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How to fix the gap in SA’s online shopfronts

While the number of e-tailers is growing in South Africa, there are still a number of hurdles that need to be overcome before these companies can start enjoying sustainable returns, writes KEVIN TUCKER, CEO of PriceCheck.

This year, online retail in South Africa will reach 1% of overall retail for the first time. While the number appears small, it marks a significant milestone for a sector that is attracting robust investment from both established and new players in the retail game. It underscores that online retail is now gathering momentum in South Africa, having maintained a growth rate of above 20% for several years, according to the World Wide Worx Online Retail in South Africa 2016 report. The report revealed that in 2015, the rate of growth was 26%, taking online retail to the R7.5 billion mark. This year, growth in Rand terms is expected to remain the same as in 2015, taking the total to above R9 billion.

However, while these figures are encouraging for the country’s growing number of e-tailers, payment gateways and online merchants, there are undoubtedly still many hurdles to overcome before they can enjoy sustainable returns. Compared to traditional retail, the profits are still paltry and the number of online shoppers spending regularly remains low. The majority of South Africans spend between R250 and R1000 when making a purchase online, and 33% of those surveyed made 10 or more purchases online per year.*

Limited Range, Limited Appeal

The most commonly cited challenge for local online retail is that South Africans remain hesitant to transact online, and are afraid to hand their banking details to payment gateways plagued by fraud.

Although online security is indeed a factor, it is less of an issue than the quality of what South Africans are presented with online. Indeed, the primary challenge is in fact the dearth of innovative business models and – as a direct result – the availability of products online (or the lack thereof).

As several reports have illustrated, most local e-tailers – both established names and newcomers – have a very limited range of products listed online, which deters potential customers and drives them into physical stores in order to enjoy the wide range of choices they have naturally become accustomed to. Lacking confidence in what they can find online, local shoppers will be less inclined to spend time looking, leading to less time spent overall on various e-commerce sites. This is a psychological barrier that e-tailers will need to work at overcoming. But as it stands, for various reasons, local merchants and brands have sparse product ranges listed online – which is often coupled with poor or unreliable delivery. As such, many local shoppers only hop online to research price points and find favourable deals, at which point they then travel to physical stores to complete the purchasing process.

For South Africans to move online and actually spend significant amounts (on a regular basis), they need to be presented with better quality products, and more of them. As it stands, local e-tailers are expecting to simply win on price, but it is arguably diversity and quality that will both differentiate them and drive the growth of South African e-commerce.

Showcasing the Standouts 

The good news is that there are an increasing number of new players entering into this space that are experimenting with and pioneering different models. As mentioned above, infrastructure and delivery remain difficult, and there are psychological barriers to overcome before local online retail can reach its critical tipping point. The upcoming PriceCheck Tech & E-Commerce Awards will draw attention to some of the strides being made by individuals and companies, and will also highlight where some of the weaknesses lie.

Looking ahead, there are infinite opportunities for South Africa’s emerging e-commerce players – both established and entrepreneurial – but the key to long term success will surely lie in providing consumers with far more than what the local mall can offer.

* 2015 South African eCommerce Awards survey

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Mobile is the new branch

Standard Bank has launched an account for mobile devices that gives back 500MB of data a month

Standard Bank has introducd a R4.95p/m bank account called MyMo that customers can open on their mobile devices, loaded with data and airtime offerings and other benefits such as virtual and Gold physical card.

MyMo account holders will also enjoy the convenience of a cheque account through a Visa and Mastercard gold card. Once the account is open, users can choose to either receive R50 in airtime or 500MB of data a month, if their card is swiped more than four times a month. A further megabyte of data is loaded on the account for every R20 spent.

“MyMo is an account for everyone, whether you just landed your first job or have been around the block. With no documentation required it only takes a few minutes to open the account,” says Funeka Montjane, Chief Executive for Personal and Business Banking, South Africa, at Standard Bank Group. “For just R4.95 a month customer will be able to enjoy free swipes and ATM withdrawals at only R6.50 for amounts under R 1 000.

“Mobile is the new branch. This account is about bringing the mobile branch into customers hands, it is about convenience and security while banking.”

She says mobile offers low cost transactional banking which integrates people and businesses into the new connected economy, making mobile the new branch ecosystem that will drive and connect Africa’s growth. Physical connections to the economy are rapidly changing to digital where banks have to move from being financial institutions to service organisations.

