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7 tech strategies can unlock retail growth in 2020

By GARETH HAWKEY, Group CEO of redPanda Software

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As the year comes to an end, it is clear that the role and function of brick and mortar stores has fundamentally changed. Increasingly, physical stores have to become a seamless extension of an overall customer experience that blends the best of the online and offline worlds. Indeed, savvy and forward-thinking retailers understand that the lines between online and offline are blurring, and the question is not so much around whether to have a physical or online presence – the fundamental question is how to deliver the most value to your customer. 

In South Africa, retailers should take their cue from the global shift and find local solutions that speak to the fundamental shift that is happening. Arguably, many decision-makers within local retail are stuck in ‘traditional’ thinking that is purely focused on cost savings and efficiencies (the low hanging fruit) – with little vision of a fundamental transformation that puts the customer first. 

Understanding where value lies 

To keep up with the lightning fast pace of change in global retail, most of which is technology-driven, SA’s retail decision-makers have to embrace a new mindset that is less risk averse, more experimental and that is entirely centred on providing value to the customer. Looking ahead, we believe that three things will define retail success in the years to come: convenience (for example, easy online payment options); brand strength (are you a premium brand?); and customer experience (is your buying experience seamless and easy?). In order to remain relevant in a highly competitive retail landscape, every retailer has to fulfil these three functions. In South Africa, we currently risk losing ground on all three…

So, where to begin? 

Ask the right questions 

In order to better understand how to deliver value to your customer, you need to be equipped with the right knowledge. This knowledge can be extracted from data – credit card data, buying patterns, location data, stock trends, customer feedback, etc. Once you explore and analyse the data at hand, you can better understand what is working and what is not. Remember, unless this knowledge can impact in-store operations, it is probably irrelevant. Everything has to come back to delivering more value to the customer as they move through the purchasing journey. To guide your thinking, ask questions such as: Who are we? Who are our customers? What do we do very well? What do customers come to us for? 

Leveraging technology to drive value 

Once you have real insight into these key elements, you can then start exploring various technology solutions to ensure that you will be able to deliver unique value to the customer. If you start with the customer in mind – not the technology – you will undoubtedly make decisions that reflect the true nature of your brand and business. 

With regards to technology investment and innovation, the most important thing is just to get started – there is no need to have full and expensive solutions in place right away! With that in mind, here are our top seven technology strategies that every retailer should be looking at….

  1. Enable payment flexibility: Allow customers to pay via mobile for example, and place the emphasis on security as well as convenience.  
  2. Create an omnichannel offering: Today, every retailer has to have an e-commerce presence of some kind that links seamlessly to the in-store environment.  
  3. Transition into the Cloud: move your data and certain key services into the Cloud. The major providers such as AWS and Google will ensure both data security and reliability. Once in the Cloud, you can slowly start to explore more bespoke services. 
  4. Explore the IoT: Although the Internet of Things (IoT) is still maturing in South Africa, networks are getting stronger and businesses can start to experiment with different use cases. 
  5. Find collaborative partners: More and more retailers are harnessing collaborative partnerships to draw in foot traffic and leverage key resources, such as a global brand, to boost growth using the “store within a store” concept. 
  6. Look at voice-enabled technologies: Many experts are hailing the beginning of a ‘voice’ revolution, whereby consumers will increasingly make use of voice-activated devices and services. Savvy retailers should look to become first movers in this space. 
  7. Find ways to apply AI to your customer database: AI and machine learning, whilst still in their infancy, can be hugely transformative by creating questions that you would never have thought to ask. Start implementing data analytics and begin to mine customer data for key insights. 

While many of these strategies may appear daunting, the key is to get started and to begin to explore where you can unlock value. Success will depend on finding the right partners and specialists, who can guide you along the way. Looking ahead, retail growth and sustainability will be the domain of those who prioritise experimentation… and are able to think differently about delivering value in-store.

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Security issues grow with transition to smart TVs

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You can’t picture a modern home without smart equipment. Smart thermostats, smart refrigerators, robot vacuums, and smart TVs won’t surprise anyone these days. For example, around 70% of the TVs being sold worldwide are smart TVs. Although they bring more entertainment, these devices also carry new digital threats. 

Sometimes people forget that smart TVs are as vulnerable to cybercrime as their smartphones and computers. Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN, says that “although smart TVs are connected to the internet and have similar functions to computers, they aren’t equipped with the same security tools, which makes them easy prey for hackers.” 

What’s so scary about your TV getting hacked? As smart TVs gain more features, the amount of your private information they handle increases too. TVs aren’t just for watching movies and shows anymore. Now you can use them for web browsing, streaming video content, gaming, and even shopping online. 

To enjoy your smart TV to the fullest, you need to download various apps and games. These cost money, so you need your credit card details filled in. Putting your financial information, logins, and passwords on your TV makes it an appealing target for hacking. 

According to Daniel Markuson, a smart TV can be used to spy on its users. Hackers can access its camera and microphone through malware, which they can slip into your TV when it is connected to Wi-Fi. They can use footage from your bedroom or living room to blackmail you and your family. By watching your home and listening to your conversations, hackers know what goods you have, where you keep them when you’re away, and what your plans are. 

If you use your smart TV for web browsing, you can infect it with various viruses too, says the digital privacy expert at NordVPN. Like computers, smart TVs run on software, but they don’t have the same strong antivirus and firewall systems installed. Once your TV gets infected, your browsing history, passwords, and other private data become accessible to hackers. And they won’t miss the opportunity to use this information in ransomware attacks. 

