By STEFANO MARUZZI, Vice President for EMEA at GoDaddy
Since optimising their websites for mobile devices a few years back, many South African companies have mostly made small and superficial changes to their digital presence. But the growing maturity of the next wave of emerging technologies means your website could look very different by 2023 compared to how it looks today.
Here are four major trends that could change the game for small local businesses over the next few years:
Conversational agents, commonly known as chatbots, are one of the hottest topics of the digital world. These artificially intelligent systems can understand human conversations via text input and respond to people with useful information, presented in a natural way. It is possible to interact with chatbots via text message, websites and, most commonly, though social networks.
Chatbots are getting more sophisticated all the time. Already, they’re capable of having full conversations regarding most customer concerns. In 2019 and beyond, chatbots are going to become cheaper, more capable, and more accepted by the general population.
The potential of chatbots for small businesses is immense. As a small business owner, you probably cannot afford a 24/7 call-centre or a large sales team to handle sales and support. But you can afford a chatbot that answers simple queries and helps customers get responses quickly or while they are actively considering your small business.
Chatbots are becoming smart enough to answer a range of customer questions, which means your prospects and clients can get meaningful answers when they need them. They are useful for answering the routine queries that account for the bulk of calls most businesses receive. For example, a customer changing an address, getting a quote, or troubleshooting a technical problem.
Voice assistants like Siri, Alexa and Cortana, plus smart speakers such as Google Home and Amazon Echo, are seeing a surge in growth. Towards the end of 2017 and throughout 2018, consumers started to grow comfortable with these audio-based digital assistants. By 2020, they might be a common feature in South African homes.
This means ordinary users are going to grow accustomed to interacting with online material through their voices. If you want your brand to stay relevant in the long term, you’ll need to adapt.
In some cases, that means optimising your content to better address simple user questions (so you can be featured in the rich answers at the top of Google’s search rankings). In others, that means simplifying your content so it can be easier to engage with through smart speakers or mobile devices.
How are some ways you can already excel at voice search and SEO:
1. Look at your “Google My Business” listing: When you claim your company, you add a range of useful information to Google that increases your website’s chances of appearing for voice search queries.
2. Adapt keywords for natural speech: People talk to Siri in a more natural way than they phrase a search in Google. Think about the questions people may ask a voice assistant about your business or product range, and optimise accordingly.
3. Build a search-optimised frequently asked questions (FAQ) page: You can use your FAQ pages to create question-based keywords that align with the sort of questions a user might ask a voice assistant like Siri.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have yet to be widely adopted. When the Oculus Rift VR headset came on the scene, some international brands were excited about the marketing possibilities. Due to a combination of factors, sales were lower than expected, and VR remained a niche technology. Microsoft’s HoloLens is another good example.
Now, global headset sales are taking off, and more people are warming up to the idea of VR (and by, extension, AR). It’s still in its early days, but we can expect to soon see some pioneering South African companies introduce VR- and AR-based content for their websites and apps.
So, what is the technology all about? AR uses a camera to superimpose a computer-generated image on your view of the real world – a simple example is how a smartphone app translates a street sign in a foreign country into your own language on your screen. Conversely, VR immerses you in a virtual artificial environment through a headset.
VR and AR both offer some interesting ways to blend your real-world and digital presence. A virtual tour of your store, an immersive 360-degree experience of an event you’re attending, or an AR game that keeps your customers engaged – the possibilities are numerous. In a world where people are hungry for interesting experiences, AR and VR might create new opportunities to engage with your customers.
There is still a long way to go, but the technology is improving all the time. Customers are already interested. In a consumer study by GfK South Africa, 59% of respondents said they are more likely to visit a retail store that offered some sort of VR/AR experience.
Internet users are increasing their consumption of online video. The 10th annual Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) forecasts that video will make up 73% of mobile data traffic in South Africa by 2020, compared to 52% at the end of 2015. Globally, video will comprise 82% of all IP traffic by 2022, according to Cisco.
To remain competitive by that date, you’ll want to become comfortable with video as part of your web content strategy. With so many other businesses competing for attention in the space, you’ll need to find ways to set yourself apart.
One way to do that is via live videos. Stream yourself during a speaking engagement or host a live Q&A session to engage further with your audience. It’s authentic, fun and spontaneous. It can help you to get closer to your audience on a reasonably small budget.
There is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for how and when to adopt these technology strategies, or how to balance them. Different brands and audiences require different combinations – and it’s up to you to figure out what those combinations are. Don’t be afraid to experiment. That can be a great way to learn and to get a head-start on your competitors.
Gaming gets rad at Rand Show
With the opening of the 125th Rand Show at Nasrec, south of Johannesburg, today, gamers and cosplayers have a new destination to strut their stuff.
A new addition to the show, the Gaming Entertainment Pavilion, is offering anything from gaming and cosplay to dance-offs and science displays.
The organisers provided the following information (although several million exclamation marks and exaggerations have been removed!):
There was a time when Gaming was a considered a solitary pastime, confined to single player consoles; but that truly is a thing of the past with a fully immersive Fortnite Tournament open to all Fortnite afficionados and even those just starting out. Players can battle it out over both show weekends, including a final on each weekend. Family fan clubs can also get in on the action with live broadcasts of the game as it happens across screens – a full-on Fortnite family affair. Sponsored by PlayStation, gamers are truly going to be spoiled and should get in on the action as fast as they can because R 100 000 in cash prizes is up for grabs.
