Wi-Fi is an Answer for Africa: Across Africa demands are changing, access models are changing and consumers are blurring the lines between corporate

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Wednesday, 03 July 2013 09:27

Reviewing top tech

Reviewing top tech

What you need to know


There have been rapid advancements in technology over the past few years with constant new developments. We have seen the launch of Apple’s smart TV, Microsoft’s Windows 8, the Blackberry 10, Samsung Galaxy S4 and a myriad of quirky digital apps. Social networking continues to grow exponentially with Facebook hitting 1.11 billion users globally at the end of March 2013 and Twitter at over 550 million users by the end of May 2013. With so much happening in the tech environment, it can be difficult to stay up-to-date. 


Head of Products at MWEB, Rihana Hoosain, provides a review of today’s tech advancements and outlines what’s important to know.



The fall in smartphone prices has boosted sales and expanded their user profile. According to the 2013 edition of the TomiAhonen Almanac, this year will hold two milestones - the count of mobile handsets will match the count of the human population alive on the planet, as well as reaching the point where half of all new phones sold will be smartphones.


The mobile market is increasingly competitive; which is a huge innovation driver for manufacturers. Earlier this year, an Internet Trends report shows that Android smartphone adoption is increasing rapidly, and is now nearly six times higher than iPhone adoption. The constant competition amongst players like Samsung, Apple, Blackberry and HTC mean better prices with more value added services included for the consumer. According to Gustav Fachs, Mobility Director, Microsoft Middle East & Africa, Microsoft aims to become the number 1 smartphone provider in South Africa by 2016.


With the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 this year, there has been more talk around Near Field Communication (NFC). This Wi-Fi short range technology enables you to transfer data between two devices, meaning you can simply connect your smartphone to a payment terminal and it will pick up your account details and make the payment from your phone. Depending on how much information you want to give the device access to, the NFC chip could prove to be very convenient as your phone becomes your very own e-wallet.


Mobile apps

Mobile app stores are emerging rapidly, with more apps continuing to advance and shape the way we consume media. A report from Analytics Firm Distimo reveals that the most downloaded Apps from the Apple Inc App Store are games, whilst Google Inc’s Google Play store is more popular for utility apps such as Google maps and free messaging service WhatsApp. Download the right apps for your needs, and it can make life a little more convenient.



The International Data Corporation (IDC) increased its 2013 forecast for the worldwide tablet market to 190.9 million from its previous forecast of 172.4 million units.  Indicating an extreme shift in computing, tablets have changed the way we consume and share media, enabling on-the go convenience and 24/7 connectivity. This high level of mobility empowers businesses to revolutionise the way they communicate and instigate customer engagement with their product offerings.


So how do you know which is the best tablet for you?  This all depends on your needs. The Apple iPad is user-friendly as it is all about simplicity with fewer hardware extras. Android tablets offer more advanced tech features with additional hardware options such as HDMI ports that enable you to connect to a TV. Important to consider, is the amount of memory you will need, which will influence the number of apps you can store. Most tablets offer a 16GB memory that is sufficient for the general user.  If you want a tablet that has the simplicity of an Apple iPad, but runs on Android, the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 is a good start. If it’s the latest buzz you’re after, the Google Nexus 7 has been very well received as one of the more popular Android Tablets this year.



Following the launch of the Kindle in 2007, the market for e-reading has gained huge momentum. Research has revealed that many people prefer e-reading to reading paperback or hardcover books simply for the convenience it provides. Online bookstores also offer consumers a wide selection of available books at affordable prices without any check-out queues.


The e-reading market has become a competitive one. In South Africa, the Kobo, made by Japanese Company Rakuten, launched last year as a more affordable option to Amazons highly regarded Kindle.  Although the Kobo wins in price, the new Kindle Paperwhite, hailed as the world’s most advanced e-reader, with higher definition, higher contrast touchscreen with built in light and 8 weeks battery life, is enjoying great demand.


Exclusive e-readers themselves are, however, in some danger as the tablet market produces smaller, more affordable models that offer e-reading apps along with all their other uses.


Social networking

It’s no secret that social networking is growing.  What’s interesting to see is the growth in the use of Pinterest, which focuses on high quality visuals that users share to their personal “pin boards”. In February 2013, Reuters and ComScore stated that Pinterest had 48.7 million users. In addition to this, video social networking has risen as the latest medium to create and share videos online, with new additions such as Twitter’s Vine but YouTube remains the most popular for now.


Social networking is now focusing on more ways to share content across platforms and continues to replace traditional news sources for information gathering. We are seeing many brands jumping on board with new social networking accounts being opened every day. Consumers are endorsing brands by using their personal social platforms to recommend preferred products to their friend base. Businesses are using social media to create engagement with their clients and provide and receive real-time feedback.



