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Red Square arrives online

Edcon is expanding its e-business with the opening of its e-commerce door to Red Square.

Already home to Edgars, Jet, CNA and Boardmans and following the successful launch of its CNA online operation in May 2012 the group will present its prominent beauty retail chain, Red Square, as the biggest specialist cosmetics brand to launch online in South Africa. Their huge base of approximately 4 million account card holders will be able to purchase on the site using their Edgars or Jet store card while also earning Thank U points. Red Square offers an extensive range of international and national branded make-up, skincare and fragrance and aims to be a specialist destination that celebrates the real beauty of every woman. The website, www.redsquare.co.za, will extend the cosmetic retailer’s already extensive and growing national footprint of 39 stores and will carry almost 3 000 products. When asked why Red Square was chosen to step through the e-commerce portal, Edcon e-commerce executive David Gibbons explained: ‚’Cosmetics is a great category for e-commerce. It’s easy to ship and lends itself to online shopping. Customers often know exactly what they’re looking for and a website can provide them with easy browsing of a huge range, good product information, customer reviews and insight about new products, for a rich shopping experience.’

‚’Furthermore, women who have Internet access spend far more time than men shopping for beauty and cosmetics online, as shown in an international comScore study which reveals women over-index most heavily in the fragrances / cosmetics category (6.6% reach for females versus 3.1% for males). In developing countries a Nielsen study shows that 64% of women feel they are the most appropriate decision maker for health and beauty purchases.’ One particular element of the online stores’ offering is likely to see many customers flocking to its online ‚”doors‚”: the site will offer a free sampling programme that gives customers the opportunity to select three samples from a wide range of premium brands and these will be included free-of-charge with every online order.

‚’It’s a wonderful way to discover exciting new products that you might not have tried otherwise and our research showed sampling to try at home is one of the key customer needs,’ says Gibbons. Gibbons also emphasises the importance of a trusted brand in the online space and the ability to serve customers via the most convenient channel for each of their shopping trips. ‚”Customers seldom shop exclusively either on- or off-line, so being multichannel is an important part of the value proposition, and having physical stores where product can be exchanged is perceived as a big benefit by consumers. Asked about the future of online retail, Gibbons was upbeat: ‚’Since 46% of Top End South African women with Internet access shop online often or sometimes, according to an internal study done, and 22% of women globally shop online at least once a day, this is a market that is set to grow. Also it’s important to bear in mind that 92% of these women will share information with friends and family about deals and positive experiences. This is word-of-mouth advertising that cannot be ignored.’ Gibbons and his team are acutely aware that they’re dealing with empowered consumers, who have a choice on how and when they shop, and their aim is to serve them well in the mall or online. ‚’Clients either start online or in the mall. IBM research has shown that most sales happen in-store but most of the product research takes place online. Clearly this means you must efficiently serve customers in both spheres. For every person purchasing online, there are also 15 who see the product online but make the purchase in the mall. ‚’Apart from that, online shopping is growing in South Africa. Despite it being a small share of the market, we’ve decided to make our broad range of cosmetics available online because the increased sales are attractive us.’

With online shopping set to take off in South Africa, Red Square hopes to lead the way in online beauty retail. Delivery will occur nationwide in two to seven working days. Delivery is free on all purchases over R350: otherwise a R45 delivery fee will apply. Red Square is encouraging people to try out their online offering by giving all customers a discount of R100 when they make their first purchase online and spend R650, using the voucher code: PRESS100.

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Talk for less with MWEB Talk

Today, MWEB announced its consumer VoIP package called MWEB Talk, which allows users to make free network calls and get discounted rates made to landlines and mobile phones.

MWEB, today launched its new Voice over IP (VoIP) offering to South African consumers. The service, MWEB Talk, will offer users’ free on network calls to fellow MWEB Talk users’ and cheap calls to landline and mobile phone numbers. This follows the success and demand of the ISP’s existing VoIP products in recent months.

‚”We have seen a noticeable transformation in users’ Internet behaviour with consumers wanting services that complement their ADSL connectivity solution. We have seen phenomenal growth and by the end of the year will deliver over 100 million minutes on our VoIP platform,‚” says Carolyn Holgate, General Manager of MWEB Connect, the ISP’s Consumer and Small Office/ Home Office Division.

MWEB has made significant investments in its infrastructure and VoIP has been prioritised on its network to ensure performance and stability of the MWEB Talk service for both businesses and consumers.

‚”In addition to the high quality of the service, MWEB Talk is also simple to set-up and users’ should experience a significant reduction in their telephone bills. By implementing a VoIP service consumers and small businesses can cut their monthly telecommunication bills by up to 55% to landline and mobile numbers,‚” says Holgate.

With no subscription fee, existing MWEB customers can log into their MWEB account, register for the service and download the application for PC and Mac as well as mobile applications that turn an iPhone, Android, and Nokia smartphone into a VoIP phone. Customers will also be able to purchase a Desktop VoIP Handset for R99 which will be HD voice ready and will support multi-extensions.

‚”We believe that VoIP is the future of telephony in South Africa and we are extremely excited to see the consumer market shift into the VoIP space,‚” concludes Holgate.

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Telcos want one face

The investments that telecommunications service providers are making in reshaping their online properties into customer-centric portals reflects the growing maturity of self-service and Internet uptake in the industry, says KEVIN MELTZER of Consology.

Many telcos around the world are overhauling their websites to offer customers more holistic portals that give them a single point of entry into the organisation.

They are doing so because they recognise that service will be a key point of differentiation for their businesses in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive. They have also realised that they have a major opportunity to shift customers away from expensive contact centres towards low-cost electronic channels.

In the past, most telecommunications operators ran multiple sites across multiple domains and subdomains. These web-based properties were built around the way that telcos structured their own businesses rather than around the needs of the customer. But we are now seeing the leading operators take a more user-centric approach to the way that they design their web and mobile sites.

This coincides with a change in the industry from slicing customers into numerous segments and then serving them across a range of functional and product areas. For example, many operators split customers into prepaid and postpaid segments or voice and data users, distinctions that are becoming less meaningful in a world of technology convergence. They now want to present a single face to the customer rather than servicing the subscriber through silos.

These changes are starting to percolate through to operators’ customer service and sales strategies. Telcos are starting to pull together disparate products and services that once resided across multiple sites into customer service portals.

These sites put a wide range of information at the subscriber’s fingertips, he adds. Increasingly, for example, subscribers can log directly into their accounts from the operator’s homepage and then access a wealth of services and information. This marks an evolution from the fractured and inconsistent customer experience of the past.

Leading operators are even thinking about how their Self-Service platforms should be integrated with social media strategies to allow customers to pay their electronic bills or top up airtime with a single click from within a social network.

Whereas Self-Service portals on telco sites were once purely about account management functions, they increasingly offer far richer functionality. In addition to allowing subscribers to pay their bills and check their account information, they are also increasingly becoming the first stop for service and commerce.

Operators have started to recognise that splintering their e-commerce, service and account management functions simply makes no sense. Customers want to be able to do everything through one interface rather than needing to visit two or three Web sites, or eventually possibly needing to phone a call centre or visit a store for certain transactions.

Integrated and easy to use online customer service channels will be central for telco operators who want to be competitive in the markets of tomorrow. They form an advantage in an industry where it will be customer relationships rather than cost or service that drive loyalty and purchasing decisions.

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