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Machine Learning coming at you

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Deloitte Global forecasts major strides in machine learning for the enterprise, a worldwide appetite for digital subscriptions among consumers, and ongoing smartphone dominance.

Among the findings pertaining to the enterprise, this year’s report indicates that business organisations will likely double their use of machine learning technology by the end of 2018. TMT Predictions highlights five key areas that Deloitte Global believes will unlock more intensive use of machine learning in the enterprise by making it easier, cheaper and faster.

The most important key area is the growth in new semiconductor chips that will increase the use of machine learning, enabling applications to use less power, and at the same time become more responsive, flexible and capable.

“We have reached the tipping point where adoption of machine learning in the enterprise is poised to accelerate,” said Mark Casey, Deloitte Global Media & Entertainment & TMT Africa Leader.

Live content in an online world and digital media worth paying for

TMT Predictions includes a number of consumer forecasts as well. Deloitte Global predicts that live broadcast and events will generate over $545 billion in direct revenues in 2018. Despite consumers’ capability to consume content on demand or attend events remotely, live consumption is thriving. And in many cases, live content’s performance has been made more productive and profitable by digital.

Indicating an increasing willingness from consumers to pay for digital content, Deloitte Global also predicts that by the end of 2018, 50 percent of adults in developed countries will have at least two online-only media subscriptions, and by the end of 2020, the average will have doubled to four.

“Digital’s rise has augmented not dented the public’s appetite for media, which in 2018 will likely include over half a trillion dollars’ worth of all forms of live content,” said Casey.

The future of the smartphone

Smartphone adoption continues to grow. By the end of 2023, more than 90 percent of adults in developed countries are expected to have a smartphone, with ownership among 55-75 year-olds reaching 85 percent. And Deloitte Global predicts that owners will interact with their phones on average 65 times per day in 2023, a 20 percent increase on 2018.

At the same time, Deloitte Global predicts 45 percent of global adult smartphone users and 65 percent of 18-24 year olds will worry that they are using their phones too much for certain activities and may try to limit their usage in 2018.

“As smartphones continue to be a big part of our professional and personal lives, we are finding more of a balance and etiquette, especially in our personal lives, even as we continue to experience more opportunities in this exciting mobile ecosystem,” said Arun Babu, Deloitte Africa Telecommunications Leader.

Additional topics from Deloitte Global’s 2018 TMT Predictions include:

  • Augmented reality on the cusp of reality Over a billion smartphone users will likely create augmented reality (AR) content at least once in 2018, with at least 300 million doing so monthly, and tens of millions weekly, according to Deloitte Global.
  • Mobile only wireless home internet – For 2018, Deloitte Global forecasts that one fifth of North American homes will get all of their internet data access via cellular mobile networks. There will be significant variations by country, however. In Brazil, for example, nearly a third of all homes will be mobile only, but only 10 percent in some European countries. The differences between geographies are due to a range of technological, economic and demographic factors.
  • An increase in #adlergic – While three quarters of North Americans engage in at least one form of regular adblocking, only about 10 percent of this population engages in blocking ads in four or more ways – the “adlergic” population. Consumers who are young, highly educated, employed, and have higher incomes are more likely to be heavy adblockers.
  • TV viewing by 18-24 year olds: stable declines, but no tipping point – Deloitte Global predicts that traditional TV viewing by 18-24 year-olds will decline by 5-15 percent per year in the US, Canada, and the UK in 2018 and 2019. This rate of decline is a similar rate to the prior seven years and is not getting worse. Many forces that distracted young people away from traditional TV, such as smartphones, social media, and video piracy, are reaching saturation.
  • In flight connectivity takes off – One billion passenger journeys, or one quarter of all passengers, are expected to be on planes fitted with in-flight connectivity (IFC) in 2018, according to Deloitte Global. This is an estimated 20 percent increase from projected 2017 totals, generating IFC revenue close to $1 billion for 2018.

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Online retail gets real

After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.

Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.

The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.

This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping. 

But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.

On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.

He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.

According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.

In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature. 

Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.

A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand. 

In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.

Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.

It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time. 

It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.

Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.

The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.

Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.

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Reliable satellite Internet?

MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company. 

“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.

The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.

The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022. 

The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data. 

C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.

MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity.  Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.

Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.

Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online. 

“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”

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