Retailers: Is your future online?

With the growing maturity of internet services of all kinds, the necessity for a web shop for even smaller retailers is becoming more pronounced than ever. Where a decade ago, the suggestion of a push towards ecommerce and a move away from ‘bricks and mortar’ was undoubtedly ahead of its time, a lot has changed since then. Today, buying products and services online is, for many consumers, the epitome of convenience and value. It is also second-nature.

 

There are several factors which have combined to make it far easier, far cheaper and now also far more necessary for almost every retailer to consider an online sales presence.

 

From a technology point of view, the software and tools required to create a self-managed web store have advanced enormously. Where previously it was a complex, time consuming, clumsy and very expensive process to get your shop on the web, today it can be done in as little as three to five days. That includes full functionality to take credit card payments and with integration of the web shop front into the back-end ERP system.

 

Perhaps even more important is the ability for the retailer or their employees to manage the site, adding new products or items, introducing special deals, and so on. Combined with the low cost of establishing the web store, it is therefore possible to establish a new revenue stream with very little capital expenditure. Indeed, most web shops should fully repay the cost of their establishment within three to twelve months of commencing operations.

 

Of course, the web store has the ‘traditional’ advantages of an online marketplace, including a nationwide or even global reach, around-the-clock trade and reduced overheads as goods can be shipped straight from stock or even from suppliers.

 

With the runaway popularity of smartphones, combined with ever-faster and more affordable terrestrial internet connectivity, even if people aren’t buying online, they certainly are searching to check prices, specifications and options. You want your store to be in those search results, so every web shop should be Google-optimised.

 

Retailers are compelled to consider online sales too, because the competition is increasingly moving online. Add to that the presence of new retailers like Groupon and ShopSavvy which are competing for the same customers and the necessity to take action should be clear.

 

With internet shopping becoming standard practice for more consumers than ever before, the time has never been better for the retailer to consider a move into the online space. It may just be a move that assures the future of your retail operation.

 

* Vaimo creates web shopfronts based on Magento software; the company is South Africa’s only Magento Gold Partner. With 52 specialists, we’re ready to get your store online, fast.

South Africans are increasingly ready to buy their fashion online, as eBucks partners with leading online fashion retailer

 

Johannesburg, 1 August 2012: eBucks, FNB’s rewards programme, has announced a new spend partnership with game-changing South African online fashion retailer, ZANDO.

 

With the largest variety of styles from 300 local and international fashion brands available in its online store, ZANDO, eBucks’ only online fashion partner, makes it easy for South Africans to keep their wardrobes up-to-date with the latest fashions by making purchases online using their eBucks. Prices on the site are quoted in both rands and in eBucks for extra convenience.

 

ZANDO has become a South African success story, enjoying significant growth on a monthly basis since its launch on 23 January 2012.

 

“In the short time that ZANDO has been an eBucks partner, we have seen that fashion is a category in which eBucks’ members enjoy spending their eBucks,” says Jolande Duvenage, eBucks’ CEO.

 

Peter Allerstorfer, ZANDO’s managing director and co-founder, believes the South African market has only begun to scratch the surface of the potential for ecommerce within the fashion industry, and the company has already opened a new, bigger warehouse in Ndabeni, Western Cape.

 

“The biggest concern that South Africans have  with purchasing fashion items online is that the item will not be the correct size, and if it is incorrect, whether they will be able to return it, and at what cost. We have eased this concern with our free delivery offering, where our drivers wait for customers to try on their purchases. If they want to return it, the customer simply hands it back to the delivery person who will return the goods to us, at no cost to the customer. Embracing online fashion shopping requires a mind shift, which we are sure will happen over time as our customers grow to appreciate the convenience and value for money that we offer,” Allerstorfer says.

 

Building trust boosts online sales

 

While fashion retailers have used the same strategy online as they did in their bricks and mortar fashion outlets, Allerstorfer believes that if retailers are going to be successful online, they need to ease consumers’ concerns about the safety of online shopping to build trust on all levels.

 

“South Africans have historically been slow to embrace online shopping in general, compared to the likes of seasoned online shoppers like the Americans,” he says. “This is largely due to South Africa’s low Internet penetration rate, consumers who have not yet experienced online shopping and the perception that online shopping is not secure,” he says.