Cutting spending on voice communication is a key focus for most consumers and small businesses. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), which has been used by call centres and larger companies in South Africa for a while, uses your standard Internet connection and enables you to make cheaper calls over the Internet. This innovative technology is fast on the rise and being introduced into a lot of small or start-up businesses as a substitute for standard telephone usage. There are even VoIP apps available on some smart phones. 


Final Word

Most of these technologies require access to reliable, affordable,high speed data services and ISP’s continue to develop and provide solutions to meet these needs. In the past few years South Africans have gained access to uncapped Internet, VDSL (Very-High-Bit-Rate Digital Subscriber Line), reliable Wi-Fi, and 4G (4th Generation)/ LTE (Long Term Evolution) Networks.


Be sure to look into all available Internet options available to you through established, reliable providers, in order to maximise your use and enjoyment of these and upcoming tech advancements.


For more information on MWEB’s products visit www.mweb.co.za or like their Facebook page at .

Published in Mobile
Tuesday, 22 January 2013 15:38

How shopping centres can remain relevant in 2013

How shopping centres can remain relevant in 2013

Once the recession started to recede, many struggling shopping centres expected consumer spending to pick up. This didn’t happen - instead, a new shopping context has emerged in SA with many recessionary shopping patterns having become habitual. In 2012, Yellowwood Future Architects identified several key trends in shopper behaviour:

  • A focus on the in-store experience which will see retailers and manufacturers collaborating to provide experiential shopping
  • A ‘solution’ shop where retailers and manufacturers offer shoppers ‘solutions’ to their daily shopping problems
  • The growing impact of smartphones and the Internet on shopper behaviour
  • Rise of the ‘quick trip’

The experience

Shopping centres have been devising how they can make a visit to the centre an ‘experience’ for decades. Recent examples include the Snow World at Canal Walk in Cape Town, where families can come to experience a winter wonderland for Christmas; and the Gateway Mall in Durban which is perhaps the most ‘experience’ focused local mall.


Yet these sorts of attractions are generally limited to the larger malls and are mainly focused on entertainment rather than the act of shopping itself. So how can smaller malls create an ‘experience’ for shoppers?


Colman Architects has proposed that an Accounting Suite be built within the shopping centre where representatives would be available to help shoppers with their budgets in making their purchases. CommArts suggested that shopping centres of the future would be places where food is grown, crafts created, products manufactured, energy generated and education provided. Smaller centres are well positioned to deliver a local, grassroots experience – a counteraction to an increasingly digital and globalised social experience.


Also, how can the shopping centre experience be made more convenient for moms with young children or babies? Perhaps providing a stroller service where moms can put down a deposit and get the use of a specially designed stroller with space for shopping bags might be an idea worth exploring. This would save her the hassle of having to load and unload her own stroller from the car and make the whole experience more convenient.

The ‘solution’ shop

Brands like Woolworths (Meals for Four For R150), Knorr (Dinner Tonight) and Koo (Mama Koo) have made use of this trend to offer meal solutions, recipes and packages to time poor customers to shortcut the planning process and offer convenience. However, shopping centres are in prime position to take this approach to the next level.


One could take the Colman idea one step further and suggest that centres could provide kiosks or information desks where shoppers could look up recipes, gift ideas, etc; and be told what they could buy, which shops stock it and at what price. This could even be tailored according to a budget – taking into account the new, more frugal spending habits of consumers, their need for convenience and their penchant for planning prior to purchase.

Rise of the ‘quick trip’

The strategy most commonly adopted by shopping centres has been to try and keep shoppers in the centre for as long as possible, with the idea that the longer a shopper spends in the mall, the more he/she is likely to spend.

However, the recession has changed how most people shop - instead of going to a shopping centre and browsing, many are doing their planning beforehand. They know exactly what they want to buy and from which store. This has largely benefitted convenience retailers like Woolworths Food stores.


Yet there is no reason why shopping centres can’t take advantage of this new dynamic. One way could be to provide an application or service where shoppers are able to search for an item and be told which store has it, where that store is in the centre and how much the item costs. One could also have a service where shoppers are able to select items online from several different stores and then collect and pay for these items at a central point in the centre.

Smartphones and online shopping

In 2010, online shopping was valued at R2 billion with growth projections of around 30%. The massive growth in smartphone ownership is likely to accelerate this trend even further. So where does this leave the shopping centre?


Just as retailers cannot expect to succeed if their website merely has a list of their inventory, neither can shopping centres expect to compete with online shopping if their use of the Internet includes only a website listing tenants and upcoming events. Many of the ideas mentioned in this article could be implemented on a website or through a smartphone application. In addition, incentives could be offered on the website or app if the shopper physically visits the mall.


By thinking creatively and putting the consumer’s needs first, shopping centres can remain relevant – and in fact become more of an attraction – in the years ahead.