Even though smart TVs are vulnerable to cyber threats, Daniel Markuson says there is no need to panic yet. The expert names a few simple principles every smart TV owner should follow to protect their device.

Always update your TV’s software whenever a new version becomes available. The expert says that software updates are crucial for cybersecurity as manufacturers do their best to patch vulnerabilities. Updates often repair security flaws, fix or remove various bugs, add new features, and improve the existing ones. Some TVs install updates automatically by default. With others, you may need to check for updates periodically to make sure your device runs on the latest version. 

Use available security measures such as a VPN. The best practice for any internet-connected device is to install a firewall and use a VPN such as NordVPN. It secures your device and lets you enjoy fast internet access with encryption-powered privacy.

Connect your smart TV to the internet only when needed. It isn’t necessary to have your TV connected to Wi-Fi all the time. To make it less vulnerable to hacker attacks, turn on the Wi-Fi connection only when you are using it.

Download apps from official stores only. Do not install any programs and games from unofficial sources on your smart TV. Make sure that both the app and its provider are reliable. Moreover, if an application asks for access to your data, camera, or microphone that isn’t necessary for its operation, never accept it.

Be careful with personal files and financial data. Shopping online on a big smart TV screen might be fun, but be careful providing your credit card details and other sensitive information this way. Although some manufacturers equip their TV sets with security features, they cannot guarantee safety online. “People who synchronize their smart TVs with their computers to access compatible media content should be especially cautious,” warns Daniel Markuson. The connection between your smart TV and your computer can be a weak link and lead to a data breach.

Use strong Wi-Fi passwords. This practice is the most obvious and the easiest to follow. Create a strong password to protect your Wi-Fi connection at home and don’t share it with any outsiders.

Turn off your TV camera when not in use. Whether it’s a built-in camera or the one connected to a TV via Wi-Fi, turn it off when not using it. If you can’t turn off your camera, use a piece of tape or a sticker over the camera lens to cover it. 

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Tech too complex? It stresses out even the tech-savvy

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Picture by hobvias sudoneighm on Flickr.

Even the savviest members of the tech industry get stressed by common devices that power their everyday lives, according to a recent poll conducted at CES 2020 by Asurion, the global leader in helping people connect, protect and enjoy their tech.

Survey screen by Asurion at CES 2020.

Asurion surveyed nearly 1,400 attendees of CES 2020, the world’s largest and most influential tech industry event, about their relationship with personal tech and their role as tech expert for family and friends. What the tech care company found is that even the tech-savvy, tech DIY’ers and early adopters stress out over some of the most ordinary devices in our hands and homes.

So, what tech tops the list of devices that stress out some of the consumer electronics industry’s tech enthusiasts?

  • Mesh routers and Wi-Fi networks (33%)
  • Phones (26%)
  • Smart home security systems (23%)

And, the tech-related activities that even the tech-savvy dread the most?

  • Troubleshooting a device that worked perfectly yesterday (39%)
  • Device security (27%)
  • Setting up devices (nearly 27%)

Asurion helps nearly 300 million customers worldwide unlock the potential of their tech with a team of over 10,000 Experts who are just a call, click or tap away. The company’s Experts provide ongoing tech support, same-day device repair, and same-day delivery and setup services. They’ll meet customers virtually, in-home, at select partner stores, and in more than 540 uBreakiFix stores across the country or wherever it’s convenient.

“The tech industry just spent four amazing days experiencing and celebrating the latest innovations in the future of tech,” said Teresa May, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Asurion. “What we heard is that even common tech tasks and devices can be challenging. Every day, our Experts help people across the country with their devices – everything from setting up a new phone to troubleshooting streaming issues on their smart TVs. Our CES poll reveals that the industry’s top tech innovators share the same pain points affecting millions of Americans.”

Asurion’s Experts received more than 18.5 million calls and chats from customers seeking tech help last year. And while the No. 1 question this holiday was a strong “How do I activate my new phone?” Asurion Experts also received many questions ranging from “How do I connect to Wi-Fi?” to “Can I sync my smart speakers to play them in tandem?”

And while the tech industry may have tech challenges of their own, they also get tapped by family and friends for help. Eight out of 10 attendees surveyed said their family and friends rely on them to help set up and troubleshoot their tech. Nearly two-thirds (63%) said they hesitate to gift tech to their loved ones because the recipient won’t know how to use it, and nearly half (46%) gave pause to gifting tech to family and friends because they didn’t want to be the one to help set it up.

Asurion CES Tech Poll

Consumer Tech Devices That Stress CES Attendees Out the Most

1. Mesh Routers and Wi-Fi Networks (33%)
2. Phones (26%)
3. Smart Home Security Systems (23%)
4. Smart Home Assistants/Hubs (20%)
5. Bluetooth Printers (19%)
6. Smart Home Automation (19%)
7. Laptops/Tablets (18%)
8. Smart TVs (17%)
9. Smart Appliances (14%)
10. Home Energy, Lighting and Switches (13%)

Tech Activities That Stress Out CES Attendees the Most

1. Troubleshooting Tech That Worked Perfectly Yesterday (39%)
2. Security (27%)
3. Setting up a Device (27%)
4. Privacy (23%)
5. Helping Others With Their Tech (20%)
6. Managing or Connecting Multiple Devices (19%)
7. Wi-Fi Connectivity (19%)
8. Paying for Personal Data Storage (18%)
9. Learning a New Operating System (17%)
10. Choosing Which Brand To Purchase (17%)

To learn more about where you can get tech support and protection, visit Asurion.com.

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