 

However, perceptions and behaviour have started to change, making the South African market one to watch in terms of future growth in the online retail sector, he says.

 

Duvenage agrees, and says that eBucks has seen a significant increase in the number of members using their rewards currency to purchase items online, with a double digit increase year-on-year in its own online shop (www.eBucks.com).

 

“E-commerce in South Africa is definitely on the rise, and South Africans seem to be more comfortable purchasing online, especially when it comes to fashion, which has shown an upsurge in recent months,” says Duvenage.

 

Another way to build trust amongst customers and quell security concerns is to offer a variety of payment methods. For example, ZANDO offers customers multiple options to pay for their purchase including credit, cheque, electronic transfer, cash on delivery, PayPal and most recently, eBucks.

 

“Partnering with eBucks, a leading and trusted loyalty programme in South Africa, not only gives our customers more peace of mind when they pay for their fashion items, but also gives them additional payment choice and convenience,” Allerstorfer says.

 

“We constantly look for ways to make it easier for our members to stretch their wallets, and ZANDO’s commitment to customer service through free deliveries and returns made it a logical choice for it to be our online fashion partner,” she says.

 

About ZANDO:

ZANDO is a leading online fashion store offering choice and accessibility to South African consumers. With over 300+ local and international brands and 8000 styles featured online, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Enjoy incredible benefits such as free and fast delivery nationwide and immediate returns upon delivery. This secure online store has multiple payment methods to choose from (Cash on delivery, Electronic fund transfer, Credit Card, Debit Card and eBucks). To find out more information or to shop at ZANDO, visit the online store at www. zando.co.za or follow ZANDO on Facebook or on Twitter (@zando_co_za).

 

About eBucks:

eBucks, First National Bank (FNB) and RMB Private Bank’s rewards programme, is acknowledged as one of South Africa’s leading loyalty programmes with some 2.6 million members. The spend to earn ratio is consistently in excess of 80% in any given month.To date, members have spent R1.9 billion worth of eBucks since the programme’s inception in October 2000; with FNB having made the largest contribution to the R2.3 billion worth of eBucks allocated to members during this period.

Green Trends’ Forecast for 2012

Green and natural building designs are making a huge impact on the construction and architectural industries, with sustainable development underpinning the concept. “Green design will become the definition of good design,” says Jill Salisbury of Environmental Language Furniture. 

 

Being environmentally conscious is an ongoing challenge throughout the lifecycle of a green building, from conception to demolition. Green buildings respect the natural environment through the efficient use of energy, water and other renewable resources, while minimising waste and pollution. This positively affects the health and productivity of its occupants. 

 

Green buildings have progressed significantly since their inception during the seventies. The construction industry moved swiftly through the initial phases of understanding the basic costs and benefits of implementing sustainable building projects to taking advantage of renewable resources, e.g. using sunlight for passive solar power or using plants and trees to construct green roofing. 

 

Modern advances in sustainable development permit constructors, architects and interior designers to substitute concrete for wood as a building material, and packed gravel or permeable concrete for conventional concrete.  This enables the design and structure to be in harmony with the natural features and resources of its surroundings. 

 

To ensure a successful green project development, the architects, engineers, designers and client all need to cooperate closely as a team. Here are five green trends for 2012 that need to be heeded by all green developers and their collaborative teams:

 

Solar energy

 

More and more suburban homes are installing solar panels on their roofs. The use of solar energy has a positive environmental offset and assists with reducing the homeowner’s electricity bill. 

 

Solar power is a viable alternative to fossil fuels and some alternative energy sources, as the end product gives off no carbon dioxide waste and uses the natural energy from the sun to generate electricity or hot water. Expect phenomenal interest in solar-powered sports stadiums that will produce enough electricity to support 80% of the surrounding neighbourhoods. 

 

 

 

Green building materials

 

Wood is seen as a green building material because it can be reused and recycled extensively. Experts advise considering using reclaimed wood, since this will prevent more trees from being felled. Reclaimed wood is also often stronger and more stable than freshly cut wood, due to having been exposed to more changes in temperature and moisture.