Published in Sales
Thursday, 20 September 2012 10:26

Going Mobile


How smartphones and tablet devices are shaping the future of the contact centre

The concept of integration in the contact centre has been widely discussed in recent years, with many companies having made great strides towards achieving a more unified environment. SMS, e-mail and web chat are gradually being incorporated into contact centres, and now afford customers the option to have their queries dealt with via a variety of channels.

But as businesses work to ensure that their contact centre offerings remain current, the increasing popularity of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets is about to change the face of the contact centre as we know it.
More smartphones were sold last year than PCs and tablets combined, and a new Forrester study indicates that mobile Internet users will outnumber those accessing the web via PC by 2016. As more consumers begin to search, browse and make purchases from their mobile devices, a new kind of contact centre will evolve in order to meet their ever-rising expectations.

The Rise of the Mobile Consumer

The surge in popularity of smartphone and tablet devices has created an unprecedented culture of immediacy. Users are now able to enjoy the convenience of checking their e-mail, downloading weather reports or conducting business transactions at a moment’s notice.

Additionally, the applications today’s customers use are becoming increasingly personalised, capitalising on built-in features like location monitoring to tailor offerings to a user’s specific requirements.

As a result, mobile devices are rapidly becoming the consumer’s number one choice for conducting all forms of business. The thought of having to turn on a laptop or pick up the telephone is almost inconceivable, particularly for a new generation raised in the information age.

As this type of empowered mobile user becomes the norm, contact centres are being forced to restructure their offerings in order to provide more immediate, intuitive service, or risk becoming obsolete.

Customised Self-Service

The rise in popularity of Internet banking and other self-service platforms reflects the mobile user’s growing inclination to resolve issues on their own where possible.
Unlike early mobile phone users, today’s consumers generally only decide to contact an agent as a last resort.
As such, companies need to start making allowances for this, and move towards the development of more intuitive, self-help applications.

By extrapolating location and device-based data, these applications have the potential to provide the user with a greatly enhanced experience, whilst at the same time alleviating pressure placed on the contact centre.
By moving more customer service queries into the self-help space, contact centres will be better able to streamline proceedings, whilst at the same time offering the customer the kind of personalised experience they would ultimately prefer.

Empowering Action

Whilst many customer interactions can be predictably automated or guided via a mobile application, there are just as many that are likely to be complicated, with variable solutions dependent on a customer’s specific situation.
As a result, contact centres need to find a way to incorporate both self-help and agent assistance into the mobile environment, creating a seamless process whereby customers can elevate their query to an individual in the contact centre.

Despite growing mobile user numbers, communication is rapidly moving away from the traditional telephony environment, with consumers tending to prefer the cost effectiveness that applications such as Skype afford them. As a result, it is imperative that companies begin to offer a greater variety of ways in which their customers can take action.

Rather than directing customers to a number which they can then dial from their phone, companies will need to begin to incorporate live assistance features within their application structures, using VOIP or video chat to allow users to make immediate contact with someone from the contact centre while at the same time providing agents with the customer’s interaction history.

This type of contextually aware escalation will allow customers to bypass standard IVR menus and be connected directly with a subject matter expert within or outside of the traditional contact centre. They can also be directed to agents that are specifically skilled and trained on various channels of preference, such as call, chat, text, social or video.

Not only will this type of application provide customers with a greater array of communication options, but it will also enable contact centre agents and other subject experts to be better equipped to deal with incoming queries, and allow the contact centre’s systems and processes to be streamlined accordingly.

Establishing A Competitive Advantage

In an increasingly cluttered marketplace, companies that set about providing their clientele with mobile customer care options have a real opportunity to set themselves apart from the competition.

Locally, organisations like FNB and Vodacom have already launched self-service applications that are proving increasingly popular, and are setting the standard for customer service in the South African market.

Companies need to realise that the shift into the mobile environment is not a distant eventuality that can be dealt with when the time comes. The mobile revolution is already well under way, and it is the companies that embrace this reality that will be the ones that succeed in attracting and retaining their customers in years to come.

Published in CRM & Direct Marketing
Monday, 10 September 2012 12:16

South Africa’s entertainment and media industry reaches the ‘end of the digital beginning’, according to PwC study

South Africa’s entertainment and media industry reaches the ‘end of the digital beginning’, according to PwC study

South Africa’s entertainment and media companies have reached the ‘end of the digital beginning’, with digital activities now becoming the ‘new normal’ for traditional media companies, according to a report issued today by professional services firm PwC.

Digital spending in the South African entertainment and media industry is expected to increase at an approximate 21% compound annual rate during the next five years, according to PwC’s South African Entertainment & Media Outlook 2012-2016 (‘The Outlook’). Although comprising 20.4% of overall spending in 2011, digital channels will generate 52% of the total increase in spending during the next five years.

This will largely be driven by the expanding internet market, broadband penetration as well as consumer spending on television subscriptions and video games.

According to PwC’s South African Entertainment & Media Outlook 2012-2016, digital spending will comprise 32.6% of the total entertainment and media market in South Africa by 2016.

