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Don’t build a shop, build a customer journey

DPO PayGate processes payments for over 10 000 online merchants in Southern Africa. BRENDON WILLIAMSON, CSO at DPO PayGate draws on the company’s 19 years’ experience to offer some advice to companies looking to build repeat business in the digital marketplace.

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From the moment they click onto an ecommerce site, customers develop a lasting impression of your brand. Creating a frictionless environment with an outstanding customer journey is helping even small, boutique offerings significantly boost their bottom line. 

The last mile is the most important

Despite what many think, we have seen that the delivery of goods and services is the make or break of an ecommerce offering. 

The importance of this last mile service is clearly demonstrated by industry stalwarts like Takealot (which acquired Mr. Delivery) and Yuppiechef, which put their own branded drivers on the road. The companies which have succeeded in the local market know that how fast you receive your item or service is the last, and most indelible, impression left with a customer. 

Strangely, some of the biggest, and arguably most respected, retail bands still don’t have this part of the journey right. Fixed delivery charges can leave a bitter taste with customers. Being charged R150 for the delivery of a R50 item means shoppers will simply go elsewhere to buy or, at best, wait until they have a big enough order to make the delivery charge worth their while. The irony is that many of the big brands who employ this delivery billing model are the same companies which have spent millions on improving their checkout processes in their physical stores. 

A site’s returns policy is also important. If there’s not a quick and simple returns policy shoppers are left disillusioned and unlikely to ever use the service again, much less recommend it to their friends.

Allow reviews – customers trust other customers

As consumers we want to know that someone else has done what we are doing and that their experience was good. Allowing reviews on your site means first-time users will see that others have successfully transacted with you and this de-risks the transaction for them. 

And these reviews don’t all have to be glowing. Humans are, by nature, forgiving creatures. If we see that there was a glitch in the process for someone else, but the business was willing and able to quickly resolve the problem, we know that if we run into trouble there will be friendly staff who are able to assist us. 

In fact, the human element should never be underestimated. De-risking the transaction process means having someone available to help at every stage of the customer journey. Some ecommerce sites have built their reputation around excellent online service. For instance, if a customer is inactive on a page for any length of time, they should get an onscreen prompt with a sales assistant who is able to guide them through the process and even help them find the particular product they may be looking for. 

We trust what we know

The look and feel of the site can also help shoppers feel secure. Designing your site to have the same visual and experiential feel as the well-known ecommerce sites can help alleviate discomfort. Of course, companies should ensure their site is beautifully branded and clearly differentiated from their competitors, but the layout and step-by-step process can be modeled on those sites which have proven conversion rates. 

The same could be said for security. While many customers are not necessarily looking for security seals, having your SSL security certificates up to date is imperative. Online banking has taught the average consumer that they should be looking for the ‘https’ in the URL bar as a minimum. 

When it comes to payments, ensuring your customer has their preferred payment option is always a must. Having a complete bouquet of payment offerings including card, Instant EFT, and app-based payments such as Zapper and PayPal means you are far less likely to lose a customer as they are about to pay. 

Make you sure you have value-adds 

Buying goods and services online takes the personal touch out of the shopping experience. You miss out on the well-trained, smiling staff who can entice customers to support one store over other. Since there are so many online options to choose from when buying a product or service, adding unique value-adds can boost the first experience and lead to repeat business. Giveaways, free delivery, discounts, and coupons to share with friends all go a long way to make customers return and refer your business to their friends. 

Create interactive websites 

A common failing of some ecommerce stores is not updating their sites. It is important to ensure that you show that your products are selling. This could be done by having a top ten purchased items section or a ‘what’s hot today’ deals space that change regularly.

Using 360-degree images also go a long way to make customers feel confident about their purchases. More interaction can also be boosted using newer technologies like augmented and virtual realities. Experiential marketing is now making online shopping more exciting than real-world experiences and is helping companies to not only push merchandise, but build brands that excite and capture the imagination of the customer. 

You’re not a number, but you are producing data

So much is being written about big data and machine learning to crunch the numbers and come up with meaningful insights into customer behaviour. While the larger companies are all using this now, even the smaller ecommerce sites can use their existing site information and analytics to look for trends. Analysing user behaviour leads to better user experience. Even small tweaks to the existing model can have a significant impact when it comes to basket or trolley abandonment and companies should be paying attention to these details. 

Although it’s coming off a low base, ecommerce in South Africa is growing at a phenomenal rate. Ensuring you have designed a frictionless customer journey can set your company apart in an increasingly competitive market. From design to delivery, every user touchpoint is vital. 

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Cisco unveils ‘Internet for the future’ silicon breakthrough

Cisco One is a new silicon architecture that can be used in any form factor, while Cisco 8000 will reduce cost of building and operating mass scale networks

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Cisco today unveiled a series of innovations it says will underpin “the Internet for the Future”. It launched Cisco Silicon One, a new networking silicon architecture, and the Cisco 8000 Series, the world’s most powerful carrier class routers built on the new silicon.