 

Bamboo (part of the grass family) is currently the fastest growing alternative to wood and absorbs the most carbon dioxide compared to wood. Bamboo is technically a giant woody grass that is able to grow within most soils. It can be used to create anything from flooring to kitchen units. With no need for the use of toxic pesticides and fertilisers to assist with the growth process, bamboo is regarded as extremely eco-friendly. 

 

 

“Go Green” or go home

 

Homeowners are actively seeking out green flooring, paint and appliances. Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) cleverly invented solar panels in the shape of artificial plants. The solar cell modules resemble a normal plant exactly and are incorporated with solar panel technology to tap the sun’s energy during the day time. 

 

Solar paint, an environmentally-friendly solar cell technology invented by Professor Paul Dastoor, a Professor of Physics at the University of Newcastle, Australia, will hopefully in the not too distant future become available globally. 

 

At the core of the invention are semi-conducting plastic materials dispersed in water to produce a coating containing cells that are capable of capturing solar energy and generating “clean” electricity. Initially, the coating will be attached to plastic sheets that will be attached to the roofs of houses, with the long term vision to simply have a paint that can be applied to a variety of large surfaces to harness solar energy. 

What sounds like science fiction will soon become science fact.

 

Eco-friendly lighting 

 

Incandescent light bulbs turn only about 10% of the energy they consume into actual emitted light. The remaining 90% of energy used is wasted as heat. Fortunately consumers are making a conscious shift to sourcing and implementing more efficient, energy saving lighting alternatives such as LED, Compact Florescent Lights (CFLs),Occupancy or Daylight Sensors and non-toxic copper light fixtures which are 100% recyclable and incredibly durable. 

Lighting is complex. To really achieve your maximum saving capacity in your home or building you need the expertise of a good lighting consultant.

 

Smaller homes

 

Large, expensive homes are giving way to smaller energy-saving eco-friendly homes with a smaller footprint, literally and figuratively speaking. Smaller homes cost less to heat and cool, with research indicating that over 80% of greenhouse gas emissions during a home’s 70-year life occur during occupancy and can be attributed to electricity and fuel consumption.

 

Smaller homes are becoming more open plan, which will introduce more natural light. Less walls translates into less electricity usage during the day. 

 

Post script

 

“What we take for granted might not be here for our children,” is a legendary quote from the book “An Inconvenient Truth”, by environmental capitalist and former U.S. Vice-President, Al Gore.  

 

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), buildings account for 30 to 40% of energy use worldwide. Using green and environmentally considerate building materials and products promotes the preservation of our declining and valuable non-renewable resources. In addition, integrating green building materials into building projects can help reduce the environmental impact associated with their construction, saving our planet for the enjoyment of our children, and theirs, in turn.

Green building

Ten years ago, few people really paid attention to their carbon footprint, let alone those of the businesses and organisations operating within their communities. Today, however, the picture has changed drastically and taking measures to “green” the environment is a top priority for individuals and businesses alike. 

Indeed, a company’s carbon footprint has become a factor upon which that they are judged by society at large. “Green building – also known as green construction, sustainable building or green architecture – is essentially about building and designing in ways which reduce the total environmental impact. It embraces using resources efficiently, uses green design techniques and minimises negative effects on the environment, conserving our natural resources,” explains Heidi Franck, COO of One Property Holdings.  

The good news is that these techniques can be adapted in South Africa to ensure that environmental standards are upheld. “It starts at the level of town planning – using existing spaces more efficiently to avoid urban sprawl,” says Franck. “It’s also important to plan ahead – instead of concentrating merely on the construction phase of a building, think about the maintenance and long term life cycle. And of course, sourcing products locally and recycling where possible is a must.”

Energy efficiency is a major focus in South Africa. To this end, energy efficient lighting and designs have become increasingly important. Solar heating is becoming particularly prominent and is especially suitable for South Africa’s sunny climate and can be used as a power source as well as to heat water. 

In theory, green building sounds like the only way to go, but what are the costs involved? An Australian study recently reported that a three to five percent premium on a five-star green building can be expected. “There has been a great deal of debate around cost,” Franck reports. “Certain methods and products utilised in green building may have high capital costs but will provide long term savings, in electricity and other operating expenses. New technology is generally more costly, but one must weigh these upfront costs against lifetime savings. And of course, the environmental payoffs cannot be quantified from a financial perspective.