Vicky Myburgh, Entertainment & Media Industries Leader for PwC Southern Africa, says: “We believe that the industry is at the end of the beginning of its digital journey. Entertainment and media companies have made a commitment to the delivery of digital entertainment and are now in the process of making the necessary changes to their products and organisations.

“The PwC study confirms that digital products and delivery is moving to the hearts of many media companies and beginning to present the greatest opportunities for growth in the immediate future. The core challenge for entertainment and media companies lies in how to remain relevant to their consumers and business customers in a way that differentiates them from their competitors. There are long-term structural and organisational changes that are needed right across the industry.”

However, The Outlook warns that newspapers and print media are being eclipsed by tablets, mobile smart phones and a raft of new digital and online communications media, led by internet and television advertising and video games.

The third edition of PwC’s South African Entertainment and Media Outlook presents annual historical data for 2007-2011 and provides annual forecasts for 2012-2016 in 12 entertainment and media segments.

The Outlook includes historical and forecast data on the Internet, television, filmed entertainment, radio, recorded music, consumer magazine publishing, newspaper publishing, consumer and educational book publishing, business-to-business publishing, out-of-home advertising, video games, and sports. It gives a detailed breakdown of each of these sectors.

“Despite the recent economic uncertainty, the past year has seen global and South African global sales of tablets and smart devices reach record levels underlining the growing revenue opportunities in the digital delivery of entertainment and media content as well as advertising to increasingly connected and mobile consumers. Companies are planning and executing their strategies to cross to the digital frontier,” says Myburgh.

The entertainment and media industry in South Africa went up 0.7 %in 2011, slowed by the absence of spending associated with the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which boosted that year’s total by 27.6%. Advertising in 2011 increased by 7.9%, down from the 14.7% increase recorded in 2010.

End-user spending, consisting of spending by consumers and other end-users on products and services produced by the entertainment and media industry, fell 2.3% in 2011, also largely due to the absence of spending associated with the FIFA World Cup in 2010. Sports declined by 39.7% and the remaining segments rose by 13.8%.

The fastest growing sectors in 2011 were the Internet at 27.3% and television at 13.4%. Out-of-home advertising at 11.6% was the only other category to increase by more than 10%.

Consumer magazine publishing rose 7.8% in 2011, followed by radio at 6.6% and newspaper publishing by 5.7%, the only other segments to grow by as much as 5%. According to The Outlook consumer magazines were propelled by a jump in print advertising, largely due to stronger economic growth, the launch of several new titles in industry, growth in readership and rising circulation. Improvements in the economy also boosted radio. Advertising in print newspaper also benefited in 2011 as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) posted its largest increase since 2008.

Myburgh says that the research shows that the internet is expected to be the fastest growing sector within the next five years with a projected 20.3% compound annual increase. Broadband and mobile access growth coupled with double-digit increases in Internet advertising will drive this market. Television is expected to be the next fastest-growing segment with a projected 10.3% compound annual increase.

Out-of-home advertising will be next at 9.3% compounded annually, driven by an increase in the penetration of digital screens, which provide more potential in terms of revenue as the same site can accommodate multiple advertisers. Furthermore, radio and sports are expected to show compound annual increases of 6.5%, followed by video games at 6.4%.

The findings of the study show that radio will be boosted by the addition of new commercial stations and the expansion of new community stations, while sports will largely be driven by rising media rights and strong growth in sponsorships. Consumer magazines and newspapers will be the only sectors projected to average in the vicinity of 5% growth compounded annually during the next five years. Consumer magazines will average 5.3% with Newspapers at an average of 5.1% as advertising growth offsets declines in circulation spending.

Spending in the industry is expected to reach a record level of R141.7 billion in 2016, a 10.2% compound annual increase from R87.4 billion in 2011.

“We anticipate that overall growth in the entertainment and media industry will closely track GDP growth over the forecast period,” says Myburgh.

“By embracing digital as the engine of their business, companies can position themselves to meet consumers’ changing demands through any channel and format – and more effectively and more profitably than ever before.”

Published in Media & Marketing
Wednesday, 05 September 2012 08:48

Shopper Behaviour Examined

Shopper Behaviour Examined

In the last year, shopper marketing has enjoyed a bigger piece of the marketing budget than ever before. In fact, it is expected to show 21% year-on-year growth in budget allocation in 2012 globally. But what is the value of shopper marketing to different brand categories and how should marketers interpret this trend in the South African context?

This year independent marketing strategy consultancy – Yellowwood, built on the findings of its 2011 Engager Survey, by focusing on the FMCG category and assessing the relationship between brand-engagement and shopper marketing. In 2011, the survey measured South Africa's most engaged brands across a variety of categories and one of the key findings was that retail dominated the top 20 brands.

