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How digital can save brands from themselves

The rapid pace of digital change is re-writing the rule book and forcing companies to innovate and exceed customer expectations to stay ahead – and afloat, writes HANS ZACHAR, Managing Director of Technology Strategy at Accenture Africa.



Accenture research finds that only 7% of brands are exceeding customer expectations and, even worse, 25% don’t meet customer expectations at all.

Company leaders need to be awake to the fact that customer expectations are outpacing their brand experiences. The ticket to success is improving their understanding of what consumers actually want – and then exceeding them – while simultaneously identifying opportunities to save and grow.

After all customers are increasingly brand and quality conscious and expectations are being forged by their experiences of leading brands across industries. They seek out the latest trends but watch their budget‚ and look out for personalised as well as unique shopping experience. However, many companies are still failing to deliver on these standard expectations. In the Expectations vs. Experience: The Good, The Bad, The Opportunity, survey, Accenture highlights that brands are more pessimistic, with only about 2/3 believing they have technology, processes and organisations in place to deliver. Furthermore, only 1/3 believe their data and analytics are differentiating.

Prioritising the customer mindset is therefore the key to overcoming the hurdles to expansion and retention in the modern marketplace – and then unlocking opportunities to grow.

Essentially, the ability to harness digital acceleration needs to be inculcated in the corporate mindset. A vista of new savings and growth opportunities awaits for those who enter the journey to the Cloud, the intelligent customer and intelligent enterprises.

What I mean by this is that companies need to be able to adapt to a dynamic state of constant flux and this entails embracing digital at a rate that is about double that of their peers. They need to turn data into insights and action and identify and secure more partnerships to become high performers.

These trends are in play across Africa, where large-scale smart phone adoption, a decline in data costs and increase in internet penetration is totally changing the landscape. African businesses have the unique advantage of leapfrogging legacy architecture which can keep them a step ahead. But for this to happen digital acceleration needs to be seen as a friend rather than an enemy.

The reality is digital is driving convergence across a number of industries, enabling new competitors to enter, and forcing companies to redefine how they compete. At the same time, there is added pressure from active investors in various industries who have a higher expectation for profitability. Speed is the new normal and companies need to become more determined to survive this perpetual state of uncertainty by becoming lean and agile enough to focus on aggressive, sustainable growth.

The task may be great and the stakes high, but the path forward is clear: to grow, companies must proactively identify activities that drive value, take out costs that are not contributing to business goals and reinvest those savings into growth.

In this regard, Cloud is not the future. It’s already here, and more businesses are finding that the sooner they adopt cloud technology, the better positioned they will be to compete in an increasingly brisk, aggressive marketplace. Companies that want to achieve the type of agility they need to succeed in today’s business climate, migrate to cloud while embracing a robust ecosystem of cloud solutions. And they’re teaming with Accenture to make the journey a safe, affordable and profitable one.

The next level of operational excellence will emerge from the latest gains in software intelligence. Business and technology leaders must now view software intelligence not as a pilot or a once-off project, but as an across-the-board functionality – one that will drive new levels of evolution and discovery, propelling innovation throughout the enterprise. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the many great examples.

Accenture strives to be Africa’s true digital accelerator and enabler and we are going to do that through innovation that has been tried and tested in the market.

Being a global entity plugged in to the latest innovation has immense benefits too. For instance, innovation by us in Japan can land here the following day. Equally, when we develop something powerful in Africa it can be exported into the mobile marketplace just as quickly.

At the end of the day customers are becoming more intelligent and demanding and technology around those demands does exist – but is not being harnessed quickly enough. We know that the mall of future, for instance, will be on mobile devices and so we need to be helping clients to figure out what to do with a Sandton City, for instance, when a lot less is happening in a mall.

Sometimes decoupling old technology can quickly enable oganisations to begin moving at pace and with scale. We therefore need to go inside that enterprise in Africa to help clients accelerate digitisation and thereby capture what is happening on the outside. Artificial intelligence, for instance, can be harnessed to weed out fraud and improve trust for entities at a time when there is a trust deficit in many markets.

Essentially digital acceleration means you will need to work in a more agile, nimble and smaller world. This is why we are investing more in our people and in innovation itself. That is our differentiator – being at the centre of true innovation to be an enabler of digital acceleration.


