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New demands on old stores

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The retail model of the future will be a different experience from today. Advances in technology could improve relationships between the customer and retailer, but says PIETER ENGELBRECHT, the retailer needs to adapt to these changes.

The retail model of the future will be a radically different experience from today, largely driven by the changing shopping demands of the younger hyper-connected consumer. Bricks-and-mortar retailing will remain to be a very significant part in retail, however the lines between channels will erode at the benefit of both the customer and the business. Advances in technology will significantly improve the relationships between retailers and customers, much the way analytics is already doing to online shopping.

Real opportunity lies in responding to this change, focusing on delivering a truly integrated and seamless omni-channel experience. The future of retail is an exciting one, and over the next few years we expect to see a number of key developments taking place in stores around the globe:

The emergence of the smart personal shopper

Online retail will continue to exist for customers who want to buy a specific product and have it delivered to their home. But those who enter a store do so to learn, to view and feel items and to speak to a person. As the physical environment of a store changes, communication barriers between customers and employees such as counters will be removed, enabling staff to provide a more personalised experience.

Mobile technology will revolutionise the sales process and experience. Tomorrow’s retail staff will be unleashed from the sale counter, and given the equipment to connect with customers across the entire store, offering a more consultative approach. In fashion retail for example, assistants will be able to show customers a range of outfits and styles a particular item could work with.

With a real time view of stock and availability, they will be far more capable of closing sales, only recommending items that are both in stock and in size, whilst offering further choice and reducing wait time for shoppers.

The rise of immersive engagement

Walking past a store, a customer’s phone buzzes, offering them to try on the same pair of jeans they saved in their online basket a few days ago. Enticing them in, as they’ve already shopped online, for today only they will get an additional 10% off all purchases.

Location-aware technology will identify customers’ mobile devices, enabling upsell and cross-sell offers based not just on what they’re viewing, but also what they’ve purchased before. As customers roam the store, engagement programmes will link with in-store beacons to dynamically offer up suggestions at various points along the store path.

Here, the loyalty programme and the new found freedom of the retail assistant will combine and, with a shared purchase history, the best retailers will enable assistants to make personal style recommendations, based on customer preference and items they may already own.

Experiences will extend loyalty beyond purchases too, offering experience enhancements such as VIP parking spots when customers approach retail stores, and recognising regular customers on entry.

The end of cash and plastic

Part of matching the new connected consumers’ expectations will be delivering a seamless, frictionless payment experience, removing any barriers slowing down the speed of a retail sale. Eliminating queues from stores, roaming staff, now empowered by mobile technology will be able to transact with customers in seconds, as shoppers keep focus on the purchase experience rather than the cost.

One of the most important factors to consumers, payment security requires additional compliance with higher security standards, ensuring consumers are protected from fraudulent activity and avoiding the irreparable reputational damage and financial costs associated with a breach in payment security for the retailer.

This adoption of mobile, digital payments will further enable retailers to offer things like on-demand delivery options, where products can be delivered straight to the customer’s home or even car.

For retail businesses, this will also likely lead to higher revenues. Just as the shift from cash to plastic showed consumers are willing to spend more when not parting with cash, so too will sales be further strengthened by further dissociation from the traditional bank instrument – the card.

The road to the future

These hyper-connected consumers already in the marketplace have a rapidly growing share of spending power. This always-on generation demand things like fast internet access and a more seamless, digital experience they’re already getting from other services.

While new innovations are being tested and tried in today’s market, much of this development is stifled by existing and fragmented existing IT infrastructure, negatively impacting the customer experience, and slowing the consumer adoption of new technologies that could help drive the retail business forward.

Because of this, retailers are already starting on the back foot. To build a successful platform for innovation across multiple channels, they must ensure the technological needs of today’s customers are fully met, otherwise they face being left in the dust. Focus on enriching the customer experience immediately, and set the stage for rapid innovation in the coming years.

* Pieter Engelbrecht, regional manager for Sub-Saharan Africa at Aruba Networks

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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