Online shopping is here to stay and will gradually become an everyday occurrence. Also expect big changes in how businesses make contact and communicate with consumers on different levels, while video will play an increasingly important role in communicating with the man in the street.
The customer, client and consumer will also be the ones to dictate to the business sector what their needs are and how they want them to be fulfilled. This will cause companies and organisations to have less and less power to prescribe to people what they need and what they should buy, as has been the case up to now.
This is according to Godfrey Parkin, CEO of Britefire and a digital strategy consultant from Cape Town, who believes that South Africa will now enter a rapidly changing digital landscape with the internet, smartphones, tablets and other electronic equipment.
“A lot of these digital trends are already evident abroad and have to some extent already started flowing over to South Africa. Therefore, major adjustments will need to be made by the local business community regarding the interaction with consumers,” says Parkin.
South Africans have up to now preferred to do most online purchases abroad. This was associated with a slight nervousness to use a credit card. Most people are, however, now more willing to use a credit card for local online shopping.
“Online shopping is rapidly becoming a lifestyle. It’s not always about price, but rather comfort, convenience and especially time-saving – something on which consumers are placing an increasingly bigger premium. This applies to all industries, from retail to financial service providers,” continues Parkin.
Local large retailers have up to now opposed online shopping, especially since no one could determine exactly what the return would be on such an investment. However, retailers are currently experiencing increasing competition from lesser known, small internet retailers.
Online payment is also not really a problem anymore. This can now be done with a credit card, debit card or by ETF. There is also the well-known PayPal-system, though not applicable to local traders since it does not make provision for the South African currency.
Another new trend is that contact with the consumer is to take place through various channels, for example through a store, online or via an ‘app’ on a cell phone.
South Africa has however not yet experienced the concept of Omni-channels. This means that consumers expect to have the same experience, no matter where they are, what they are doing or whatever electronic device they are using. The latter can either be the internet, cell phone, tablet or telephone. These must all be linked together to give consumers the same experience.
This suggests that companies’ customer relationship management (CRM) systems should be much more sophisticated.
Another novelty in the digital world is videos. This has become a new internet medium almost overnight. People don’t want to read anymore, but prefer to see images and watch a video. With shortened attention spans, videos should be brief.
“Videos are easier to understand than text,” Parkin points out. “Having said that, videos should be short, powerful and to the point – requiring that fresh information for delivery to the consumer is quickly packaged and relayed fast. There are currently approximately 3,9 million South Africans using YouTube every month, thus watching 250 million videos. Half of those are on cellphones.”
Top management in companies should therefore have a more holistic approach to client service and digital marketing. South Africa does have the information technology skills and knowledge to be successful.
According to Martin Butler, senior lecturer in Information Systems Management at the University of Stellenbosch Business School, companies nowadays collect huge amounts of data about individuals by using information technology. Thanks to the GPS system, companies can even determine where a consumer is at a specific time.
“The latest trend abroad is for companies to use this information to advertise a product or service quickly and to the point. This in turn will satisfy the specific needs of the consumer at that moment,” Butler explains.
This technology gave the old marketing principle of ‘word of mouth’ a big boost. People can now simply go online and see what others have to say about a product and whether the experience was bad or acceptable. Foreign companies are starting to realise the value in this and are actively encouraging people to give their opinions electronically.
Technology now allows its influence to count by urging advertising agencies to come up with more innovative ideas. USB Executive Development offers various marketing programmes.