Millennials turning 40: NOW will you stop targeting them?

It’s one of the most overused terms in youth marketing, and probably the most inaccurate, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK



One of the most irritating buzzwords embraced by marketers in recent years is the term “millennial”. Most are clueless about its true meaning, and use it as a supposedly cool synonym for “young adults”. The flaw in this targeting – and the word “flaw” here is like calling the Grand Canyon a trench – is that it utterly ignores the meaning of the term. “Millennials” are formally defined as anyone born from 1980 to 2000, meaning they have typically come of age after the dawn of the millennium, or during the 21st century.

Think about that for a moment. Next year, the millennial will be formally defined as anyone aged from 20 to 40. So here you have an entire advertising, marketing and public relations industry hanging onto a cool definition, while in effect arguing that 40-year-olds are youths who want the same thing as newly-minted university graduates or job entrants.

When the communications industry discovers just how embarrassing its glib use of the term really is, it will no doubt pivot – millennial-speak for “changing your business model when it proves to be a disaster, but you still appear to be cool” – to the next big thing in generational theory.

That next big thing is currently Generation Z, or people born after the turn of the century. It’s very convenient to lump them all together and claim they have a different set of values and expectations to those who went before. Allegedly, they are engaged in a quest for experience, compared to millennials – the 19-year-olds and 39-olds alike – supposedly all on a quest for relevance.

In reality, all are part of Generation #, latching onto the latest hashtag trend that sweeps social media, desperate to go viral if they are producers of social content, desperate to have caught onto the trend before their peers.

The irony is that marketers’ quest for cutting edge target markets is, in reality, a hangover from the days when there was no such thing as generational theory, and marketing was all about clearly defined target markets. In the era of big data and mass personalization, that idea seems rather quaint.

Indeed, according to Grant Lapping, managing director of DataCore Media, it no longer matters who brands think their target market is.

“The reason for this is simple: with the technology and data digital marketers have access to today, we no longer need to limit our potential target audience to a set of personas or segments derived through customer research. While this type of customer segmentation was – and remains – important for engagements across traditional above-the-line engagements in mass media, digital marketing gives us the tools we need to target customers on a far more granular and personalised level.

“Where customer research gives us an indication of who the audience is, data can tell us exactly what they want and how they may behave.”

Netflix, he points out, is an example of a company that is changing its industry by avoiding audience segmentation, once the holy grail of entertainment.

In other words, it understands that 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds are very different – but so is everyone in between.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Robots coming to IFA



Robotics is no longer about mechanical humanoids, but rather becoming an interface between man and machine. That is a key message being delivered at next month’s IFA consumer electronics expo in Berlin. An entire hall will be devoted to IFA Next, which will not only offer a look into the future, but also show what form it will take.

The concepts are as varied as the exhibitors themselves. However, there are similarities in the various products, some more human than others, in the fascinating ways in which they establish a link between fun, learning and programming. In many cases, they are aimed at children and young people.

The following will be among the exhibitors making Hall 26 a must-visit:

Leju Robotics (Stand 115) from China is featuring what we all imagine a robot to be. The bipedal Aelos 1s can walk, dance and play football. And in carrying out all these actions it responds to spoken commands. But it also challenges young researchers to apply their creativity in programming it and teaching it new actions. And conversely, it also imparts scholastic knowledge.

Cubroid (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Korea starts off by promoting an independent approach to the way it deals with tasks. Multi-functional cubes, glowing as they play music, or equipped with a tiny rotating motor, join together like Lego pieces. Configuration and programming are thus combined, providing a basic idea of what constitutes artificial intelligence.

Spain is represented by Ebotics (Stand 218). This company is presenting an entire portfolio of building components, including the “Mint” educational program. The modular system explains about modern construction, programming and the entire field of robotics.

Elematec Corporation (Stand 208) from Japan is presenting the two-armed SCARA, which is not intended to deal with any tasks, but in particular to assist people with their work.

Everybot (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Japan approaches the concept of robotics by introducing an autonomous floor-cleaning machine, similar to a robot vacuum cleaner.

And Segway (Stand 222) is using a number of products to explain the modern approach to battery-powered locomotion.

IFA will take place at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds (ExpoCenter City) from 6 to 11 September 2019. For more information, visit

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