 “It’s also important to note that existing buildings can also take measures to become greener. Simple actions, such as changing the light bulbs used can conserve electricity,” advises Franck. Moreover, there is also benefit in remodelling existing structures instead of increasing carbon footprint through the construction of a new building. “This benefits the owner, the landlord and the environment as well as the tenants who enjoy reduced electrical bills, a major plus when one considers escalating rental costs,” she adds. Other methods, such as installing updated energy efficient air conditioners, solar panels and water tanks contribute to making existing buildings greener. 

 “Do not focus on the individual elements of a building; a holistic view will result in the most efficient design. This is more than a once-off project, one can bring in new technologies on a long term basis,” Franck suggests.

Ultimately, it is up to developers and investors to become socially responsible when it comes to sustainable construction and building a greener future for all South Africans.      

Bridging the digital divide

Education facilities across the globe are experiencing first-hand the numerous benefits technology has with regards to helping children develop an understanding and love for learning. While a number of schools in urban South Africa have incorporated the latest technology in the classroom, for schools in rural areas being part of the digital generation is marred with challenges. As a result, the majority of rural schools are left behind, unable to cross the digital divide, resulting in thousands of children not having the opportunity to experience enhanced learning.

 

There are many ways to help empower communities but the key to empowerment is to uplift the youth. What better way to do so than to provide good quality, cost effective education by giving the youth access to new technologies; technologies that are fun, educational, radical and that have the ability to change the way children learn.

 

MIB Technology – the first distributor of the LG U-series which offers features for educators and students who use computers for word processing, playing videos, internet access, e-mail and other simple applications in Africa – has developed a Tablet pc, now installed in 200 ICT labs in various schools. There is a great need for the development of more energy efficient and environmentally friendly technologies and a dedication to the country’s national e-learning strategy, the development of WIFI systems for schools and the provision of other IT solutions. The fact that MIB Technology was awarded the Digital Content Awards in 2011 shows that there is already a focus on such green technologies in the market.

 

Schools should not be considered a dumping ground for old technologies. The user proficiency in schools is what will drive the productivity and economy of the future. Therefore, they should be provided with cutting edge hardware, software, internet and web-based technology and there should be a commitment to bringing the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers. 

 

While a lot has been done for urban schools over the last 16 years, the challenge is now to roll similar projects out in rural schools. The Department of Education has been working in partnership with MIB Technology in order to achieve such roll-out. Bandwidth is another large problem in schools across South Africa, especially those situated in rural areas. Schools are faced with three major challenges: the cost of bandwidth, connectivity to deep rural schools and volatility resulting in a lack of speed and reliability. 

 

A passion for the children attending rural schools sparked the idea to create the Train Your Brain project, a partnership between MIB Technology and Government. The aim of this project is to implement an e-learning platform, enabling rural schools to gain access to information which was previously only available to urban schools. While the project is important to all communities, it is critical to those who are disadvantaged as they can now have access to the vital knowledge required to address the vast inequalities in education. The project, with its core goal of bridging the digital divide and providing content and educational resources at a fraction of the normal cost, includes training of individuals to maintain implementation and running of the programmes. In line with the national development plan (NDP), it is hoped that, together, technology and Train Your Brain will assist in reducing poverty and inequality.

 

Linked to Train Your Brain is the Educational Digital Resource Library, a portal that gives learners all the relevant content required from various providers. What makes the project unique is the technology mechanism, which reduces delivery costs of content; different content providers are all put into one delivery vehicle resulting in the end user having all information required available in one repository. Learners therefore have a vast array of educational material at their disposal, which is sure to increase their ability to understand all subject matter. In addition, teachers are trained on how to use the portal and can plan their lessons accordingly.

 

There are some challenges in terms of the rollout of the project, such as funding. However, despite the challenges, the team involved remains passionate about conquering this uncharted territory and is not only focusing on rural schools within South Africa, but has taken the vision across the borders into East and West Africa as well. The project is set to be rolled out early in 2013, while 2012 will be used to establish Proof of Concepts and implement pilot studies to prove the validity of the Train Your Brain concept and further establish the key to the project, being low cost and low bandwidth utilisation.