Jenny Moore, Group Research Director said: "We explored the role of brand engagement in shopper behaviour due to the focus that organisations are placing on shopper marketing today. Globally, shopper marketing is the fastest growing advertising category and in South Africa, although still in its infancy, it is likely to be one of the biggest growth areas over the next few years."

The survey assessed six of the most common grocery categories including: household cleaning, personal care, staple foods, frozen foods, tinned foods and dairy. It evaluated a total of 60 leading brands across the six categories - representing the repertoire of products which the average South African woman has in her shopping basket on a weekly basis. Brands within those categories were selected based on market share, marketing activity and the regularity of their appearance in brand surveys, among other factors. As the aim of the survey was to understand leading shopper brand dynamics, it was necessary to choose established brands.

Insight and measurement are the bookends for sound shopper marketing strategies. While shopper marketing is not in itself a new concept, technology has enabled marketers to study shopper behaviour more closely than ever before, allowing fresh and effective applications of shopper marketing concepts.

Six leading trends in shopper behaviour were identified against the backdrop of what Yellowwood termed 'the new shopper context', i.e. shoppers who have adapted to recessionary behaviour and have not reverted to more lavish shopping habits. This, for example, means that they are doing more pre-purchase preparation than ever before - often online, making lists of products to purchase and making fewer impulse buys, etc. This has greatly influenced the emergence of the six identified trends, which include:

  • A focus on the in-store experience: This trend sees greater collaboration between retailer and manufacturer to create a memorable and appealing shopper experience - driving footfall and brand preference.
  • The 'solution' shop: In a bid to disrupt habitual shopping, more retailers are offering shoppers 'solution' ideas. Be that in the form of 'dinner tonight' solutions such as those offered by the Knorr brand or home improvement solutions such as the bathroom in a box concept from Cashbuild. Not only does this concept ensure that the shopper buys all the products from the same range, but it is also a great way to introduce shoppers to new brands and products within the same environment.

The rise of the private label

The private label has become more powerful - especially during the recession, where more shoppers explored private labels and enjoyed their efficacy and price. To counter this, brands need to focus on innovations that add real consumer value (quality, convenience, health and wellness being some of the current values appealing to shoppers) and sound strategies to avoid the discounting trap.

Smart phones make a strong online presence critical

The massive increase in access to smartphones has changed the way that South Africans shop. Online shopping was valued at an estimated ZAR2bn in 2010, with 30% growth projections. This is compared to 7% for traditional retail growth. Leading online shopper activities are price comparisons and product information sourcing whilst content, payment and auto-replenishment apps will be future winners.

Shop for convenience

There has been a rapid increase in quick trip shopping patterns, facilitated by increased access to convenience stores in South Africa. Stores such as Woolworths Food Stores and convenience stores accounting for US$1.4bn revenue in South Africa in 2009 exemplify this.

With these macro trends in mind, Yellowwood's Engager 2012 study was able to define the role of brand engagement in affecting shopper behaviour and the implications of how we market to shoppers to get the greatest ROI.

With regard to brand engagement, there was also a clear indication that brand building is hugely beneficial, even in low engagement categories such as tinned food. And the way in which shopper marketing is used to complement brand engagement can drive purchase intent, if used appropriately for high or low engagement categories.

In high engagement categories such as personal hygiene, it's role is most effective to re-enforce and reassure shoppers. Furthermore, in high engagement categories, shoppers are more likely to engage with the brand on a variety of platforms. Whereas in low engagement categories, shopper marketing is effective at creating ambivalence and therefore swaying behaviour change in the aisle.

It is therefore critical that marketers understand the interplay between in-store marketing, traditional media and online media in building relationships to drive shopper behaviour in their category. It's not only about what happens in the store, at point of purchase but about how shoppers engage with brands along the whole purchase journey.

Published in Branding
Friday, 24 August 2012 08:36

Enterprise Networks are shifting to an ISP Model

Enterprise Networks are shifting to an ISP Model

The latest market trend illuminating the ICT sector is the fact that enterprise networks are starting to resemble Internet Service Providers (ISP) in both its structure and user management. "Enterprise users are increasingly using work related web-based applications over public Internet Protocol (IP) networks. The introduction of IPv6 and Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) are addressing the current security issues facing web users, making the move into the cloud a logical next step," says Jeff Fletcher, Co-founder of three6five.

An ISP model comprises of end users operating independently from their service provider, which fundamentally sets it apart from an enterprise network. "These end users buy their own equipment, provide much of their own support and pay their own bills. Security is however a priority and end user isolation at Wi-Fi hotspots and inside 3G networks are a good example of how security is managed. Each user's private sessions, such as internet banking, are encrypted end-to-end to maintain security and data integrity," says Fletcher.

Enterprise costs are at the heart of the shift as businesses find themselves increasingly moving towards Operational Expenditure (OPEX) and pay-per-use or pay-per-user models. The trend to outsource non-core elements such as the IT function and data centre components further underpins the growing market trend.

