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Translate Wi-Fi noise for retail

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Everybody wants wireless and they want it yesterday, but what does it really mean for the business? MARIUS VISSER of Metacom explains how a properly implemented wireless solution will benefit a company.

Executives come out of board meetings saying that now is the time to implement Wi-Fi, but there is a lack of substance behind it. Only a few truly understand what it can mean for the business or how to create wireless environments in such a way as to solve customer needs while building the brand and business.

The truth is that the business needs to pull back and take a long look at what it expects from a wireless solution and what metrics it will use to assess its value and potential. There has to be a picture painted by the organisation which outlines the user, the type of Wi-Fi needed and the pain points it is designed to address. This is particularly true of the retail sector where interactions with consumers have become essential.

Benefits of Private Wi-Fi Solutions

The wireless platform has evolved into a place to interact, and transact. Currently there are two Wi-Fi networks which are most commonly used – private and public. Public solutions are limited in scope and functionality, and often the user experience is patchy and unreliable. Private Wi-Fi networks, on the other hand, are far richer, allowing businesses to build secure and highly functional solutions which can be tailored to suit specific business requirements, and customer interactions.

If you apply this technology in the correct way and have measurable objectives, then there will be a clear return on investment. Businesses have to invest in tailored Wi-Fi solutions which deliver superb user experiences and have functionality that can be adapted to suit specific markets and requirements. They also need to ensure that the solution is secure. What we offer is a private network with all the security and capability the business needs to deliver a mature Wi-Fi experience to their customers.

Metacom has developed solutions for its clients which provide interactions for customers on one level and access to training materials for employees on another. Pepkor Africa utilised this dual-level solution to create a space where their employees could gain access to vital training materials on their tablets, regardless of location or store. Whilst staff access is important it is also necessary to build a secure managed environment for interaction with clients. This type of private Wi-Fi environment is aptly described as a ‘walled garden’, a private and secure sanctuary which the brand builds for its staff and its customers. It is secure, it is capable and it has specific rules built in.

Many of our customers offer these Wi-Fi services to their customers and allow them access to certain levels of connectivity. However, there is a need to balance the download demands of the customer with the reality of price and availability. Some customers can abuse the system, fortunately you can build in a failsafe mechanism to prevent this. This level of functionality enables interaction between customer and retailer within tight parameters and sends them to the apps you want them to use and information you want them to learn. In addition, the types of apps and their capabilities can be tailored to specific customer requirements.

Data to Enhance Customer Experience

Through the right Wi-Fi solution, the business can build loyalty and learn more about its customers’ online habits and interests. They can uncover the type of device they prefer to use, when they are more likely to go online, what drives their purchasing habits and so much more. They can use the free Wi-Fi connectivity as a portal to meet the customer halfway – a few marketing questions or a survey to gain valuable insight in exchange for free data.

Almost every user has a smartphone and retailers need to develop communities which offer consumers both a service and the item they purchaser.  Loyalty schemes, banking apps, communication tools – these not only build communities and brands, but they give decision makers a lot of information and learning opportunities in the process.

It is one thing to say that it’s a good idea to make a brand, branch or business Wi-Fi-enabled, but there are some challenges. The first is the price – the customer may be willing to pay for the service, but perhaps they can’t afford it – and in some more rural areas, connectivity is poor or non-existent. Many retailers have had to create their own hotspots so that the community can come to them, engage with them in their own space. They also need to ensure that the Wi-Fi solution is accessible from different devices, not just a select few. Compatibility across all devices used by consumers is key.

In conclusion, a tailored private network, allows the business to lower the cost of transactions, learn about what the customer is using and ensure a seamless end-to-end experience.

* Marius Visser, Executive Business Solutions at Metacom

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It’s printing, Jim, but not as we know it

Selling printing services is not only about the hardware anymore, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The seminal science fiction series Star Trek generated many catch-lines, like “The Prime Directive” and “Live long and prosper”. One of its most parodied lines, however, is Doctor Bones McCoy’s words to Captain Kirk on encountering an alien species: “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.”

That’s exactly the way one could describe the printer industry today. Every time an HP, Epson or Konica Minolta releases a new machine for this sector, one can sense the puzzled frowns of people taken by surprise that it still exists.

The difference is that it has evolved from a focus on paper to an emphasis on document management.

One of the first companies to spot that shift in the market, Japanese-headquartered Konica-Minolta, pioneered the concept of a dedicated printer company introducing its own software development division.

“We’ve always believed our role is solving problems for the customer, and not just to provide print, copy and scan solutions,” says Marc Pillay, CEO of the company’s South African division. “Our primary focus is multi-functional devices, but we always look at adding value to clients. Our real job is to assist in achieving a better return on investment.”

The proof of the pudding is that the local division is one of the biggest Konica-Minolta distributors in the world. The reason is simple: unlike most other countries, the South African operation has both a direct and indirect channel. That means it is able to supply companies through its reseller network, while also having a presence on the ground in the form of a dealer network across the country. That, in turn, has given it access to municipalities and other organs of state.

“Our value proposition is based on quality products, service and an unparalleled supply chain,” says Pillay. “When everyone was afraid to do business with government, we thrived on it. It comes from being located in areas where it’s easy to do business with us.”

One could call that the secret of success for existing demand. The coming era, however, will require an appreciation of the next big shifts in printing, says Pillay.

“We’ve seen the big shifts from analog to digital, from monochrome to colour, and from decentralisation to centralisation of printing. The next shift is unbundling printing into a hybrid approach, using both cloud and managed solutions. It’s all going to become subscription-based, and it will be print-on-demand. The high-end customers go into that very quickly, but we still have to cater for people who just do copying.”

