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Internet rise will open SA e-commerce doors

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The recent closure of Stuttafords has raised the concern that more companies need to incorporate e-commerce into their business plans in order to keep up with the future, writes VINO GOVENDER, DFA, Executive: Product Innovation and Marketing.

The closure of the 159-year-old “Harrods of South Africa” department store, Stuttafords, has brought to the fore important questions about how industries need to develop stronger business plans and innovate in order to serve the tech-savvy customer. While many have simply pointed to the domestic economic slump as a contributor to the collapse of the Stuttafords business, an emerging conversation has been around the store’s failure to take advantage of future-proof digital business strategies to identify new growth opportunities and reach customers beyond their brick and mortar stores.

Constellation Research established that more than 50 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 list of 2000 did not make it to the 2015 Fortune 500 list. This serves as an indicator of what happens to ideas that do not adapt fast enough. Businesses of the future are those that embrace ‘innovative’ changes to remain competitive in today’s environment. E-commerce provides a key innovative shift, enabling businesses to convert insights into action and reach a wider customer base.

According to the Internet Access in SA 2017 report by World Wide Worx, the South African Internet user population passed the 20-million mark for the first time last year, and is expected to grow to at least 22.5-million in 2017. This will undoubtedly encourage improved e-commerce opportunities.

The global digital migration journey is inevitable and South African businesses need to leverage technology so that it can benefit as many of their customers as possible, as fast as possible. The truth is, businesses cannot afford to not invest in this digital future and risk being left behind.  The looming increase in connectivity and connected devices promises benefits that will change the way in which many businesses operate, for the better. Through e-commerce, travel, tourism, agriculture, retail, and many other sectors will enter a digital space in which business models, offerings, and value chains are digitised, driving new revenue streams and substantive business outcomes.

Today, consumers are demanding innovation as they insist on a seamless, integrated multi-channel experience that enables them to shop from anywhere and at any time. Accordingly, businesses must press forward urgently and include digital initiatives such as e-commerce in their strategies. Digital tools and skills are becoming the very oxygen that will enable them to anticipate and respond rapidly to the expectations of tomorrow’s consumers.

For many businesses, embracing e-commerce will set them on a course for renewed growth and more predictable prosperity. By leveraging big data and applying the insights gained across the entire value chain, many businesses will open up opportunities to create personalised offers and provide bespoke services to many more customers.  Considering the current economic outlook and tough growth challenges, with e-commerce, businesses can decrease the cost of managing their inventory of goods and automate inventory management using web-based management systems.

There are many more benefits that e-commerce gives businesses, including:

·         Building brand advocacy and loyalty by personalising customer experience

·         Creating markets for niche products

·         Allowing for targeted communication

·         Supplying considerable information through comprehensive descriptions of products

·         Reducing the cost of maintaining and managing inventory

·         Enabling deals and comparison shopping

·         Automating core processes and analytics

E-commerce provides a favourable approach for businesses that are willing to tap into the future and serve the customer of the future. It also enables businesses to build agile enterprises with capabilities to react swiftly to market shifts and the evolving business landscape.

Dark Fibre Africa (DFA), through its open access fibre infrastructure deployment, continues to play a critical role in enabling service providers to deliver a range of high speed fixed and wireless internet access technologies and services to their consumer and business markets. SqwidNet, the Sigfox network operator in South Africa, wholly owned by DFA, is also responsible for deploying a national IoT network and enabling an ecosystem that aids the digital transformation journey of businesses which is enabled by IoT. DFA continues to contribute significantly towards the development of the digital economy in South Africa.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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