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Omni-channel retail demands the social touch

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From a brand’s perspective omni-channel means leveraging and coordinating the customer experience across multiple channels of communications to understand consumer behavioural patterns with the aim of delivering relevant product information, writes LYNETTE HUNDERMARK, MD at Useful & Beautiful.

The retail shopping experience has changed dramatically over the last few years. Shopping for a Fathers day gift at a local mall ten years ago literally meant trawling the entire mall until a consumer found that perfect gift for dad.

Times have changed as shopping for a Father’s day gift today as a digital savvy consumer would take on a very different experience. Before entering the mall consumers are already empowered with pre-shopping research. Consumers would be aware of deals available at shops that have already sent their promotional offers whether it be via email or apps push messaging, consumers would know what items are on sale, and ‘whats new’ and available in stock.

Consumers would also have likely seen reviews, and images of intended items to purchase via social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest (all of which have popular apps utilized on a mobile phone).The traditional linear approach to shopping is likely to be replaced with consumers walking into a mall and going into the intended shop of purchase, simply purchasing what they had planned to purchase then leaving the store. The post shopping experience is where consumers would then share their shopping experience via social media channels whether it  be anger, frustration or pure delight.

An omni-channel journey is the least customers expect as they increasingly dictate how they want to be engaged and serviced. With the addition of social media and mobile channels, the challenge for brands is to  tailor across all the channels for the finest consumer experience.

The impact social media has on the omni-channel customer journey can range from increasing awareness, influencing purchase,  earning loyalty and gaining brand advocates.

The core idea of omni-channel is a seamless customer experience, that bridges the gap between online and offline. But as we all know that is not easy, because if it was more brands would be winning at it.

While not a silver bullet, social media has made creating an omni-channel experience for consumers more achievable for brands of any industry (not just retail).

Start with the mobile customer ‘who is indeed Queen’

Both omnichannel and social media starts with the mobile consumer. With 23.6 million smart phones as reported by Mobile Consumer in SA 2015, World Wide Worx, customers want and expect to be able to contact organizations via social media channels on their phones via the Facebook and Twitter apps or mobi sites and have their questions answered, issues resolved and points of view heard in real time.

Research has shown that at least 1/3 of consumers have contacted a brand for customer service via social media to date and the number is rising. Failure to engage will be regarded by customers as a service failure meaning that consumers are looking for a meaningful real time response from a brand on social media whether it be during  the day, night, weekends and holidays 24/7/365.

Social media has provided customers with a platform on which they share their views. If a brands products, services and customer relationships are good, then their commentary will most likely be positive with greater brand loyalty, better customer retention, more repeat purchases and ultimately higher revenues (and who does not want that??)

When Social Meets Omni-Channel

Consumers are found on social media and can be easily researched from their profile information and engagements.  The data gathered from social media can be used to start the execution of your omnichannel strategy. A consumer-centric strategy includes content too,  therefore use social media to take note of your consumers’ behavior. When do they engage with your posts the most? What content do they like? If you’ve been successful at something, create more content based off of that, for example a case study blog.

Your consumers care about other consumers’ experiences – they are more likely to trust the content developed from experiences,  therefore use them to create consumer-centred content.

Social Media shouldn’t exist in silo

Social media can be a great tool for making the consumer experience seamless. Brands can use social media to respond in a timely manner,  to keep track of every question, complaint or engagement from a consumer. But, social media alone cannot accomplish a truly seamless experience—that takes a close relationship with all your channels in the marketing team.

All the data collected from social media is useless if it never makes it to the marketing team. Creating an omni-channel experience for your consumers’ means creating a unified customer experience across all channels and social platforms can’t be the only area where personal and seamless interactions between consumer and brand occur. Connections between your brand and your consumers should be made between web, mobile and in-store or in-office actions. To execute this cross-platform strategy, your marketing and social media teams need to be in constant communication.

A few days ago I saw a sponsored ad on Facebook by a well established book store encouraging me to update my personal details relating to their loyalty programme,with an incentive of winning a prize. While attempting to update these details, I noticed that the page was hosted on an insecure site and naturally I was hesitant to proceed with the update so I paused and reported the incident on Twitter (as I knew Twitter was likely to have more of an immediate response than Facebook).