"Outsourcing enterprise network infrastructure to a service provider makes absolute sense from an operational point of view as it helps the enterprise to avoid the initial Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) and on-going maintenance that these supporting functions require," explains Fletcher. "This is similar to the way mobile phones are owned, supported and maintained by the end user and the mobile network is owned and provided by the mobile network service provider. The enterprise does not need to own or manage any mobile infrastructure, just cover some of the mobile service provider charges if they choose to."

The mobile data explosion has seen a proliferation in mobile PC sales such as laptops, with smart phones and the sale of tablets adding massively to this user base. There were 15.43 million iPads sold in the first quarter of 2012 alone. "Software as a Service (SaaS) is alive and well and growing substantially, with all these market trends pointing towards quite a significant change in thinking. Broadband access costs are remaining constant while both capacity and availability are constantly increasing, providing the perfect environment in which SaaS can flourish," says Fletcher.

The Compound Annual Growth Rate of SaaS is conservatively pegged at 27% in comparison to traditional IT products which is pegged at 5%. "It speaks volumes for the demand of cloud services and highlights a clear shift from the traditional enterprise network into something that resembles an ISPs network, changing the way in which we operate at its core," concludes Fletcher.

For more information, visit www.three6five.com

Published in Networking
Thursday, 16 August 2012 10:32

mCommerce: Many ways to play

mCommerce: Many ways to play

From the get go, the business sector has been anxious to discover a way to exploit cellular services technology to access customers. Early mCommerce offerings failed to live up to the hype but excitement is again emerging, this time with a variety of options to suit the desires and budgets of almost any business.

No one anticipated the success that mobile telephony would achieve. According to Nielsen South Africa, more South Africans use mobile phones than radio or television. And an astounding 35% of South African smartphone users revealed in a Google report into worldwide smartphone usage and mobile marketing that they would rather give up their TV than their smartphone.

No other communication channel can deliver retailers an audience as comprehensive as the mobile phone.

Bouncing back

To my mind it was Apple's release of the iPhone, and shortly thereafter it's App Store, that offered mCommerce the opportunity to return to the spotlight.

Until this point, mCommerce strategies predominantly relied on wireless application protocol (WAP) technology. Its SMS delivery mechanism, however, proved to be problematic, and security and congestion drawbacks were significant enough to undermine its virtues and subdue large-scale adoption amongst SA retailers.

Apple's iPhone highlighted an alternative to these SMS systems with its glitzy marketing of actual applications. The impact of this promotion was and continues to be astounding, supported by improvements in modern mobile devices and development technologies, particularly HTML5.

A recent report released by international research firm IDC predicts that the number of annual mobile app downloads will increase from 30.1 billion in 2011 to 200 billion in 2016, an ascent it calls blazingly fast. A closer look at the state of the US market gives a clearer indication of what South Africa can expect to experience in the near future.

  • Huffington Post: mCommerce will be bigger than eCommerce within 5 years.
  • ABI Research: In 2015, $119 billion worth of goods and services will be purchased via a mobile phone.
  • Juniper Research: The market for mobile payments is expected to quadruple by 2014, reaching $630 billion in value.
  • ATG Inc: 20% of all consumers and 32% of 18-34 year olds are researching purchases via mobile at least monthly.

Ticket to ride

We can already see local organisations capitalising on the rise of mobile applications. FNB for instance has achieved significant success with the launch of its mobile banking application and not just in the realm of marketing either. Recently CEO Michael Jordaan announced on his twitter account that the bank had in excess of 200 000 transacting apps, delivering over 2 million transactions and R4 billion in transaction value.

Although FNB's return from its mCommerce initiative is certainly compelling, many companies will find that developing a native app is simply not appropriate for their businesses. The cost and complexity involved in developing, maintaining and continuously enhancing an application for numerous platforms, not to mention the approval processes required from the various app stores, presents a daunting hurdle that is only justifiable to a minority of businesses.

Fortunately the emergence of HTML5 – the latest iteration of the language used to create web pages – means organisations no longer have to deliver device-based applications but can look to web-based offerings accessible via a mobile device's browser. Native apps will still have a role to play, if well thought-through, but certainly look set to face major competition in the popularity stakes as HTML5 gains traction.

Alternatives to applications are also available. Mobile couponing, for instance, could be an influential tool in the retail fight to combat constantly slipping engagement rates. A recent report found this form of couponing to offer redemption rates often exceeding 50%; comparatively, paper coupons typically return redemption rates of up to 2%. Mobile couponing is able to achieve its high returns through the use of geolocated, relevant messaging which engages the mobile user with an offer that can be instantly gratified at a store which is at that moment in close proximity.

