Tag: customers

Emerging successfully from an economic downturn and global pandemic is no easy feat, especially if you are an SME business without large cash reserves to see you through. How do entrepreneurs combat these difficult times and come out the other side relatively unscathed?

Warren Bonheim, MD of Zinia, a leading ICT and telecoms provider, shares his strategies for success that have seen Zinia thrive through tough times.

Embrace customer reviews

Word of mouth has to a certain extent been digitised with many customers often deciding who to contact off of google and social media reviews. This strategy embraces transparency by asking customers to go public with their experience across digital platforms.

Bonheim says feedback directly from the mouths of the customer has a unique way of driving a culture of continuous improvement and dedication to customer excellence.

By focusing on customer experience as a priority in your business, you can determine if you are delivering on your service promise or not. Simply asking what your customers are saying about your business also allows you to benchmark your service and find a starting point to improve. However, exposing your business by actively seeking out customer reviews is not without risk.

“Opening your business up to customer feedback is daunting because there is absolutely no control over what people will say,” says Bonheim. “In addition, it is human nature to criticize and not take the time to give positive feedback.”

Whilst this approach may open a business up to negative reviews, these reviews allow business decision-makers to create targeted intervention programmes to improve their services that are far more resource-efficient in the long run.

Invest in people and service

During tough times leaders may seek to cut costs through their wage bill. However, making a strategic decision to not carry out retrenchments may be better as it allows you to protect the livelihood of employees who make a high level of customer service possible.

This also proves that you are loyal to your employees, preserving employee satisfaction and motivation which leads to a productive and positive company culture.

Zinia made the decision to stand by their employees and demonstrate their commitment to personalized service by limiting retrenchment during the Lockdown. They also improved the customer experience by incorporating easy to understand tools, sales documents, processes, checks, SLAs, and customer satisfaction surveys to make dealing with the company effortless. In the same way, links to provide customer feedback are readily available at a variety of touchpoints, making it easy for customers to share their thoughts.

Give recognition

Getting buy-in from executive-level members is also imperative to implementing these strategies. Reviews both positive and negative should be monitored regularly by executive level company members. This allows positive reviews and the employees responsible for them to be given validation and recognition. Negative reviews can be investigated and the challenge properly identified – be it in processes, people, or systems – to inform future strategies on how to improve the business.

Bonheim says, “When we get a positive review everyone at Zinia celebrates, and when we get a negative one, we see it as an opportunity to learn. It is difficult not to take a negative review personally at Zinia because every staff member is so passionate about customer service. However, we know we are doing something right when 97% of our customers rate us a 4 out of 5 and above for service excellence.”

Creating a positive service culture internally through internal communication initiatives and leading by example is essential. After all, if your company members don’t believe in what you are doing you will struggle to implement any strategy within the company.

Digitise appropriately

Another strategic decision that paid off for Zinia was investing in a digitization strategy in 2018 that carefully considered which key business processes could be automated to support, manage, and sustain the businesses growth.

Automation has an incredible capacity to drive efficiencies and ensure that customer service is not compromised by lightening some of the manual administrative load. Investments in IT systems, customer engagement and ticketing, productivity monitoring and more, allowed Zinia to remain strong during 2020 when other businesses struggled.

The leader’s investment in an IT managed services platform known as ZMS allowed them to virtually manage their customer’s IT and network environments; improve efficiency and productivity of their own internal resources; proactively service their customers and minimise their downtime.

Effective digitisation has the benefit of allowing a company to be flexible and pivot according to challenges, big or small, that they may face. During a crisis situation like the pandemic, a solid digital infrastructure allows for remote working when needed, providing everything that the employee needs – internet, access to business systems, telephony and so on – so they can work productively.

Any good business strategy should focus on implementing the systems and controls necessary for the company to scale and provide the flexibility to react quickly. In Zinia’s case, their combination of systems and entrepreneurial flair allowed their team to quickly investigate the implications and opportunities within the crises when international rumours of a lockdown first began.

This resulted in the company being ready for lockdown with remote working solutions that included hosted VoIP (Voice over IP) PBX and custom productivity tools that could be delivered virtually. These solutions answered a very real business need in the market: How to manage employee’s remote activities and identify operational inefficiencies, productivity trends and prevent any IT security risks of remote working.

