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SA e-commerce in 2018 signals retailers to innovate

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2017, and Black Friday, in particular, proved online shopping is alive and well, albeit a little ill-prepared, or possibly naive. However, for now, at least, the truth remains that the status of e-commerce sits at around 1 to 2% of total retail.

At the same time, retail sales in South Africa is inching along pitifully, growing marginally by 0.2% in September, compared with the same month last year, although economists had predicted a growth of over 2.5%. Very much a rock and a hard place.

“Black Friday was a great success for SA e-tailers, and for consumers, and we’re delighted by that dawning. But with the economy putting pressure on retail, it’s imperative that local brands innovate around their model and distribution,” explains Grant Webster, the COO of nationwide smart device repair specialist, weFix.

Yuppie Chef, an interesting case in point, is testing an additional channel, making a bold step from online to bricks and mortar in this last quarter opening a store at Cape Town’s Willowbridge Mall in August. That’s thinking out of the box.

Originally praised for its dorm room beginnings, the weFix brand has intensely focused itself on partnerships for the last year and a half, contouring their infrastructure to craft a model that allows for scalability across devices, brands and technology. “Originally working with Apple Devices, we added Samsung and then LG and Huawei to our suite of products that we repair. Having repaired over 750 000 devices in 35 stores nationwide, through 150 technicians, we shifted from a repair shop to a lab with technicians, supported by a robust framework to manage large trade volume for global brands.”

Under the leadership of Simon van der Merwe, weFix’s Chief Business Development Officer, this evolution paved the way to open up to more brands, including Yoco, the small wireless-card machines that seem ubiquitous at stores, restaurants, coffee shops, and small businesses, as well as the servicing of all the newly launched Energizer units, and FNB smart devices nationwide, the first local financial services company to launch its own branded Android-powered smartphones, designed by Chinese phone maker ZTE.

Within the insurance industry, weFix manage claims for the majority of insurance companies, including Discovery, MonitorKZN, and Santam, while breaking new ground with Click2Sure Insurance, who have launched a new uncomplicated digitally-led insurance product at point of sale. weFix was also the recipient of the Top Contents Repair Specialist from Discovery Insure for 2017.

2016 saw the introduction of global drone leader, DJI, both in sales and repairs and gaining weFix repair accreditation – certifying their first authorised DJI repair technicians, making a bold play for the booming drone market. This continued their extension from consumers to B2B to trade business via a new wholesale division which distributes and sells via Takealot, JD Group (Incredible Connection, Hifi Corp), Kaap Agri, Cape Union Mart, and Massmart (Dion Wired and Makro).

“It’s more than just inking an agreement, it’s about collaborating with attentive buyers, meeting their needs and training their team, so that stock is available as best possible and the teams are integrated,” says Webster. “Corporates requiring a tailor-made pickup and drop-off service in a bid to save time, and as a staff perk, can get devices fixed in rapid turnaround times, managed from end-to-end, by relationship managers and offering corporate accounts. For large retailers, we literally repair thousands of devices per year.”

The most exciting part of the weFix journey is that they needed to get the infrastructure right first to hold the capacity for more brands across all stores. That means understanding the brands, training our technicians, buying parts in for the stores, having dedicated workshops in both Cape Town and Johannesburg. weFix are now able to onboard new brands into a robust environment that global brands can depend on. Webster concludes, “It makes absolute sense to outsource your warranty repairs to the leader in the industry. Our track record is the best endorsement we have. It’s just the beginning for us, it’s a new horizon for our business.”

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SA startups in Visa final

Leading fintech companies from the Sub-Sahara Africa technology startup community have made it to the finals of Visa’s Everywhere Initiative.

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Among the 12 chosen, from the 238 total entries, South African startups Howler and FinChatBot will compete against innovators from across Sub Sahara Africa for a chance to secure funding of up to US$50,000 to develop their ideas when the initiative concludes in Johannesburg on July 24. 

Fintechs in Africa are making incredible strides; not only to bring more convenience to consumers, but also to enable people who would not otherwise have access to financial services or even a way to connect to the formal banking system. Venture funding for African startups jumped by 51% to $195 million in 2017 and fintech in Africa is expected to grow exponentially in the next few years as it continues to disrupt the traditional financial sector. With a clear goal of reducing reliance on cash, building digital payment based economies and increasing financial inclusion, Visa is committed to fostering an entrepreneurial spirit and driving innovation in its payments landscape. 

The Sub Saharan Africa edition of the Visa’s Everywhere Initiative challenged local fintech startup to deliver solutions based around three real life business challenges: 

  • How can startups leverage Visa Developer APIs to either:  Enable smaller merchants to accept payments in-store digitally OR Provide a safe and secure solution for online merchants to drive eCommerce and reduce cash on delivery?
  • How can startups use Visa’s APIs to leverage mass reach and social media partner platforms like Facebook to help businesses operating in fast-paced consumer centric environments improve cash flow and receive payments? 
  • How can startups leverage technology to provide services that are functional for illiterate customers to provide them with secure transaction experiences that build and enhance their confidence in the banking system?. 

Entrants were asked to submit ideas to leverage Visa’s network and technologies to resolve against at least one of the challenges. One winner per brief will be selected, with each receiving funding of US$25,000. Winners will be invited to a working meeting with Visa and may be presented with the opportunity to create a prototype. Visa will then select one overall winner to receive an additional US$25,000.

Geraldine Mitchley, Senior Director – Digital Solutions, Sub-Sahara Africa, Visa, said: “We are delighted with the response to our Visa’s Everywhere Initiative and the quality of submissions we received is an indication of the region’s rich talent pool and innovative spirit.”

“Launching this innovation program in the region has been an exciting time for the Visa SSA team, and the takeup reflects Africa’s enthusiasm to develop and pioneer solutions to the continent’s challenge – particularly in the payments technology space. I would like to congratulate the finalists and  wish them luck as they enter the final stretch.  When they come together for the final, they will not only have the chance to turn their ideas into reality, but also potentially help shape the future of payments in the region.”  

Howler which enables cashless transactions and end-to-end ticket handling for consumers and event organisers is competing in the first challenge and FinChatBot, which aims to automate part of customer services for financial service providers through AI-powered conversations is competing in the third challenge. 

The SSA edition of the Visa’s Everywhere Initiative will wrap up on July 24 in Johannesburg, with each finalist having an opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges from Visa and the payments industry. 

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Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com

This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.

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Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.

What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.

However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.

As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.

It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.

The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.

To enter the competition follow the steps below:

Competition entry details:

1. Follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter. (We will ONLY be accepting entries via Twitter, so please don’t enter through the comments section of this article.)

2. Tell us on Twitter, via @GadgetZA, mentioning @Takealot in your posting, how many Watts the Poster Heater consumes.

cleardot.gif3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.

4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.

5. The competition is only open to South African residents.

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