Chuck Robbins, chairman and CEO of Cisco, said its technology strategy was to build a new internet designed to push digital innovation beyond the performance, economic and power consumption limitations of current infrastructure. It would be a multi-year approach that will define the Internet for decades to come.

“Innovation requires focused investment, the right team and a culture that values imagination,” said Robbins. “We are dedicated to transforming the industry to build a new internet for the 5G era. Our latest solutions in silicon, optics and software represent the continued innovation we’re driving that helps our customers stay ahead of the curve and create new, ground-breaking experiences for their customers and end users for decades to come.”

Building Blocks

Cisco said in its announcement: “Over the next decade, digital experiences will be created with advanced technologies — virtual and augmented reality, 16K streaming, AI, 5G, 10G, quantum computing, adaptive and predictive cybersecurity, intelligent IOT, and others not yet invented. These future generations of applications will drive complexity beyond the capabilities current internet infrastructure can viably support.

“For the past five years, Cisco has driven a technology strategy that is building the internet our customers will need for the future success of their business in an advanced digital world. Aimed at solving the toughest problems that will emerge as digital transformation taxes current infrastructure to its breaking point, this strategy will lead to the next-generation of internet infrastructure that combines Cisco’s new silicon architecture with its next-generation of optics. 

“Cisco’s strategy will change the economics behind how the internet will be built to support the demands of future, digital applications and will enable customers to operate their businesses with simpler, more cost-effective networks.”

Cisco says its strategy is based on development and investments in three key technology areas: silicon, optics and software.

David Goeckeler, executive vice president and general manager of the Networking and Security Business at Cisco, elaborated: “Pushing the boundaries of innovation to the next level — far beyond what we experience today — is critical for the future and we believe silicon, optics and software are the technology levers that will deliver this outcome.

“Cisco’s technology strategy is not about the next-generation of a single product area. We have spent the past several years investing in whole categories of independent technologies that we believe will converge in the future — and ultimately will allow us to solve the hardest problems on the verge of eroding the advancement of digital innovation. This strategy is delivering the most ambitious development project the company has ever achieved.”

Visit the next page to read about the dramatic performance improvements in the new products.

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Building the Internet for the Future begins now

By JONATHAN DAVIDSON, SVP and general manager of Cisco’s Service Provider Business

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Jonathan Davidson presents at the Cisco #InternetForTheFuture event in San Francisco this week

“We do not remember days; we remember moments.” Those words from Cesare Pavese have been one of my personal favorites. Interestingly, we remember thesesignificant, or “flashbulb” moments in our lives in vivid detail. We rememberexactly where we were, whom we were with, what we felt, or even what we werewearing. One of my flashbulb moments was 20 years ago in 1999 when Brandi Chastain made the winning penalty shot during the Women’s World Cup inspectacular fashion. At the time, I was coaching my oldest daughter’s soccer team.That victory felt like the start of something big. It had this wonderful feeling thatwomen’s soccer was going to change for the next generation.

I believe we are having one of those “flashbulb” moments right now in the networking industry. Years from now, we will look back and remember this moment in time. Because today, Cisco revealed breakthrough innovations sosignificant and expansive, they will change the economics of the Internet forthe next generation.

Significant technological innovations have defined human history. The steamengine replaced muscle with machinery. With the telegraph, communications exceeded the speed of animals. And, with the Internet, information wasdigitized, and global communities were created.

IP infrastructure connects our world. The Internet has profoundly changed the waywe work, live, play, and learn – anything, anywhere, anytime. The results are astounding. Our ability to connect and collaborate has caused society to evolve faster than ever before. We have made more progress in mitigating wars, preventing famine, and curing disease in the last 35 years than in the previous35,000.

Today is the moment when we enter a new phase of the Internet. Technologiessuch as 5G, IoT, 3D printing, and advanced analytics are connecting more, increasing participation, and pushing digitization further. And as a result, industries like mining becomes safer, agriculture becomes more efficient, transportation becomes autonomous, and healthcare becomes wellness-driven, not crises-driven. The possibilities are endless. And service providers will be the catalysts for changing economies, countries, and the world because at the very heart of this next transformation is the network infrastructure that makes it all possible.

The route to success for service providers is not straightforward or simple. There are fundamental business challenges. Networks, which are already huge, must become even more massive. And to succeed, service providers need to transform not only their infrastructure but their operations and their business models as well.

Our current network economics will begin to break as we evolve to operate at massive scale. The physics behind our past achievements are already showing signs of slowing down, while traffic growth continues to accelerate. So far, performance increases have helped to reduce the cost of traffic at about the same rate that traffic has increased. $1 in CapEx today does eleven times the work that it did just a few years ago. However, continuing with the status quo will likely lead to a significant increase in CapEx unless we reinvent the rules.