Embracing a digital way of interacting includes benefits such as increased sales activity and output of work, reduced travelling costs, reduced time spent travelling, reduced printing costs and so on.

Using these business strategies above can combat downturns in the economy, provide consistent feedback on business health and help clients trust organisations that deliver value in today’s world. Creativity and innovation are key to running any business, but especially in rapidly changing climates, they can make or break your success.

Businesses with strong growth strategies, forward-thinking decision-makers and positive workplace culture are emerging from the pandemic stronger than ever. Whilst many will agree that a fully work from home approach is not sustainable, with the correct strategy and investment in infrastructure we can effectively marry in office and work from home scenarios and create more resilient companies, with leaner operating models and more positive culture that recognise and support the human element of successful businesses.

TymeBank surpasses the 3m customer mark

Source: ITWeb

TymeBank has reached the three-million customer milestone, as the digital-only bank increases its kiosks at Pick n Pay and Boxer stores across SA to 700.

Having launched in February 2019, TymeBank bills itself as one of the world’s fastest-growing digital banks across the globe, on-boarding between 100 000 and 120 000 customers each month – between 3 000 and 5 000 new customers every day.

TymeBank is majority owned by Dr Patrice Motsepe’s African Rainbow Capital with UK-based Apis Growth Fund II, a fintech private equity fund based in the UK; JG Summit Holdings, a Philippines-based conglomerate owned by the Gokongwei family; and the Ethos AI Fund.

The branchless bank attributes its milestone to its core banking technology platform, hosted securely in the cloud, as well as its no monthly banking fees model and lower transaction fees.

TymeBank CEO Tauriq Keraan comments: “Financial institutions need to be responsive to consumer preferences. Banking customers are sensitive to costs impacting adversely on their financial health, particularly in these tough times. They also want to know exactly what they’re paying for and TymeBank’s simple, transparent, affordable banking offering is giving our three million customers what they want and need.

“Over the last year, we have added an average of four new features monthly to our customer interfaces, including extending our app availability, upgrading our Web site and enabling e-commerce locally and internationally to cater for customer behaviour during COVID-19.”

TymeBank’s partnership with Pick n Pay and Boxer allows consumers to sign up at the kiosks fitted inside their stores, and make deposits or withdraw money at any of the over 14 000 Pick n Pay and Boxer till points across the country.

According to the bank, the majority of accounts to date (85%) have been opened at kiosks, while 15% were opened online. Customers have also deposited more than R10 billion into their TymeBank accounts in the past six months, it notes.

In February, TymeBank secured R1.6 billion in funding from Apis Growth Fund II and JG Summit Holdings, which it said would be used to expand the bank’s range of banking products, grow its lending portfolio locally, and channelled towards funding offshore expansion opportunities.

The bank says it is looking to introduce new credit offerings and insurance products in the near future.

The lending portfolio will entail a credit facility, among other loan solutions, which will allow customers to ‘buy now and pay later’ for goods – enabled by the bank’s future partnerships with merchants across the country.

The credit facility, according to the bank, will be based on a TymeBank credit card, which will provide customers with access to SA’s shopping network, built on the bank’s partnership with third-parties.

The bank is also looking at expanding its insurance offerings after signing a bancassurance deal with Hollard last year, to offer customers funeral policy plans without any paperwork.

 

FNB Connect is rapidly gaining customers

By Hanno Labuschagne for MyBroadband

South Africa’s largest mobile virtual network operator, FNB Connect, has seen a big increase in customers over the past year.

FNB Connect CEO Bradwin Roper recently spoke to MyBroadband regarding the performance of the operator during 2020, and what its plans were for the year ahead.

According to Roper, FNB Connect had grown its true active subscribers by 22% year-on-year to 815,124 as of the end of December 2020. These customers had recorded financial or network activity in the last three months.

“Our Easy and our Gold account base – that’s our entry and our middle market customers – account for two-thirds of that base,” Roper stated.

The operator has further noted massive adoption and advocacy from higher-income customers – with a 37% increase in premium and 45% growth in its private customer base.

