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Omni-channel retail demands the social touch

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From a brand’s perspective omni-channel means leveraging and coordinating the customer experience across multiple channels of communications to understand consumer behavioural patterns with the aim of delivering relevant product information, writes LYNETTE HUNDERMARK, MD at Useful & Beautiful.

The retail shopping experience has changed dramatically over the last few years. Shopping for a Fathers day gift at a local mall ten years ago literally meant trawling the entire mall until a consumer found that perfect gift for dad.

Times have changed as shopping for a Father’s day gift today as a digital savvy consumer would take on a very different experience. Before entering the mall consumers are already empowered with pre-shopping research. Consumers would be aware of deals available at shops that have already sent their promotional offers whether it be via email or apps push messaging, consumers would know what items are on sale, and ‘whats new’ and available in stock.

Consumers would also have likely seen reviews, and images of intended items to purchase via social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest (all of which have popular apps utilized on a mobile phone).The traditional linear approach to shopping is likely to be replaced with consumers walking into a mall and going into the intended shop of purchase, simply purchasing what they had planned to purchase then leaving the store. The post shopping experience is where consumers would then share their shopping experience via social media channels whether it  be anger, frustration or pure delight.

An omni-channel journey is the least customers expect as they increasingly dictate how they want to be engaged and serviced. With the addition of social media and mobile channels, the challenge for brands is to  tailor across all the channels for the finest consumer experience.

The impact social media has on the omni-channel customer journey can range from increasing awareness, influencing purchase,  earning loyalty and gaining brand advocates.

The core idea of omni-channel is a seamless customer experience, that bridges the gap between online and offline. But as we all know that is not easy, because if it was more brands would be winning at it.

While not a silver bullet, social media has made creating an omni-channel experience for consumers more achievable for brands of any industry (not just retail).

Start with the mobile customer ‘who is indeed Queen’

Both omnichannel and social media starts with the mobile consumer. With 23.6 million smart phones as reported by Mobile Consumer in SA 2015, World Wide Worx, customers want and expect to be able to contact organizations via social media channels on their phones via the Facebook and Twitter apps or mobi sites and have their questions answered, issues resolved and points of view heard in real time.

Research has shown that at least 1/3 of consumers have contacted a brand for customer service via social media to date and the number is rising. Failure to engage will be regarded by customers as a service failure meaning that consumers are looking for a meaningful real time response from a brand on social media whether it be during  the day, night, weekends and holidays 24/7/365.

Social media has provided customers with a platform on which they share their views. If a brands products, services and customer relationships are good, then their commentary will most likely be positive with greater brand loyalty, better customer retention, more repeat purchases and ultimately higher revenues (and who does not want that??)

When Social Meets Omni-Channel

Consumers are found on social media and can be easily researched from their profile information and engagements.  The data gathered from social media can be used to start the execution of your omnichannel strategy. A consumer-centric strategy includes content too,  therefore use social media to take note of your consumers’ behavior. When do they engage with your posts the most? What content do they like? If you’ve been successful at something, create more content based off of that, for example a case study blog.

Your consumers care about other consumers’ experiences – they are more likely to trust the content developed from experiences,  therefore use them to create consumer-centred content.

Social Media shouldn’t exist in silo

Social media can be a great tool for making the consumer experience seamless. Brands can use social media to respond in a timely manner,  to keep track of every question, complaint or engagement from a consumer. But, social media alone cannot accomplish a truly seamless experience—that takes a close relationship with all your channels in the marketing team.

All the data collected from social media is useless if it never makes it to the marketing team. Creating an omni-channel experience for your consumers’ means creating a unified customer experience across all channels and social platforms can’t be the only area where personal and seamless interactions between consumer and brand occur. Connections between your brand and your consumers should be made between web, mobile and in-store or in-office actions. To execute this cross-platform strategy, your marketing and social media teams need to be in constant communication.

A few days ago I saw a sponsored ad on Facebook by a well established book store encouraging me to update my personal details relating to their loyalty programme,with an incentive of winning a prize. While attempting to update these details, I noticed that the page was hosted on an insecure site and naturally I was hesitant to proceed with the update so I paused and reported the incident on Twitter (as I knew Twitter was likely to have more of an immediate response than Facebook).

It took over a week to get a response from Twitter  with a reply stating that the social media team was not responsible for removing the pages that were hosted and that the appropriate line manager will be informed if I sent further information via email. The conversation was then ended with the page still getting promoted on facebook. This left me and other twitter followers (who were following the conversation) quite perturbed by the response and needless to say, I have not had any immediate incline to use online channels of this book store, and I have also shared this experience with all of my peers.

Winning the hearts of the customer

In our current digital age, omni-channel is no longer a strategy just for retailers. Social media makes all brands accessible and exchanges seamless. On social media you can reach your consumers, research them and personally engage with them. While not the only part of an omni-channel experience, social media does make an omni-channel strategy viable for any business. The key to winning the heart of the consumer is without a doubt listening  and making smart decisions around the conversations (the real time social intelligence should give the team a heads up on what they need to know about anticipating issues, in the case of the book store example, removing the insecure page that was reported), and last but not least giving the customers a quick response without sacrificing quality for speed.

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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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