Location based marketing certainly should not be ignored. Location-based social networking site Foursquare enables users to check in their locations through their phones and informs them of their friends' locations as well as places to go and see close by. Large retailers and brick and mortar stores are taking advantage of this by providing coupons and freebies to those who check in often or first. American Express, for example, has expanded its Foursquare promotion internationally, delivering to its cardholders special offers only available through the application, such as buy one get one free promotions to customers looking for a place to eat.

There's significant advantage to be gained from using a number of mobile capabilities to improve the customer instore experience. Retailers can create a 'bricks & clicks' environment by combining location based services, barcode scanning, and push notifications as an example. In such an environment merchants enable their customers to access the benefits of online shopping such as product reviews, comparative information, and special offers while still delivering the physical instore shopping experience and promoting greater length of time spent within the store's walls.

Retailers simply cannot afford to dismiss the role of the internet in the performance of physical stores. The tendency to define the online influence by the number or value of transactions taking place fails to recognise the considerable number of consumers that turn to the web for information on the best product for their needs, stockists, comparative pricing and current availability within their travel comfort zone. This rapidly growing pool of shoppers may be making their purchases instore, but their decisions are often made before they've stepped out their front door.

Published in Mobile
Wednesday, 08 August 2012 08:32

The Five Behaviours of Successful Brands of the Future

The Five Behaviours of Successful Brands of the Future

The nature of social connectedness has evolved – enabled by social media – and this has defined a new kind of consumer. The consumer that we know today has a powerful sense of self-determination, expectations of choice and sense of control – including how they choose a brand.
This means that successful brands are actively undergoing a marketing evolution. Their focus today is on being a receptor and facilitator of consumer needs in three key areas: they facilitate the consumer's thirst for interaction; facilitate the consumer's participation in shaping the brand/product or interaction, and facilitate engagement.
Successful brands embrace technology as a powerful enabler. They do not view technology as the primary factor that shapes marketing. Rather, they know it allows them to deliver on increased consumer expectations.
So, what are the five behaviours we should embrace to ensure future success?

1. Find ways to get the attention of consumers:

It is an age-old marketing problem and it is more relevant than ever. There is a deluge of content out there. Brands must find innovative ways to engage consumers in a positive, enduring way.
For example, McDonald's placed a digital billboard in Sweden that allowed people with smart phones to play a virtual game of ping pong. Players who lasted longer than 30 seconds won McDonald's coupons. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Adidas placed branded punching bags in Chinese subway stations, so commuters could express their frustration in a healthy way.

2. Frequently interact with consumers in a meaningful way:

Meaningful interaction requires an investment of time and money. It also signals that traditional marketing research methods have fallen by the wayside. We need to find new ways to listen and invent new platforms based on what we learn about the needs of our consumer.
Brands that are winning search for insight into consumer passions and demonstrate that they share those passions. 'Know thy customer' has become a multi-dimensional, always-on requirement of the job and it can only be achieved through experiential engagement.
For example, luxury fashion brand Burberry partnered with Twitter ahead of their show at the London Fashion Week, Burberry enabled people to see the collection online before the models hit the runway and allowed consumers - through the use of instant digital purchase capability - to buy directly from the runway.

3. Investing in social circle familiarity:

Remember those brands from your childhood that created sticker or card collections, where you could swap with friends, trade or play games to complete your set? They understood that brands that build closer connections between friends (or other interest groups) become part of those social circles. They formed bonds with consumers that are hard to break or replicate.
An example from today's world: a beer label taps into the trend of watching TV whilst also chatting with mates via social media or mobile phones - Heineken launched StarPlayer, an iPhone app that enables fans to interact in real time with the nail-biting action of the UEFA Champion's League. The app allows players to predict what will happen at key moments in UEFA Champions League matches to score points. StarPlayer works in real-time with players invited to forecast the outcome of corners, free kicks and penalties and to have the chance to guess when goals will take place. In South Africa, Castle Lager launched a similar campaign where viewers could 'play coach' and make real-time calls during the match.

4. Valuing intimacy:

Creating 'experiences' makes consumers feel more intimately connected to the brand. And consumers are more likely to be loyal to brands to which they feel connected. For example: IKEA came across a Facebook group with over 100,000 fans called 'I wanna have a sleepover in IKEA.' The company turned their dream into a reality through a competition that picked 100 lucky winners and hosted a sleepover at their store.

5. Disclose More:

Leading brands have an open conversation with consumers. They are proud of their successes, but also ask for input and are transparent about their shortcomings. For example: the fast food chain Domino's Pizza used a huge billboard space in Times Square to live-stream customer feedback (good and bad) via Twitter. Disclosing more about the brand/product builds trust. It invites two-way communication and demonstrates an awareness that the customer is in control.

Published in Branding
Success of mobile app model takes mobile retail mainstream

For more than a decade, mobile retail occupied a very narrow, highly profitable but insignificant niche involving small-ticket items like ringtones and wallpaper.

Unstructured and fragmented, the industry doddered around in extended infancy, suffering reputational challenges along the way due to the unscrupulous practices of some merchants who largely escaped accountability.