Roper said this was notable, as it indicated that even the most finicky, fussy, and particular customers were choosing FNB Connect as their telecoms providers.

He added that this had happened without the operator having to heavily market its benefits over other operators.

“These customers have organically found us and are using us,” Roper said.

Cheaper prices
Roper claimed that part of the MVNO’s growth could be attributed to its affordable pricing.

“We really have rung true to this concept of money management and how important telco spend is in households,” Roper said.

Products Roper cited as a testament to this the adoption of FNB Connect’s TalkMax and TalkMax Pro plans.

These let customers make unlimited calls to up to 120 or 200 unique phone numbers, for either R299 or R399 per month. They also include set allocations of data and SMSs.

“If you think about the incumbents and their relevant competing products, you are talking about thousands of rand for the same product offering,” Roper stated.

In addition, FNB Connect’s data prices performed well when compared with its rivals.

“Whatever benefits we’ve received, we’ve passed those benefits onto customers,” Roper said.

“We repriced our 1GB data package to R59 per month which arguably is about 40% cheaper than the rest of the market,” Roper stated.

“Our market leading once-off data prices are available to all Connect customers and not as promotional offers to certain customers like the MNOs do,” Roper added.

FNB Connect has also seen increasing usage of its value-added Free Connect benefit for FNB account holders, with a total of 715 million MB of data and 134 million voice minutes used to date.

Month-to-month flexibility
Roper said that one area in which people underestimated FNB Connect was its capability to offer greater customer choice and flexibility, something which he wanted to continue driving.

“One month you need a gig of data, the other month you need five. It’s really impossible, and I think it’s very unfair, to get stuck into a 24-month contract,” Roper said.

“In order to get onto a top-up plan with a big incumbent, you have to be credit-scored, with ours you have the ability to change your allocations on a month-on-month basis,” he stated.

“We want to give you the full benefit of everything that a postpaid service gives you but on a month-to-month basis,” Roper said.

Roper said that this flexibility was one of the reasons why FNB Connect had also seen a surge in Top Up customers.

“Our Top Up base growth has been 57% year-on-year,” Roper said.

“Customers are really loving the fact that they can – on a month-to-month basis – figure out exactly how much data, voice, and SMSs they need and be able to top that up without the cumbersome going into a telco store and getting scored.”

“With us, you can do it on the app and have that SIM delivered to your home or your office or wherever you find yourself,” Roper stated.

Order FNB Connect devices from the app
FNB app users will soon be able to order FNB Connect devices straight from the app in a similar way that they can currently purchase other products.

At the moment, the app allows users to buy Prepaid, Talk Max Top Up, Top Up Data, and Top Up Lifestyle bundles under the Connect pillar of the “Apply now” section.

According to Roper, starting from June or July 2021 this will be expanded to allow for ordering a wide array of devices on FNB Connect postpaid and credit-scored products as well.

“That is going to be a massive disruption to the market,” Roper claimed.

 

By Ntando Thukwana for Business Insider SA

Walmart-owned retailer Massmart has big plans for mobile shopping in South Africa, including its own new apps and becoming an “anchor tenant” on Vodacom’s new so-called super app.

The app, built in partnership with the digital payment group Alipay (which is part of the Chinese behemoth Alibaba), will offer mobile shopping and music streaming as well as a large range of services, including the ability to pay bills, send money to friends, and even borrow money for a small business or buy insurance via your phone. The super app is due to be launched by mid-2021.

Vodacom’s 44 million subscribers will initially be able to buy directly from Makro and Builders Warehouse on the app, and Game will later be added.

Richard Inskip, Massmart’s chief operating office, said that the Vodacom partnership will widen its customer base.

“It gives us access to a lot more customers than we currently have. We believe that we would get a lot more younger, tech-savvy customers to come to us (via the Vodacom app),” said Inskip.

He says that Massmart wanted to effectively become an anchor tenant on the Vodacom app, before its competitors.

“We would want that in advance of our competitors like Takealot. We believe that we’d be better positioned to serve the customers,” he said.

Massmart also recently partnered with OneCart and UberEats to expand its reach, and plans to introduce its own shopping apps.

