Internet penetration and the growth of online shopping has seen retailers and businesses adopt e-commerce and m-commerce strategies.
But Simon Leps, CEO of Fontera Digital Works, says the potential value of ‘T-commerce’, browser-based tablet commerce, has not yet been explored.
“Latest research conducted by Kalahari.com reveals that 92% of online South African consumers shop online, with 18% opting to shop via their tablets. Furthermore, the tablet has once again been named the most desirable product of 2012, with 60% of online shoppers indicating their intent to purchase a tablet device in the future.
“With the rapid growth in tablet sales and online shopping figures, t-commerce is set to become a powerful retail platform in South Africa,” says Leps.
This is a global phenomenon that saw a boom in online retail sales globally, this past festive season. Website visits from tablet devices has risen by approximately 300% since 2011 and has shown growth rates 10 times faster than that of mobile over the past two years. This year, tablet sales are expected to outstrip those of PCs.
“Firstly, tablets outperform all devices when compared to user experience and conversion. The age of clicking, scrolling and typing will soon be replaced by a new era of gestures that include touching, swiping and pinching on tablets and mobile phones. Secondly, global research conducted by Adobe revealed that tablet users generally consist of more affluent consumers who spend on average more than PC users.”
Over the recent 2012 festive season, both South African and international retailers found that of those shopping online, there were higher conversations from tablets.
“Bricks and mortar stores like Target and Walmart are also allowing customers to use tablets in store to order online for delivery, to enable them to take the purchase all the way through. This is because retailers are finding that people do price comparisons in store and play with the products or view the products and then go home and order from Amazon!”
Leps believes that different devices do require a different content and design approach because of the disparity between the different devices and their functionality, as well as the different consumer segments.
He has no doubt, that whatever the approach, e-commerce is set to explode in South Africa. “Since 2009 we have been building sites for international retailers and brands, now we are starting to build local e-commerce sites for local retailers and brands. Retailers are realising that their sites are out of date and they need to upgrade and provide a quality shopping experience.
“The tablet market has really been a phenomenon and although South Africa is a small market, there is a hugely inspirational layer of people across the board and they want smartphones and they want tablets. It is a great time to be in this market and that’s the thing about South Africa, we are very intelligent, tech savvy people with high adoption on new products. We do behave like the European market sometimes.
“Vodacom and MTN originally thought it would take years for them to each hit a million cellphone subscribers. They hit that so fast, they had to rethink their business strategies. But it was the need for reliable communications that drove mobile uptake in South Africa.”
Leps said it was the same for the prepaid cell market for the great unbanked, which South Africa pioneered, and other innovations in Africa around mobile money and farming apps – it was driven by a need to improve quality of life.
Lep’s tips to a great e-commerce site:
• User experience: must look good, be easy to navigate, easy to compare, put in a basket and pay for it with as few clicks as possible.
• Problem: bricks and mortar stores haven’t thought about online store logistics, like packaging, distribution.
• Information on backend systems is geared to bricks and mortar and pricing on tillpoints. They don’t have long descriptions and pictures of items so that content takes a long time to build.
• Do you have stock and are you able to deliver and is the customer going to be happy? You can’t use old boxes when you use beautiful tissue paper in store. Customer service levels need to be pushed from in store to a customer’s home.
• It is not just an operational shift, but a mindset shift. Customers won’t stand for their product arriving banged up or packed badly.
For Richard Mullins, a big mobile tipping point is the proliferation of tablets in South Africa. What concerns him, however, is whether marketers have enough understanding on how people are using the technology, interacting online and with other communications channels.
“I don’t think marketers experiment enough. They should be taking 20% of their budget for strategic experimentation.
“The other aspect becoming import is around iconic design. People are used to pressing certain icons – we are training an iconic generation.”
Are you ready for the ‘smobile’ web?
Social + mobile = smobile. Edelman Digital’s David Armano says it is pretty obvious that both social and mobile will be big in 2013.
What business isn’t ready for, is that they will be “codependent”. Armano explains that a smobile web means that your customers, coworkers and colleagues expect all their digital experiences to be optimised for mobile/social sharing. The result is that they will spend less time tethered to a PC or television.
The technology is already present. He explains: “Near field communications (NFC technology), allows you to transfer data to your mobile device via a touch rather than scanning a QR code. While Instagram developed for smobile before the traditional web, Facebook is still playing catch-up, but by the end of 2013 it may become one of the leaders.”
Hacked into this is sensory intelligence and Armano predicts that sensors will get smarter and be built into our lives in greater detail, from homes to transportation, technology and clothing. “In 2013 there will be sensors built into athletes’ helmets that measure the impact of blows and provide real time data outputs, thus potentially preventing further injury. Sensors will become part of our lives and will tie into our existing devices and networks. If our plants need water, we’ll get a text or a tweet, and even a note of thanks. Now that is smart.”
Social commerce is another application and consumers will start to buy each other gifts through social networks, Armano says, even setting up storefronts. He believes that 2013 is the year social commerce really begins to coalesce.
So if you thought your mobile phone was making you part computer, Armano says you could be right. It even has “accomplices”. Think Google Glasses and Nike fuel bands. There are already ski goggles which display a tiny screen to sync to a mobile device and help the skier judge how fast they are going and pinpoint their location.
Humans are beginning to mesh with machines, Armano says.
The kids of today, the millennials, already believe cash will soon be ancient history. Visa found that 73% of the South African youth, the “iPod generation”, expect to be able to pay their bills with their mobile phones soon. Globally, 68% of youth believe that a cashless society is on the way with South Africans and Koreans the highest global adopters of cards over cash.
“The ubiquity of the internet and mobile technology are helping to make electronic payment an intrinsic part of a millennial’s purchasing behaviour,” said Paul Jung, head of Visa’s ecommerce division for Asia Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East and Africa.
“We see a long future for mobile phone and other device-based payments as more people, especially millennials, adopt electronic payments around the world.”
South Africa’s millennials see gadgets as an important part of their lives: 89% said it would be “impossible” to live without a computer; 80% said they could not live without their smartphones, with TV at only 50%.