The cost of operations must be reduced too. Today, many operators spend almost $5 in OpEx for each $1 of CapEx. With current network management technology, that situation is likely to get worse, as the larger a network becomes, the more inefficient it is to operate unless we reinvent the rules.

With innovation from a technology pioneer that spans multiple dimensions across silicon, optics, software, and systems to create entirely new network architectures, this is that “flashbulb moment” when Cisco is redefining the economics of the Internet.

Silicon

Redefining the economics of the Internet has to begin at the foundation. The very “DNA” of the Internet itself. The engine to a car. Silicon.

Moore’s law is stalling. While the rest of the industry slows down from the physics of traditional approaches, we have unlocked new dimensions of innovation. By rethinking silicon design entirely, we can deliver industry-leading performance today and create a “fast lane” to the future. We are excited to introduce our groundbreaking programmable silicon architecture, Cisco Silicon One. The first member of this new family, Cisco Silicon One Q100, delivers over twice the network capacity and twice the power efficiency over any other silicon. It is the first routing silicon to break through the 10Tbps barrier without compromising carrier-class capabilities (e.g., feature richness, large buffers, advanced programmability). And Cisco Silicon One is available right now; we won’t make you wait for it.

The innovations in Cisco Silicon One bring significant value to lowering operational costs as well. In the past, multiple types of silicon have been used across a network and even within a single device. Feature development was inconsistent. Telemetry varied dramatically.

Operators had to spend too much time and effort coordinating and testing parity of new features across the network. Now, a single silicon architecture can serve different market segments, different functions, and various form factors for a unified experience that dramatically reduces costs of operations and time-to-value for new services.

Optics

Optic costs matter. At lower interface speeds, optics were roughly 10% of the total solution cost, and systems accounted for the remaining 90%. At 400G and beyond, that equation flips. Optics become the dominant part of the total spend.This dynamic needs to change, a long-term strategy is required to make it easier to deploy both short-reach and long-haul optics solutions.

Cisco is investing in technologies like silicon photonics to accelerate the adoption of 400G and prepare for the future beyond 400G. Our recent acquisition of Luxtera brings a highly automated wafer-scale manufacturing process to Cisco that improves production volumes and quality.

Software

If silicon is the engine of a car, the software is the steering and suspension to enable phenomenal handling. Even the world’s most advanced silicon can be wasted without the right software to steer correctly and operate smoothly. Imagine the ride at 400 km/h without proper steering and suspension. Any unfortunate bump or turn could be disastrous.

To redefine the economics of operating a network, the Internet of the future needs software that recognizes operations is just as important as functionality. Cisco IOSXR7, the new release of our industry-leading Networking Operating System (NOS), has been overhauled to prioritize operations – with simplicity and automation. It has been simplified to reduce required resources, install procedures, and deployment efforts (e.g. zero-touch).

Most notably, XR7 has been completely modernized. XR7 is the first-of-its-kindcloud-enhanced NOS. XR7 can leverage new cloud-delivered SaaS deployment models from Cisco Crosswork Cloud to enhance operations. Now, operations team scan optionally consume insights and analytics as a service for agile, proactive management without the risks and resources of traditional models.

Systems

Now, we get to the “car” itself. With new silicon and new software, we can build new systems that have the performance, efficiency, and operational improvements to meet the next wave of traffic demand. Today, we introduce theCisco 8000 series routers, new systems optimized for high-density 100GbE and400GbE, including:

  • 2 fixed platforms – providing 10.8Tb/s of network bandwidth starting at I RU
  • 3 modular form-factor platforms – 8 slots, 12 slots and 18 slots delivering upto 115 Tbps, 172 Tbps and 260 Tbps respectively

These are systems designed without compromise and with a very bright future.No oversubscription. Full fabric redundancy. Power efficiency down to as little as4 Watts/Gb. That is 1/4 to 1/5th the amount of power that our nearest competitor uses. And a “clean sheet” design allows us to grow into 1.6 TbE interfaces and beyond.

Wait, there’s more. The most distinctive characteristic of the Cisco 8000 relates to trustworthiness. Networks are critical infrastructure as they connect industries,finance, utilities, and governments and service providers must maintain the integrity of their infrastructure. The chain of trustworthiness begins by knowing whether or not the hardware and software are authentic. The Cisco 8000 Series are equipped with tamper-proof hardware that serves as the root of trust to prevent any modification of the hardware or software. Next, the NOS, XR7, works with Cisco Crosswork Cloud to provide real-time visibility and control to deliver the trustworthy networks that the Internet requires.

Architectures

To grow to the size and capabilities that the next generation will demand, the Internet requires fundamental changes. We reinvented from the ground up, the DNA, the performance curve, operations, trust, and even the rules. We reinvented what Cisco does best.

And these reinventions will allow us to build the future on new architectures –converged, cloud-enhanced, and trustworthy. We that work in the networking industry will hopefully remember this moment years from now. I hope it is just as vivid a memory as Brandi Chastain’s winning goal 20 years ago.

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