Driving the retailer’s digital plans is Sylvester John, who joined Massmart last year. He was previously Walmart North America’s vice president for so-called “last mile delivery” – products’ journey from the warehouse shelf to customer doorstep.

“We are expanding into mobile apps and over time (will adopt) a mobile-first strategy. A large percentage of our current customers access our site by phone,” John said.

To improve its “last mile” operations, the company is partnering with global logistics platform Far Eye, who will be “working to centralise all customer deliveries onto a single sophisticated platform”.

Massmart estimates that it is now the second-biggest ecommerce player in South Africa – after Takealot.

Its online sales breached R1 billion for the first time last year. Builders’ Warehouse’s online sales more than doubled, while Game (78%) and Makro (42%) also saw strong growth.

However, this could not save the rest of the group, and overall sales declined by almost 8% to R86.5 billion over the past year.

While the company says its online operations are profitable, as a group, Massmart suffered a headline loss of R924 million last year – albeit smaller than 2019’s loss of almost R1.2 billion.

This beat expectations and, along with its new plans to sell some of its brands, sent the company’s share price rocketing by 20% on Monday.

Massmart was last trading at R51, almost at its best level over the past year – and 190% higher than its low point of below R19 in July 2020.

 

TymeBank enrolls 110-120k new customers each month

By Samuel Mungadze for ITWeb

African Rainbow Capital (ARC) injected R750-million in TymeBank in the last financial year ended June, a tough period for the relatively new digital bank, which saw it experience a drop in footfall to its kiosks under national lockdown.

Announcing its year-end results today, ARC says the bank onboarded 1.9 million customers, during the period under review, which was ahead of business plans.

The Patrice Motsepe-controlled ARC owns 70% of TymeBank equity.

The company says TymeBank is one entity in the ARC Investments portfolio that experienced some initial difficulty due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

“TymeBank experienced a drop in footfall to its kiosks located inside Pick n Pay stores in March and April under national lockdown levels five and four. With the easing of the lockdown regulations, the bank managed to increase its customer onboarding rate to pre-lockdown levels. As before, it now enrols about 110 000 to 120 000 new customers each month,” says ARC.

It adds that TymeBank is now signing up between 3 000 and 3 500 customers per day, with about half of the customers actively using their bank accounts.

“TymeBank is well-positioned within the SA banking sector to implement its unique low-cost banking fee model,” it says.

TymeBank is one of the new digital banks that launched to challenge the incumbents.

In July, the bank revealed it had introduced a fast mode of transaction, SendMoney, which allows users to send and receive money through their electronic gadgets, as a way of adding value for its clients.

TymeBank clients can now send cash to anyone with a valid South African cellphone number and the recipient will receive it immediately.

The service costs R4 per transaction when the recipient opts to cash the money out using the voucher, which it claims is one of the lowest rates in the industry, and is free when the recipient has a TymeBank account.

Commenting on the overall ARC performance during the period, Johan van der Merwe, co-chief executive officer of ARC, says: “Our performance in the period under review was first impacted by the poor trading environment as a result of a pedestrian economy.

“Subsequently, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenging operating environment was exacerbated. Interestingly, some of our investments experienced a significant acceleration in business activity, while others experienced a marked slowdown.

“In this instance, we have clearly benefited from a diversified pool of investments in our portfolio. This has helped us to perform satisfactorily on a relative basis to our peers, as well as other listed investment holding companies. On an absolute basis, we missed our key performance metric as a result of a poor trading environment. We are certainly not pleased with this performance.”

Notwithstanding the setback with TymeBank, ARC’s telecommunications business Rain benefitted from the COVID-19-induced lockdown.

The data-only network saw a sharp increase in its subscriber customer base as a result of people wanting access to cost-effective data, says ARC.

It says the Rain 4G rollout has also progressed well, with 5 500 active sites live as at the end of April.

The ARC Fund’s investment in Rain also increased from R2.5 billion at 30 June 2019 to R3.11 billion at 30 June 2020,which the company says was mainly as a result of a fair value write-up of R479 million.

“The business experienced a surge in subscriber numbers during the national lockdown period as people were required to work from home. Economic and social activities have increasingly moved online, including schooling, entertainment and connecting with family and friends,” says ARC.

