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Future of retail: everywhere

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A recent uAfrica.com survey has revealed that consumers ranked convenience as the biggest attraction when shopping online. ANDY HIGGINS believes that this means that online merchants need to make their marketplaces easy to browse on any device that can connect to the Internet.

According to a survey conducted by uAfrica.com, convenience ranked highest as the biggest attraction for consumers shopping online.

Results from the research show that customers currently may be researching purchases online and buying offline, whereas others will research offline and purchase goods online. The evolution of retail will see merchants selling through multiple retail channels both online (via their own website, online marketplaces like bidorbuy.co.za and eBay, or directly from Facebook) as well as offline (a physical store, pop-up store, flea market etc.), says The future of the retail environment will mean that sales must be facilitated via any device, be it a desktop computer, tablet and/or mobile device/s.

uAfrica.com has built a cloud based technology solution that helps manage inventory across these various retail environments and continues to improve the platform based on market feedback and insight. The objective for uAfrica.com when building these applications to assist SME business owners in being able to effectively manage their products/goods without having to be a technical specialist.

The future of retail is a world where online and offline retail becomes one in the same. There has not been very much technical disruption, specifically in the offline retail space over the past decade, however the industry is preparing for a disruptive revolution over the next 2 to 5 years. For example, the traditional point of sale devices that you currently see in a physical store have not changed much and with the advent of cloud computing and cheap tablet devices, a better service can be delivered at less cost for merchants.

Retailers and merchants need to take a more unified and holistic approach to how they communicate with their customers. Issues around refunds, product returns, managing stock across multiple locations, international sales (multi-currency) and logistics issues will be addressed over the coming years.

The rest of Africa will also have the opportunity to leap frog the world as far as this evolution is concerned as they do not have very well entrenched systems in place, making it easier for them to adopt new technology.

The shopping mall tradition is part of South African culture although the convenience of online shopping and the amount of stores now selling products in cyberspace, will ultimately affect mall traffic and the purpose of mall visits will shift from a monthly necessity to more of an entertainment and product experiences. Another emerging retail trend is “Click & Collect”, which again demonstrates the intersection of online and offline shopping.

The reason click and collect is taking off, is because it solves the age-old issue of the ‚Äòfinal mile’ when it comes to product delivery. People don’t like waiting for deliveries, but most are happy to collect from their local high street or dispatch unit. This evolution will make retailers more efficient which will ultimately enable them to offer products for less resulting in a win-win scenario for both retailers and consumers.

* Andy Higgins is the Managing Director of uAfrica.com

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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