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Pop-up stores: a great science experiment

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Pop-up stores can be found in nearly every mall. In addition to the fun-factor, these stores offer an opportunity to capture customer behavior patterns which can establish what works and what doesn’t, writes PATRICK MAPHOPHA of NetApp.

Enter any mall today and you are likely to come across the latest retail fad – the pop-up store. With the concept of ‘here today and gone tomorrow’ at its centre, this fresh, novel and creative concept has taken the world by storm. According a report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research entitled Britain’s Pop-Up Retail Economy Report, the pop-up retail sector generated over £2.3 billion in turnover over the past 12 months in the UK alone. Additionally the report showed that 44% of consumers have visited a pop-up shop in the last 12 months.

South Africa is no exception, as many international brands have opened their doors in the form of the pop-up store to test the unique market and gain brand exposure. For example, a well-known ice cream brand was one of the first to set up a pop-up shop in Johannesburg, offering customers the opportunity to experiment with flavours like crumbed chocolate cupcake, mint shortcake, chocolate brownie and frosted rose petals.

Pop-up stores are so much more than trivial creativity – they are also a science experiment

Despite its ‘fun’ factor, the pop-up store is far more than just a creative, novel idea – it is also an opportunity to capture vital customer behavioural and spending patterns through an integrated cloud point. That data can establish what works and what doesn’t, and determine whether a permanent store should be established in a particular market. In other words, a new company introducing their offering in an agile way via pop-up stores can experiment with consumer confidence. If enough growth or success materializes, the steps towards a permanent location may be taken.

According to the IDC’s Retail Insights Top Ten Predictions Report, no less than 40% of new retail applications purchased will be deployed in the cloud to speed and secure business objectives in 2017. In addition, according to the Big Data in Global Retail Market Report, which was commissioned by NOVONOUS, big data in the global retail market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 35%.

The cloud has the silver lining

A smart data solution is therefore integral to make the most of the pop-up opportunity by offering management, durability and analytics capabilities. Last year, Netapp announced new updates to its solutions portfolio for the Data Fabric, an abstraction layer to improve, control and simplify the movement of data in the hybrid cloud.

One option allows shop owners, for example to massively accelerate the movement of large data sets into Amazon Web Services (AWS) for data analysis. Once processed, the analysed data can be brought back on-premises if required. And just like the pop-up shop the service can be purchased on a ‘pay as you go’ basis which means it can be easily turned on and off as needed. Other options include the ability to use the same consistent data management both on-premises and in the public cloud – meaning that data can be controlled and accessed wherever it’s needed most. And finally, once data “cools”, meaning it is not accessed and analysed regularly any more, the same functionalities provide efficient backup to the cloud to help address compliance and data protection requirements.

In short, shop owners may leverage the benefits of the hybrid cloud and analytics applications as a service to determine aspects like buyer behaviour, identify market opportunities, adapt research and development, and manage data with business value holistically. Through the provision of these dedicated applications, store owners can even go so far as to connect the pop-up store experience in real time. For example, retailers could engage with buyers at the POS.

Taking the pop-up store to the next level

Once a foundational cloud portfolio has been established, the pop-up store can be transformed into a data collection machine. A global example that illustrates this was the recent campaign launched by a pet store in the US called Barkshop Live, which specialises in animal-antic toys. In order to test their products, they invited dog owners and their furry counterparts to test out their chewable offerings in person. Data was then collected around which toys were favoured via RFID-enabled vests that were fitted around the dogs. The data collected and stored through the cloud allowed the retailer to determine the bestselling products in order to increase turnover figures.

Pop-up stores are a great way to test the market before making a total investment commitment. As customer data increases towards the brontobyte, the time to control, manage, secure and move data across on-premises and public cloud resources has never been more prevalent. The evaluation of customer data could spell the evolution of the pop-up store towards a permanent feature – whether it’s through an online domain or a traditional bricks and mortar store.

  • Patrick Maphopha, SE manager for Africa at NetApp.

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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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