“Going forward, we expect the difficult trading environment to persist over the short- to medium-term,” says Van der Merwe. “The impact of COVID-19 on our economy has been widely reported, with the economy now in a contracting phase. This does not bode well for many companies, including companies in which we have invested.

“As a result, we have already made plans with the management teams of key companies in our portfolio to see how we can align the business’s growth objectives with the prevailing economic environment. It cannot be business as usual over the medium-term.”

 

Visual merchandising 101 

AcknowledgementHumayun Khan, content crafter at Shopify 

When you’re diving into the world of retail either through a pop-up shop or your own boutique retail store, one of the key sales metrics you’re going to want to focus on is “sales per square footage, which is the average revenue a retail business generates for every square foot of sales space. 
Essentially, your “retail space” has to be your most productive and most efficient salesperson, and how you go about optimising your sales space for maximum revenue is to employ the art and science of visual merchandising.  
The word “visual” may cause a few grimaces; people think that they’re not creative, artistic, or stylish enough to make a retail space look good enough to lure customers in and persuade them to hand over their money for products.  

Yes, the discipline requires a sense of aesthetic – but remember that it’s also a science, which means that it’s a tried and true method that has been studied with results to show for it, results that you can replicate and recreate for your own store.  

However, it’s also important to recognise that the field of visual merchandising encompasses a lot of distinctive retail design topics and covers everything from creating the window display a prospective customer first sees, to the signage you put up and the layout you decide on to direct your traffic and a whole lot more. 

Begin with your target customer in mind
Knowing your target customer inside and out will help you tremendously when it comes creating effective merchandising displays. I’m not just talking about being familiar with demographic data like their age, income, and education level, but digging a little deeper into their psychographics and behaviours. In other words, target not just individual customers but their lifestyles too.

Find some inspiration
Thanks to the Internet you no longer have to wait around for that brilliant idea to hit you when you’re thinking about putting together your next merchandising display. Instead, there are a number of invaluable resources available in the form of blogs and boards on Pinterest.
It can be really easy to focus on just creating visually stimulating displays and forget about the other four senses, but the secret to creating an engaging and immersive experience is to create a multi-sensory experience or what’s known in the industry as “sensory branding. 
Let’s take a closer look at how you could go about doing just that: 

  • Sight – there is an endless array of visual cues you can play around with to communicate your message. From using colours for their psychological triggers, to leveraging lighting, symmetry, balance, contrast and focus to direct and control where a customer looks and for how long, it’s one of the most fascinating components of merchandising.  
  • Sound – the music you play in your store has such a profound yet subtle effect on how your customers behave. Depending on who you’re trying to target and bring in, you can slow people down by playing more mellow music and causing them to browse, or playing Top 40 to communicate that you want teenagers in your store 
  • Touch – this one’s probably the easiest to get right in that you need to simply remember to put your best foot forward and give customers the ability to touch, feel, and try out whatever it is you’re looking to sell.  
  • Smell – believe it or not, there’s an entire science to what’s referred to as “scent marketing, with several studies and real-world case studies of global brands like Samsung, Sony, and Verizon applying it to their advantage. The reason being that smell is considered to be a fast track to the system in your brain that controls both emotion and memory – two very prominent factors behind why we choose one brand over another.
  • Taste – this can work magic if you happen to be in the business of selling consumables, giving people the ability to taste and sample before they buy is the equivalent of letting people try on clothes, a general and effective best practice. 

Show, don’t tell
Before people purchase something they typically want an idea of what it will look and feel like. To accommodate this need you can set up your merchandise display in a way people identify with and could envision in their own home or on themselves. 
For example, the sales floor in furniture stores are set-up with displays that make it easy for people to envision how the same products could be set-up in their own homes, or kitchenware stores having their merchandise displayed like how it might look in a given kitchen and so on. 
Another prominent way apparel retailers do this is by creating policies that require their sales staff to wear the clothing they’re selling. And of course, the most tried and true example of this would be the mannequin, who you could style according to your latest releases and style. 
This tactic gives prospective customers an immediate point of reference and as soon as they can envision your product on themselves or in their homes, you can consider it as good as sold. 