 

At present, there are case studies available which prove that an ICT-culture can become the base for new rural empowerment. Train Your Brain emanated from this vision, having been deploying refurbished computers in mainly rural environments for the last 10 years. Through a combination of improved digital access, locally developed patents as well as a renewed focus by the South African Government on skills development and sustainable socio-economic practice, it has become possible to refocus strategies to establish and fund collaborative systems of operational activities. These systems can then be used to facilitate the creation of skills villages from which self-sustainable households can stem. 

Turning the key on IT integration

The future of business revolves around Integrated Technology. Think affordable, think functional, think better, faster, tried and tested. Technology advances every day and it can be a challenge running a successful business while staying abreast of the latest advances in the IT industry that could increase your business’ profits. One needs a turnkey solution – something that delivers what it offers and that offers everything. The answer is integrated IT solutions.

Having an integrated IT solution not only improves overall network efficiency but is critical in business success as it can dramatically improve cash flow. A large number of businesses waste money on expensive IT solutions they don’t actually need, and that prove to have no value or benefit to their business growth. Others put their faith in IT companies that don’t deliver on their promises, or who charge exorbitant fees because they lack the expertise to fulfil all of their clients’ requirements and are forced to outsource work.

IT is the main tool used in carrying out or enabling business functions and processes, which is why it is so important to find an IT company that offers you all the tools you need. Phase 2 Computers does just that and its focus is to provide clients with a one-stop service from supply to installation and maintenance.

With over a decade of experience in logistics and procurement, Phase 2 Direct has the ability to source any client’s requirement both locally and internationally.

Phase 2 Direct recently launched a new division which caters exclusively for Onsite Service. Phase 2 now offers clients hardware supplies along with onsite service.

The division offers everything from onsite installation of hardware, onsite network and software support, network installation from network points, cabling and server software/hardware installation, IT outsourcing via contractual basis, ad hoc IT support, mail hosting, web design through selected partners, project management, CCTV installation and even onsite printer service and maintenance.

Being a small and focused business, Phase 2 Direct prides itself on service. Since inception about 60% of its business has come in through referrals. In addition to providing businesses with the solutions they need, Phase 2 Direct also offers upgrades on existing boxes and the sale of computer components such as hard drives, memory and optical drives, to name a few. All software is sold with free installation. Phase 2 Direct also offers products via various platforms; goods can be purchased online, or through their retail shop, and delivery and collection is free within a 25km radius of their store.

Shredder machines are valuable business assets that require regular lubrication to ensure that their performance does not decline and that the shredding mechanism remains undamaged. Pitney Bowes South Africa has a trouble-free alternative to the traditional method of using an oil bottle to lubricate paper shredders.

“Often shredders are used to dispose of confidential documents which, in some cases, could potentially be damaging to a company if they fall into the wrong hands. For this reason, a paper shredder needs to be reliable and produce uncompromising results on a consistent basis,” says Luigi Pistilli, Service Manager of Pitney Bowes South Africa.

“However, very few machines have an automatic oiling system, which means that proactive maintenance is a prerequisite. To date, the solution to oiling a shredder is using an oil dispenser, normally in the form of a bottle. This method can prove to be rather messy, especially in an office environment where order and cleanliness are an integral part of a company’s professional image,” Pistilli says.

Pitney Bowes has proved itself as a customer-focused mailstream solutions provider by seeking out products and consumables that decrease operational costs and downtime, while at the same time increasing productivity, for its clients. “A number of existing clients voiced their concerns to us over issues around the oil bottles they use for the maintenance of their shredders,” says Pistilli.

The main problem was that often the employees responsible for its maintenance would put too much oil into shredder. “Although not as serious a problem as a machine with no oil on the cutting blades, too much oil can also cause issues with the performance and longevity of the machine,” Pistilli adds.

“We consequently sourced and now supply a straightforward solution. The oil paper is simply a piece of paper infused with the correct amount of oil,” Pistilli explains.

Pistilli points out that the oil paper can be stored easily in an office environment without accidentally spilling oil into cabinets and drawers. “In addition, Pitney Bowes’ oil paper is always readily available and comes in one type only, so there will never be confusion as to whether one is using the correct product for the job.”

How frequently one needs to oil the cutting blades will depend on the volume of use and the shred size. “A cross cut shredder will always need to be oiled more frequently than a strip cut shredder, and should be oiled   when you install a new shredder bag.,” says Pistilli.

