probably more so.”

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Beaten by big data? AI is the answer

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by ZAKES SOCIKWA, cloud big data and analytics lead at Oracle

In 2019, it’sestimated we’ll generate more data than we did in the previous 5,000 years. Data is fast becoming the most valuable asset of any modern organisation, and while most have access to their internal data, they continue to experience challenges in deriving maximum value through being able to effectively monetise the information that they hold.

The foundation of any analytics or Business Intelligence (BI) reporting capability is an efficient data collection system that ensures events/transactions are properly recorded, captured, processed and stored. Some of this information on its own might not provide any valuable insights, but if it is analysed together with other sources might yield interesting patterns.

Big data opens up possibilities of enhancing internal sources with unstructured data and information from Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Furthermore, as we move to a digital age, more businesses are implementing customer experience solutions and there is a growing need for them to improve their service and personalise customer engagements.

The digital behaviour of customers, such as social media postings and the networks or platforms they engage with, further provides valuable information for data collection. Information gathering methods are being expanded to accommodate all types and formats of data, including images, videos, and more.

In the past, BI and Data Mining were left to highly technical and analytical individuals, but the introduction of data visualisation tools is democratising the analytics world. However, business users and report consumers often do not have a clear understanding of what they need or what is possible.

AI now embedded into day to day applications

To this end, artificial intelligence (AI) is finishing what business intelligence started. By gathering, contextualising, understanding, and acting on huge quantities of data, AI has given rise to a new breed of applications – one that’s continuously improving and adapting to the conditions around it. The more data that is available for the analysis, the better is the quality of the outcomes or predictions.

In addition, AI changes the productivity equation for many jobs by automating activities and adapting current jobs to solve more complex and time-consuming problems, from recruiters being able to source better candidates faster to financial analysts eliminating manual error-prone reporting.

This type of automation will not replace all jobs but will invent new ones. This enables businesses to reduce the time to complete tasks and the costs of maintenance, and will lead to the creation of higher-value jobs and new engagement models. Oracle predicts that by 2025, the productivity gains delivered by AI, emerging technologies, and augmented experiences could double compared to today’s operations.

According to the IDC, worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics (BDA) solutions was expected to total $166 billion in 2018, and forecast to reach $260 billion in 2022, with a compound annual growth rate of 11.9% over the 2017-2022 forecast period. It adds that two of the fastest growing BDA technology categories will be Cognitive/AI Software Platforms (36.5% CAGR) and Non-relational Analytic Data Stores (30.3% CAGR)¹.

Informed decisions, now and in the future

As new layers of technology are introduced and more complex data sources are added to the ecosystem, the need for a tightly integrated technology stack becomes a challenge. It is advisable to choose your technology components very carefully and always have the end state in mind.

More development on emerging technologies such as blockchain, AI, IoT, virtual reality and others will probably be available on cloud first before coming on premise. For those organisations that are adopting public cloud, there are opportunities to consume the benefits of public cloud and drive down costs of doing business.

While the introduction of public cloud is posing a challenge on data sovereignty and other regulations, technology providers such as Oracle have developed a ‘Cloud at Customer’ model that provides the full benefits of public cloud – but located on premise, within an organisation’s own data centre.

The best organisations will innovate and optimise faster than the rest. Best decisions must be made around choice of technology, business processes, integration and architectures that are fit for business. In the information marketplace, speed and informed decision making will be key differentiators amongst competitors.

¹ IDC Press Release, Revenues for Big Data and Business Analytics Solutions Forecast to Reach $260 Billion in 2022, Led by the Banking and Manufacturing Industries, According to IDC, 15 August 2018

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