Smart Technology Centre will deliver a super-fast FibreMAX 500Mbps fibre link, wholly dedicated to the gaming pavilion to ensure that absolutely nothing ruins the thrill of the National Fortnite Tournament.
“As the exclusive connectivity provider, we have gone all out to ensure an amazing experience for gamers,” says Dillynn Els of Smart Technology Centre (STC), an internet service provider (ISP) and IT technology partner. “When it comes to gaming and the best experience possible, it’s all about ensuring we provide a dedicated, uncapped, unshaped connection that makes every second count.”
Keen players can come along and enter on the day, but don’t delay because space is limited.
Fortnite Inspired Dance Off
Visitors can come along and be entertained by the finalists in the Fortnite inspired dance-off. There will be daily dances to enjoy for the entire duration of the show.
Come and play – Cosplay, to be exact.
The stage is set for a celebration of creativity and imagination that is going to be literally out of this world. Super hero heavy weights and masters of the mysterious will be letting their creative vision loose and take part in various Cosplay Tournaments and a visually stunning Cosplay Masquerade. Come see what all the fuss is about and get lost in this world costumes, colour and creative talent.
Games, Games and Science
For those wanting to get their gaming on, there will be three free play areas sponsored by Xbox with a host of games available to play. Xbox will be giving away 3 Xbox 1’s and an awesome Xbox 1X, but you truly have to be in it to win it, so make sure you don’t miss out.
The Kalahari Scientist will be onstage delighting visitors with his explosive displays that are guaranteed to up the ooh and aah factor with audiences young and old.
But wait, there’s more
Along with the larger-than-life gaming entertainment offering, visitors will also get to be the first gamers on SA soil to get a sneak peak of PlayStation’s brand new Mortal Kombat 11. Don’t miss your chance to experience the continuation of this epic saga through a new cinematic story that is more than 25 years in the making. The iconic showcasing brutal battles like never before, along with a host of customisable fighters with enhanced graphics and animations.
Other activities at the Pavilion include VR Experiences, a full-on NAG Nerf Arena, Gaming vendors with awesome gaming content, retailers selling gaming related products and software, and tutorials and workshops on how to improve your gaming skills, Celebrity Fortnite match off for charity.
With huge sponsors such as PlayStation, Xbox, MMS, NAG, SABC 2 and Smart Technology, the Gaming Entertainment Pavilion is geared up to become a hot zone of entertainment.
In case the entertainment offering just doesn’t get the heart beats racing fast enough, an all-expenses paid trip to TwitchCon USA, sponsored by PlayStation, in conjunction with 94.7 Highveld Stereo, is waiting for one lucky visitor to grab it. Every ticket purchased into the Entertainment Gaming Pavilion qualifies as an entry, so bring the whole family along for the ride.
Tickets to the Gaming Entertainment Pavilion can be purchased at the show for R 20 which gives the ticket holder access for two hours.
The pavilion will be open from 14h00 to 19h00 weekdays and 10h00 to 19h00 on weekends from 19 to 28 April 2019.
Riaad Moosa show debuts on Vodacom Video Play
Riaad Moosa’s comedy special, Life Begins, will be the first major local title to be released on Vodacom’s video-on-demand service, Video Play.
As an award-winning comedian, actor, writer and presenter, Riaad Moosa is one of South Africa’s most renowned funny men. His one-man show is available for download on the platform from today, 26 April 2019. Life Begins is rated PG-16L
Vodacom’s says its affordable video-on-demand service, Video Play, has had an incredible uptake since its launch in August 2018, with over 2-million subscribers.
“But with a proliferation of affordable video-on-demand platforms available to the South African market, what is it that gives Video Play the competitive edge?” it asked in a release this week. “Recognising the consumer’s need for flexibility and freedom of choice, Vodacom has ingeniously developed an adaptable subscription model that puts the power in consumers’ hands. Forget being tied down to a monthly subscription. Video Play gives consumers the liberty of choosing a daily, weekend or even monthly package.
“Blockbuster movies can even be viewed for a once off cost, without subscription. Furthermore, these bundles can be purchased according to niche categories and genres, from Bollywood movies to gospel music.”
Consumers are able to pay for movies and series by using their airtime or adding it to their bill, eliminating the need for a credit card. Subscribers are also able to purchase video-specific data at a fraction of the regular price to consume constant content without overspending. Daily subscriptions start from R5 a day.
Zunaid Mahomed, Group Digital and Fixed Services Officer, says: “Video Play has enabled the company to provide a seamless and enjoyable customer experience. With the addition of Riaad Moosa’s Life Begins, we’re excited to offer consumers even more quality content and a wider variety of entertainment on demand than ever before. We’re putting quality entertainment, into the hands of anyone with a mobile device and an internet connection.”
Riaad Moosa describes his show as “very philosophical and existential”.
“It involves the normal issues of getting older while at the same time experiencing, at a maturity where I’m supposed to be wise, a world that is completely turned on its head. It’s about how I negotiate all these things happening around me while trying to maintain a positive attitude. Through my comedic lens, I hope to put a different spin on that and hopefully I can enter my next 40 years with renewed vigour and excitement.”
To access Riaad Moosa’s Life Begins comedy special, register for Video via the Video Play website (www.videoplay.co.za).