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Brick stores must learn from online

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Brick and mortar stores are starting to respond to changing consumer behaviour by tying the in-store and online shopping experience into one connected experience, says LEON COETZER, COO of redPanda Software.

Online shopping has never been easier or more intuitive. You’re at work or laying in bed, and with a simple click of the mouse you can book a dream vacation or the latest curved smart television, or your weekly groceries can be delivered to your doorstep. And, even better, most often the online shopping experience just gets your preferences right”.

“Today, consumers have the upper hand when it comes to the experience they demand in-store,” says Leon Coetzer, COO of redPanda Software. “Brick and mortar stores are starting to respond to changing consumer behaviour by tying the in-store and online shopping experience into one connected experience.

“This paints an interesting picture of where consumer spending is heading and the direction brick and mortar stores need to take to attract new customers and win the loyalty of existing customers. In the face of this worldwide trend, there are some traditional brick and mortar stores that are really pushing the envelope in customer experiences and have successfully adapted to shifting consumer preferences using e-commerce capabilities, mobile applications and the Internet of Things (IoT).”

In the past, says Coetzer, retailing was a relatively simple business: “You selected the right product range, bought the selected products at the lowest possible price and at the right quantities, merchandised the products in your stores, managed stock availability with supply chain efficiency and marketing efforts, and at the end of the retail cycle you exited old lines with minimal cannibalisation. Simple.”

Today, however retailers are faced with different challenges. Retailers need an integrated technology platform to streamline processes, such as stock count, temperature or lighting regulation and to intimately know and predict consumer behaviour with data analysis to push personalised promotions through mobile.

“The brick and mortar retail industry is probably the most cut-throat industry when it comes to engaging consumer spending, but a decade ago Amazon had successfully figured out how to personalise a customer’s experience by tracking spending behaviour. If you can pull this principle through to a large grocery chain, you have a profitable retailer offering their customers an intimate experience.”

Coetzer outlines a few areas where South African retailers are beginning to leverage the many promises of IoT and big data:

Enhancing customer experience, building loyalty 

Retailers have identified customer experience as the key to building brand loyalty and winning share of wallet. To harness customer data, turning it into accurate customer profiles, and using it to communicate more targeted promotions and discounts, retailers need one integrated data platform so they don’t have 20 versions of the truth.

Monitoring inventory, reducing waste

While the customer is receiving personalised offers sent directly to them, one of the biggest concerns for retailers is tracking inventory to keep stock levels up at a cost-efficient level, and in real time. By implementing an ecosystem of connected devices harnessing IoT that constantly monitors stock levels and inventory, today’s retailers can eliminate waste and boost revenues.

Optimising asset management

Through a well-implemented and consolidated network of connected devices, companies can better manage and optimise their key assets and equipment. For example, smart sensors can begin to pick up key trends, and allow retailers to become proactive and pre-empt possible system or hardware failures or glitches.

Boosting productivity and engagement 

As many brick and mortar stores are closing down, and as a result, are laying off thousands of employees, it is important to remember that great, knowledgeable and loyal staff are worth their weight in gold. It can be the difference between profitability and failure. It is important to harness compelling data to track employees and monitor their performance to identify a problem before it influences employee performance and the customer experience.

“Retail stores 100 years ago knew their regular customers, down to their clothing sizes and family members,” Coetzer points out. “However, the massive scale of today’s retailers makes it impossible to know your customers. Being able to now analyse the data, IoT has the capacity to bring these valuable customer insights to brick and mortar companies. It is finally replicating at least some part of the personalised experience of a century ago. Now it’s up to retail companies to implement a simple and customisable integrated technology platform to leapfrog business forward.”

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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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