Group like with like
Grouping like products with like products will give your customers additional reasons to buy more items from you, but it also has a more utilitarian reasoning behind it, namely saving them time from looking around and trying to mix and match things. 
It’s one of the reasons grocery stores will put dips right beside their chips, or peanut butter with jams. 
You can also think of it as creating categories, but you don’t need to limit your creativity there, you can also create “groupings” within categories. That means having merchandise that might be the same colour, price, size, or type together. 

The rule of three
In creating displays, most visual merchandisers will often refer to the rule of three, which means that when creating a display, try to work in sets of three. This means that based on how you’re arranging your products, you’ll want to have three of them side by side, instead of just one. For example, if you were arranging things by height, you’d have items that were short, medium, and tall.  

The reason behind this thinking is that our eyes are most likely to keep moving and looking around when we’re looking at something asymmetrical, because when we see some symmetrical or balanced they stop dead in their track. 
This also alludes to the “Pyramid Principle, where if you have one item at the top and all other items “one step down”, it forces the eye to look at the focal point and then work its way down. 

Use light to dictate mood and attention 
This ties into engaging your customer’s senses and guiding them to experience different moods and emotions based on your store’s lighting. Whether they feel like they’re in a nightclub, a fashion runway, or right at home will depend largely on how you decide to use lighting. 
Using spotlights to highlight certain products is also a sure-fire way to direct attention and make sure people pay attention to your top products.   

Change it up
Remember that when trying to optimise your square footage for the most sales, a scientific approach of formulating a hypothesis, executing on your idea, and then testing for results will put you in the routine of trying out new ideas and sticking with what works.  
With these tips in mind, go out and give them a shot on one of your merchandising display to see for yourself how you can increase sales through the way you display your products and create a more engaging experience. 

Nedbank’s client data hacked

Source: Xinhuanet

Nedbank service provider’s IT systems have been breached, exposing the personal information of up to 1.7 million clients, said the bank last Thursday.

Computer Facilities, which does direct marketing for Nedbank by sending short messages and email marketing information on behalf of the bank, was breached.
The bank said there was some “potentially compromised data” which included names, identity cards numbers, telephone numbers, physical and/or email addresses.

“We regret the incident … and the matter is receiving our urgent attention. The safety and security of our clients’ information is a top priority,” said Nedbank CEO Mike Brown, adding that the bank systems or client accounts were not impacted.

“We are communicating directly with affected clients. We are also taking the necessary actions in close cooperation with the relevant regulators and authorities,” said Brown.

Nedbank group Chief Information Officer Fred Swanepoel said they have secured and destroyed all their client information held by Computer Facilities.

Last year the City of Johannesburg’s system was hacked and some payment in bitcoins were demanded. In 2017 South Africa’s insurance company Liberty was hacked and demanded ransom.

By Nomzamo Radebe, CEO of Excellerate JHI

There can be no doubt that digital processes and technology will underpin future retail, but what does this really mean for local brands and companies? Arguably, the first step towards future-proofing retail is to understand what the customer of the future looks like.

Today, with endless information at their fingertips, consumers are well informed, demanding, and in a rush. And while many ‘gurus’ have foretold the death of the brick and mortar store, consumers continue to go to malls for both shopping and entertainment. Essentially, retailers and property development partners have to balance out contradictory messages and trends: are they preparing for a digitally driven environment with e-commerce at the centre? Or must retailers find a way to merge hyper-connected, digital habits with physical shopping experiences?

Seamlessly connected, 24/7

As of 2017, there were 3.4 billion global Internet users, which equates to 46% of the population, according to Euromonitor. By 2022, that figure will reach 58%. Along with more people becoming connected, more ‘things’ will become connected – with devices of all kinds constantly generating and sharing data. Yes, this is the Internet of Things (IoT), which will become fundamental to individual lives and purchasing habits. In homes, connected fridges will automatically send notifications when certain things are running low – and may even send a grocery list directly to the owner’s device.

