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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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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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