“It is important to implement maintenance of a shredder on a regular basis and by instituting a fixed pattern of behaviour, such as using the oil paper every time the shredder bag needs to be exchanged, companies will be assured that their machine is adequately lubricated,” Pistilli concludes.

KEEPING AN EYE ON COMPETITORS

Continuous competitor tracking has become vital in an environment where marketers have little time to check the advertisements of competitors says Angela Adamson, sales director at Adcheck. “Therefore the analysis of competitor advertising also needs to be user friendly and allow the client to assess and review what competitors are doing. This is precisely what Adcheck provides: an overview that is structured to avoid information overload.”

 

According to Adamson, competitor analysis should definitely form part of every company’s marketing strategy. “By analysing advertising, one can establish where a brand is being positioned, what benefits the brand offers and generally who the brand is targeting. On the short term, tracking competitor advertising can help brand owners tactically when a competitor has launched a new product or  when a product is on promotion.”

 

Any marketing strategy needs to include a full competitor analysis that identifies where and how the competitors are advertising as well as how and where they are positioning their brands, making advertising an essential source of establishing communication messages and strategy of competitors.

 

Consumers make purchasing decisions based on a variety of reasons. They can decide to buy a product or service based on their motivation, personality, perceptions, learning, attitudes, views of reference groups such as friends or family, social class and culture. Adamson says consumer researchers have spent a lot of time and money to map exactly how all these decisions are made in practice to give marketers direction about market segmentation, targeting and positioning in advertising.

 

Adamson warns that companies have to be very careful about positioning products or services because if it is not done properly, it will end up looking like a copy of competitors’ products and fail. A major part of any business is therefore watching your competitors in order to ensure that you hold on to your market share and grow it even further.

 

A business plan must always include a competitor analysis and a comparison of the advertising of brands is a simple and effective way to do it, she says, by looking at how competitors advertise their brands to see who they are targeting, which benefits of the brand they are pushing and how the brand is positioned.

 

“Companies are unable to exist in isolation and stay in the dark about what their competitors are doing,” she says. “To stay ahead of the game, every company needs to know what its competitors are doing.”

DON’T LEARN BY ACCIDENT!!

DON’T LEARN BY ACCIDENT!!


Accredited training courses – BOOK NOW!

 

Safety Training Program for August 2012

 

 

First Aid Training – Level 1
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Health and Safety Representatives Training Course
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Basic Fire Fighting Training Course
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Health and Safety Evaluation

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First Aid: 29 & 30 August
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Fire: 17 or 28 August

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Blazingchilli, a provider and developer of mobile supporting platforms, has launched ZiNG360, an innovative mobile messaging application aimed at businesses looking to communicate with staff and customers, through rich interactive instant messages at a fraction of current market costs. The service, which works on smartphones and older feature phones, is set to shift expectations of what mobile messaging can deliver for business communication and customer service.

Instant messaging (IM) on mobile phones has traditionally been used between two parties to communicate via text messages, using their mobile data rather than SMSing and saving mobile minutes. Blazingchilli’s ZiNG360 messaging application works on a similar principle except that information can be broadcast to large audiences, or individual messages can be sent and managed via custom, web branded consoles.

The key to managing messaging to a diversity of people, be it staff or customers, is the ability to create custom distribution groups. Blazingchilli has developed an easy-to-use administrative tool for setting up groups or ‘Zones’ as they call them. News and messages are sent to pre-determined ‘Zones’. Where customer or staff engagement is required, bi-directional Zones can be configured which allow users to respond on the same low-cost service.

“Replacing system generated SMS systems with ZiNG360 messaging has been a large focus for our customers, which is why we also provide software interfaces that allow for some creative integrations with existing business systems,” says Jason Perthel, CEO of Blazingchilli. Support for next generation features like encryption, supported down to feature phone level and unlimited message based license plans, have drawn high levels of interest.

“Many large businesses cite poor internal communication as a point of failure. Our goal is to enhance communication through familiar tools on devices already owned by staff at any level, focusing on dispersed or remotely working staff bases,” says Perthel. “We have seen cost savings greater than 80% compared with current technologies and a return on investment in less than three months for our current partners.”

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