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Timing matters in making ecommerce jump in Africa

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Many businesses are in danger of falling behind by ignoring ecommerce. Digital Planet CEO NEIL WATSON urges business to add an online sales channel before it’s too late.

Think ecommerce in Africa is still lagging behind the rest of the retail world? Think again. The success of relatively new online retailers such as Zando and Konga is proving that the continent is more than ready for online shopping. Take JUMIA, the Nigerian online shopping platform that was started in 2012. Less than three years later, the business employs 1 000 people and has warehouses in eight other countries.

Once, having an ecommerce channel may have been optional for business, but with each passing year and new set of figures, it becomes clearer that this is no longer true. The recent DHL Shop the World report highlighted the high growth potential of emerging markets in ecommerce. McKinsey highlights that the African ecommerce market is accelerating after a slow start and could soon account for 10 per cent of all retail sales.

Is time running out for retailers who haven’t yet made the leap to online platforms? The evidence certainly seems to say so. Some online players in South Africa are growing faster than brick-and-mortar shops, which means they are cannibalising traditional retail. For retailers, online platforms are becoming increasingly compulsory not just as additional sales channels, but to ensure that ecommerce players don’t end up eating their lunch.

The most important part of ecommerce is investing at the right levels at the right time. This differs depending on the kind of product you’re offering and how comfortable consumers are purchasing your product online.

For IT sellers, for example, the market is mature enough that it may already be too late. There are too many online players fighting for a piece of the pie.  Unless you have a big brand, an innovative concept or a lot of marketing spend, it will be hard to get above the crowd.

On the other hand, some markets such as fashion apparel are just beginning to mature. Players like Mr Price have invested tens of millions in building their online brand, ensuring that they are at the forefront and will be directing the market in South Africa.

Once you’ve determined that it’s time for you to build your ecommerce store, you then need to look at investing the right amount for the next three to five years. It can be tricky to invest at the right level. In large organisations, we often see an over-investment in technology when the market doesn’t warrant it. Investing too heavily too early means you may never see a return on investment.

The later you engage in online retail, the more developed the market will be, which has both advantages and disadvantages. A more mature market means that technology is more mature and there are skills available.

The downside is there will already be more competitors and it will be more expensive to establish yourself as a brand. You’ll also be learning while everyone else already understands the market so you could suffer reputational damage. Finally, the skills will be there, but will be much more expensive.

For most companies,  it’s better to start too early than too late. This will give you scope to experiment so that when the market arrives, you’ve learned your lessons and can take advantage without huge marketing investment and reputational risk.

Once you’ve determined the right time to make the leap, the real work starts. From the planning stage to the fulfilment stage, there is a lot that goes into a successful ecommerce channel. Customer service, logistics, reverse logistics, warehousing, marketing and many other specialised areas need to be considered. Most businesses do not currently have skills to tackle it on their own and would be advised to seek outsourcing partners who do have those skills on hand.

One thing is certain when it comes to ecommerce – it’s not a question of whether to explore online platforms but when. South African customers may have been slow to start transacting online, but we’ve reached the tipping point for ecommerce.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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