Pillay believes that the opening of Microsoft’s Azure data centres in South Africa in March has already made a difference.

“Now you can scan from a device into Microsoft’s SharePoint online or Google Drive. It’s not about screen size anymore, but what you can do to make an impact.”

Where people don’t print, says Pillay, they’re absorbing documents digitally.

“We have to make sure that, where we lose the print, we are gaining the management of the scan, digitisation of the document or management of the workflow. Our income will come out of the workflow.

“Clearly, we’re not just focused on selling a piece of hardware anymore.”

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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SA chooses most loved local businesses

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A new World Wide Worx research report identifies and names South Africa’s 12 Most Loved Local businesses, and places the spotlight on the vital role commercial businesses play in the South African economy. The country’s favourite local businesses include the Chapman’s Peak Hotel in Hout Bay – famed for its calamari, celebrity chef David Higgs’ Rosebank eatery Marble as well as Rouge Day Spa with branches in Kenilworth and Constantia in Cape Town run by a dynamic mother and daughter duo.

The aim of the Most Loved Local report was to celebrate those businesses South Africans love the most and to investigate exactly what makes consumers big fans of these entities. It further offers these enterprises insights into what it takes to succeed in business, highlights the qualities that convert clients into fans and encourages more South Africans to ‘shop’ local.

Report results

Commissioned by Santam, results were compiled using a combination of digital listening tools and traditional research. Social media listening using organic search analysis looked into which business categories were being searched for most. This was followed up with a trend analysis to assess whether a business category was growing in popularity, keyword volume analysis to refine the categories and finally social listening within the categories which businesses were being spoken about in the most positive terms. Thereafter, a poll was conducted among 2 489 respondents to find out what made them love a local business – or not. The sample was nationally representative and aligned to the economically active population per province. A respected independent research house World Wide Worx conducted the research.

The full list of businesses that came top across 12 categories are:

  1. Place to Stay: Chapmans Peak Hotel (Cape Town) – the one with the perfect calamari
  2. Eatery: Marble (Johannesburg) – the one with the celebrity chef in the kitchen
  3. Butcher: The Butcher Man (Cape Town) – the one that people cross town for
  4. Bakery: Fournos (Johannesburg) – the one that is way more than a bakery
  5. Spa: Rouge Day Spa (Cape Town) – the one run by a dynamic mother-daughter team
  6. Entertainment Spot: Gold Reef City (Johannesburg)  – the one with the heart of gold
  7. Gym: Dream Body Fitness (Johannesburg) – the one that is completely unintimidating to work out at
  8. Interior Designer: By Dezign Interiors (Johannesburg) – the one that really, really gets its clients’ style
  9. Market: Bryanston Organic & Natural Market (Johannesburg) – the one that was an organic market before it was trendy to be an organic market
  10. Laundromat: Exclusive Dry Cleaners (Johannesburg) – the one that treats every single client like family
  11. Car Wash: Tubbs’s Car Wash (Johannesburg) – the one that cleans your car while you have a haircut
  12. Construction company: Radon Projects (Pretoria) – the one that is ready all day and all night

Delving into what makes a consumer go from ‘client to fan’, the key factor standing out above all others was service. Arthur Goldstuck, CEO of World Wide Worx, says it seems South Africans will forgive a multitude of ‘sins’ if they are treated well. “Good service was the number one factor that makes 40% of those surveyed support a local business. This was followed by quality products at 18%. Third place went to value for money at 10%, proving the old adage that competing on price alone is not a sound business strategy,” said Goldstuck.

When asked what makes them loyal to a local business, some interesting views across age groups emerged. “Younger clients are more swayed by quality, while older ones are impressed by service. This seems to fit with younger people wanting the status of nice things, and older people wanting to feel valued and respected,” said Goldstuck.

Unsurprisingly, all 12 Most Loved Locals called out service as one of their guiding lights and core pillars when interviewed. Theo and George Parpottas, owners of Exclusive Dry Cleaners, the selected company in the laundromat category, believe when someone walks into their shop, they should be greeted with smiling faces and courteous people. “We don’t care if it’s the president or a beggar, from the moment they walk in, they are a client. We greet them, we are courteous, and we treat them with respect. It doesn’t matter what they bring.”

For Gary Karycou, who co-owns Marble in Rosebank with celebrity chef David Higgs, it is all about attitude. “You can teach someone anything if they want to do it, but we employ on attitude. You get the basic skills but if someone really wants to learn, you can transform them.” He continues, “Giving the best service to our clients, is our motto. It’s something that’s lacking in South Africa and even globally. Businesses just become a bit complacent.”

Famed Green Point butchery and restaurant, The Butcher Man, is owned by Arie Fabiani. He says people will drive past other butcheries and come all the way to the Butcher Man because “we deliver a great service. Good service is critical, and our team knows it.”

Another key finding was that people are more likely to recommend a business if there is a good deal or excellent value for money. Mokaedi Dilotsotlhe, Chief Marketing Officer at Santam, says this is an interesting finding. “Perhaps we are more likely to share a good deal with others and keen to help others find great nuggets of the positive trade-off between value and price. So, it is worth ensuring that, in addition to service and quality, your clients feel like they are getting value for the money they spend with you. That way, they are more likely to tell family and friends the good news!”

Dilotsotlhe added that the report’s release has been well-timed as the need to stimulate sectors of the economy which can create jobs has never been more vital. Commercial enterprises are responsible for a significant percentage of the labour-force in South Africa, and the impact thereof is significant. Due to the fact that these enterprises remain a largely underinsured sector, the campaign also seeks to highlight the need for insurance as a vital aspect of business continuity. When they thrive, it benefits the whole nation, and from a Santam perspective, this translates into sustainable growth for our business.

To download the full report, click here.

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