“In the past people congregated in communities and eventually cities to maximise the advantages of connectivity. Today a simple hand-held device has the potential to open infinite doors, transforming individuals’ access to opportunities, regardless of where they are, and like never before in history. 

“Historically, a bank account represented access to economic citizenship. Today, having a simple device enabling digital access to a modern banking platform is a passport to global connectivity and vast human development potential.”

The bank says it is using technology, and mobile phones in particular, to deliver low-cost transactional channels accessible to all our customers. The evolution in mobile can be seen in transaction options like cash back at the retail checkout till rather than the ATM, free digital banking rather than using a branch, and the ability to transact using digital wallets, even without a bank account.

“Developing comprehensive connected ecosystems requires a mind-set change from Africa’s banks,” says Montjane. “Banks will evolve away from traditional financial service organisations, into service ecosystems enabling broad universal access to almost everything like enhanced purchasing experiences of vehicles and homes, online procurement of goods and services and lifestyle elements like rewards and travel. 

“These connectivity drivers will also act to future-proof evolving connectivity ecosystem by allowing us to offer untold future services while deriving income from as yet unrealised revenue streams,.   

From a customer perspective, the kind of ecosystems of knowledge, access and, ultimately, connectivity that banks will come to provide will radically transform the share of life that almost all individuals will be able to access.”

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Two-thirds of SA staff hide social media from bosses

With 90% of people in employment going online several times a day, it can be hard for most workers to keep their private and work-life separate during the working day (and beyond). The recently published Global Privacy Report from Kaspersky Lab reveals that 64% of South African consumers choose to hide social media activity from their boss. This secretive stance at work also extends to their colleagues, with 60% of South Africans also preferring not to reveal online activities to their co-workers.

Globally, the average employee spends an astonishing 13 years and two months at work during their lifetime. Interestingly though, not all this time is directly related to solving work tasks or earning a promotion: almost two thirds (64%) of consumers admit visiting non-work-related websites every day from their desk.

Not surprisingly, 35% of South African employees are against their employer knowing which websites they visit. However, more interestingly, 60% of South African are even against their colleagues knowing about their online activities. This probably means that colleagues constitute an even greater threat to future perspectives of an office slouch or maybe the relationships with colleagues are more informal and therefore, more valuable.

On the contrary, social media activity appears to be a less private domain for many and therefore, more suitable for sharing with colleagues but not the boss. This is probably because workers fear harming the public image of a company or interest in decreased staff productivity motivates companies to monitor employees’ social networks and make career changing decisions based on that. Such policies have led to 64% of South Africans saying that they don’t want to reveal their social media activities to their boss and 53% even don’t want to disclose this information to their colleagues.

A further 29% are against showing the content of their messages and emails to their employer. In addition, 3% even said that their career was irrevocably damaged as a consequence of their personal information being leaked. Thus, people are worried about how to build a favourable internal reputation and how not to destroy existing workplace relationships.

“As going online is an integral part of our life nowadays, lines continue to blur between our digital existence at work and at home. And that’s neither good nor bad. That’s how we live in the digital age. Just keep remembering that as an employee you need to be increasingly cautious of what exactly you post on social media feeds or what websites you prefer using at work. One misconceived action on the internet could have an irrevocable long-term impact on even the most ambitious worker’s ability to climb the career ladder of their choice in the future,” comments Marina Titova, Head of Consumer Product Marketing at Kaspersky Lab.

To ensure workers don’t fall prey of the internet threats at a work, there are some core guidelines to adhere to in the digital age:

  • Don’t post anything that could be considered defamatory, obscene, proprietary or libellous. If in doubt, don’t post.
  • Be aware that system administrators may at least, in theory, be informed about your web browsing patterns.
  • Don’t harass, threaten, discriminate or disparage against any colleague, partner, competitor or customer. Neither on social networks or in messages, emails, nor by any other means.
  • Don’t post photographs of other employees, customers, vendors, suppliers or company products without prior written permission.
  • Start using Kaspersky Password Manager to ensure your social media and other personal accounts are not at risk of unauthorised access by someone else in an office. Install a reliable security solution such as Kaspersky Security Cloud to protect your personal devices.

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