It took over a week to get a response from Twitter  with a reply stating that the social media team was not responsible for removing the pages that were hosted and that the appropriate line manager will be informed if I sent further information via email. The conversation was then ended with the page still getting promoted on facebook. This left me and other twitter followers (who were following the conversation) quite perturbed by the response and needless to say, I have not had any immediate incline to use online channels of this book store, and I have also shared this experience with all of my peers.

Winning the hearts of the customer

In our current digital age, omni-channel is no longer a strategy just for retailers. Social media makes all brands accessible and exchanges seamless. On social media you can reach your consumers, research them and personally engage with them. While not the only part of an omni-channel experience, social media does make an omni-channel strategy viable for any business. The key to winning the heart of the consumer is without a doubt listening  and making smart decisions around the conversations (the real time social intelligence should give the team a heads up on what they need to know about anticipating issues, in the case of the book store example, removing the insecure page that was reported), and last but not least giving the customers a quick response without sacrificing quality for speed.

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AppDate: Shedding light in our times of darkness

SEAN BACHER’S app roundup highlights two load-shedding apps, along with South AfriCAM, NBA 2K Mobile, Virgin Mobile’s Spot 3.0 and SwiftKey.

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Load Shedding Notifier

With all the uncertainty about when South Africans will next be plunged into darkness by Eskom, the Load Shedding Notifier tries its best to keep up with Eskom’s schedule. The app is very simple to use. Download it, type an area in and click the save button. The app automatically tells you what load shedding stage Eskom is on, the times you can expect to start lighting candles and for how long to burn them.

Multiple areas can be added and one can switch between the different stages to see how each one will affect a certain area.

A grid status is also displayed, showing how strained the country’s electrical network is.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

EskomSePush Load Shedding App

EskomSePush does much the same as the Load Shedding Notifier, but allows multiple cities to be tracked. However, they may just want to rethink the name of the app if they want wider respectability.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

South AfriCAM

South AfriCAM enables users to add branded stickers and frames from popular lifestyle magazine titles to their posts, including Huisgenoot, YOU, Drum, Move!, TRUE LOVE, Women’s Health and Men’s Health. 

In the process, they can earn JETPoints for their social influence: through the app’s built-in JET8 social currency, users are rewarded for their engagement. For every in-app like, comment, and share, users earn JETPoints, which can be used to redeem products online or over the counter across more than 2 500 retail stores in South Africa. Users are additionally awarded JETPoints for cross-posting onto external social media networks.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

Click here to read about console quality graphics on a mobile phone, Virgin Money payments made easier, and an app that redesigns the keyboard.

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Drones to drive
Western Cape agritech

Aerobotics is set to change how farmers treat their crops by using drones and machine learning, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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The Western Cape is poised to be a hotbed of innovation in the agritech sector, with drone piloting set to playing a major role in in the tech start-up scene.

This is the view of Tim Willis, chief operating officer of pioneering drone company Aerobotics, a Cape Town drone company recognised as a world leader in agritech.

“Drone piloting is a key skill that feeds into the value chain of the budding 4th Industrial Revolution,” said Willis. “Cape Town and the Western Cape is uniquely positioned to be the melting pot for innovation in the agritech sector, as a leading agricultural exporter and a hub for creative tech start-ups.”

He was speaking at AeroCon, a drone expo organised by Aerobotics and held in Johannesburg this week aimed at providing opportunities for drone pilots to apply their skills in South Africa, and to show how drones are being used to collect data on crops. 

The event was supported by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), Wesgro, PROMMAC, MicaSense, and Rectron, among other

“We’re starting to sign up farmers across the country,” said Willis. “It’s exciting because farmers are starting to use drone technology on their farms. When a farmer wants a drone flown, they want it flown [now] so it’s important for us to capture that data as quickly as possible to show that drones are fast and effective.”

According to aerobotics, drone technology can help farmers reduce pesticide use on their crops by up to 30%. The result is environmentally friendly farming, reducing stressed crops and a healthier harvest. 

“We use aerial imagery from drones to recreate a 3D model of every single tree on a farmer’s orchard,” said Willis. “We’ve done this for millions of trees and it starts to give the farmers metrics of what they’re doing. We provide them with the health of the trees, the height, the volume, the canopy area, which enable the farms to make decisions on what to do next.”

Click here to read more about AeroCon and what it offers to those wanting to get into the drone industry.

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