Hit by a tsunami of change

But with the rapid rise of mobile platforms such as the iPad and the success of the app store model this has changed irreversibly.

Just as the Internet shook the foundations of bricks-and-mortar retail, so mobile presents a tsunami of change. Once again, retailers are reconsidering how best to get in front of the tablet and smartphone generation.

What has changed?

The rise of the iPad and the app store model was massively influential in legitimising mobile retail and giving it formal structure. How did this happen?

  • First, new addictive hardware formats (tablets, Kindle-like readers and a new generation of smartphones taking advantage of the app model) took the market and retailers’ interest away from Web-based online commerce and feature phones.
  • The app model, in which content is verified and controlled centrally, brought respectability and trust to content distribution, driving downloads.
  • Lastly, the capabilities of the new hardware took higher-value content mainstream.

How to get in front

What’s becoming apparent now is the need and opportunity for new apps and new user interface design tweaks.

­New design considerations

Selling on mobile (hardware other than desktops and notebooks) brings with it a number of caveats – especially in the African context.

Firstly, mobile data is more expensive than fixed data, and secondly, screens are frequently smaller. For this reason, design bloat must be avoided as far as possible, and uncluttered, simple interface designs will always trump busy, bitty pages.

A mobile screen, manipulated by touch and not mouse clicks, is further subject to a number of new restrictions, such as size of active elements and the use of drag-and-drop.

A new design direction called adaptive design is becoming a requirement for small-screen tablets and smartphones, where the angle at which the device is held determines display orientation and, accordingly, the dynamic arrangement of page items.

New apps

Another area of consideration is the whole new vista of apps becoming possible as tablet and phone owners take their devices everywhere with them.

Offline retail companion apps are of particular interest. Shoppers browsing a retail store are free to either buy online on the same store’s website, or do comparative browsing online and shop elsewhere. In this scenario, mobile loyalty schemes are becoming a must. Coalition loyalty schemes like Shopkick offer rewards (‘kicks’) for merely walking into stores, with ‘kicks’ redeemable on any partner merchandise.

With Apple’s iOS 6 out later this year, Apple Passport will allow storage of electronic loyalty cards on the phone, taking this idea one step further. Near-field communications (NFC) in upcoming devices will add the final piece of the puzzle to close the identification-authentication-payment-loyalty loop.

Let’s roll

While the mobile world brings many challenges to retailers, the opportunities inherent in the accompanying new content model far outweigh the hassle.

The return on investment of innovations such as NFC may be under scrutiny for a while in Africa, but not all apps require a high-LSM client base or anything fancier than a feature phone. Already there’s talk of bringing something similar to Shopkick into South Africa.

It’s time to roll with a whole new crowd.

Published in Mobile
Thursday, 02 August 2012 10:09

Securing the Mobile Enterprise

Securing the Mobile Enterprise

Mobile devices have infiltrated nearly every aspect of people's lives. The amount of personal and corporate data stored on these devices, makes securing the information on the device a priority. A survey conducted in January 2012 by Dimensional Research explored the impact of mobile devices on information security in corporate environments, noting that 94 percent of companies have seen an increased number of personal mobile devices, such as smartphones or tablets, connecting to corporate networks. Increased employee productivity and mobility are the main benefits for organisations that allow these devices in the workplace, but those benefits come with their own set of risks.

The threats associated with mobile devices can come in many forms, including:

  • Mobile operating system – Every OS, including Android, iOS, BlackBerry and Windows, comes with their own set of security challenges. Threats can originate from mobile apps, the mobile browser, as well as insecure Bluetooth and Wi-Fi hotspot usage.
  • Employees – that the lack of security awareness amongst employees is often the leading factor impacting the security of mobile data. Many employees simply aren't aware of the mobile security risks and corporate policies associated with mobile devices, such as storing corporate data, customer information or access to business applications.
  • Personal mobile devices – The consumerisation of IT brings forth another layer of complexity as more employees want to leverage their personal mobile device for business purposes. While companies begin to accept the "BYOD" (Bring Your Own Device) trend, there are significant concerns about the privacy of sensitive data stored on the devices that IT must handle.

The first step businesses should consider when safeguarding against these security challenges is developing and enforce best practices and corporate policies for the mobile enterprise. This should include a list of approved devices that can access corporate data, the types of data that can be stored on mobile devices and taken out of a corporate environment, which types of mobile apps can be downloaded onto devices, procedure for theft or loss of a device, a routine for updating operating systems patches, requiring mobile passwords, as well as having the capability to wipe a lost or stolen device.

Mobile device usage in the workplace is a trend that has staying power because it un-tethers employees from their offices, allowing them to work more efficiently while on the go. As with any emerging trend, organisations will need to be careful about striking the right balance between mobility that empowers employees and the new security concerns that arise from it.

Published in Security
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