For retailers, the rise of the Internet of Things and overall hyper connectivity means that consumers will be very specific in what they are looking for – and will demand that the retail experience deliver on their needs both seamlessly and instantaneously. Retailers will have to harness technology, including IoT, to create a ‘friction-free’ environment. For instance, the use of chatbots can make sure that when consumers are online they receive immediate and data-driven feedback or help.

Embracing cash-free living

With the enormous popularity of cash-free or cashless services such as Uber and Lyft, even credit and debit cards are beginning to look obsolete. Already, some analysts are forecasting the shift towards an entirely cashless society – and consumers are increasingly demonstrating their keenness to ditch cash. In South Africa, many are already leaving their wallets at home as smartphones become the new [digital] wallet. According to a study by PayPal, 85% of respondents used their mobile phones to make a purchase in 2017, and 46% said being able to shop on their mobile phones has made them buy more. Tellingly, the majority of South Africans would rather leave home without their wallets than leave home without their beloved device.

Conscious living, conscious shopping

With dramatic climate change now firmly on the global agenda, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their environmental impact – which includes their shopping habits. According to research firm J. Walter Thompson Intelligence, ‘consumers expect brands to be sustainable and are willing to pay more to support those that are.’ In a 2018 study titled New Sustainability, the firm stated that 89% of those surveyed ‘care personally’ about protecting the planet; 92% said they are trying to live more sustainably, while 83% would always pick the brand that has a better record of sustainability.

With digital transformation now becoming a global business imperative, local retailers will have to ensure that their digital strategies closely reflect the evolving needs – and values – of their customers.

The true cost of customers’ online experiences

By Charlie Stewart for Roger Wilco

By 2021, over 20-million South Africans will shop online. This is a third of the country’s population. But, while the commercial opportunity is obvious – currently eCommerce accounts for R14-billion of the total retail pie, or 1,4% – local brands aren’t taking full advantage. So reveals The Cost of Online CX: A R34-billion Opportunity, 2019 South African Digital Customer Experience Report. Commissioned by performance marketing agency, Rogerwilco, it was released today.

Among key findings the study found that 71% of South African online shoppers abandon a purchase at the digital tillpoint. The commercial cost of this for local e-marketers is staggering accounting for a loss of around R34-billion* worth of goods per annum.

So what’s going wrong? According to online South Africans, payment failure is a big issue (57%), while site speed (38%), being unable to find what they are looking for (37%) and difficulty in navigating the site (27%) all impact the likelihood of an end sale.

“Brands are hell bent on brand building and client acquisition – at the detriment of conversion. I see brands throwing heaps of money to get people to their sites and then they spend less on creating an ideal environment when they get there. If they curb their acquisition budget and put it into the very fundamental elements to give it a better experience, they will convert more customers,” says Charlie Stewart, CEO of Rogerwilco.


Provide a helping hand – or bot

Customer service and support is also a big pain point, with over half of those surveyed saying that there is no-one to help them when they get stuck. “There needs to be an improved on-demand support for customers and also brands need to look at why customers need help to make online purchases in the first place – you shouldn’t need a support service if the experience works. What is failing in the customer journey that is causing customers to feel that they need support? This is a big red flag. Digital shouldn’t be a channel where you need customer service, it should be seamless self-service,” comments Julia Ahlfeldt, a Certified Customer Experience Professional.

Chatbots might well be the answer, although there are some misperceptions about what a chatbot is. “Businesses can address this by creating a persona that has some human traits which make it more relatable. Anything that can ease the journey is a good thing,” says Stewart. “Doing so can lead to a 30% saving in customer service costs. Furthermore, chatbots are bringing in the bacon; it is estimated that by 2023 retail sales via chatbots will account for $112-billion.”

Despite the commercial opportunity, bots aren’t every brand’s best friend, yet. “A percentage of our Customer Service queries can be solved using AI, but the majority can’t – highly personalised recommendations are an important part of our offering. Over time we intend to build a repository of information that will enable AI chatbots to deliver at a similar standard, but this is years away. Will a chatbot be able to talk a customer through the essentials for a summit of Kilimanjaro; it will take time before it can really understand customer needs,” comments Cape Union Mart’s Kia Abbott.

Better experiences = better returns

When brands do get it right, 44,5% of consumers report that they’ll spend more online. This also increases in relation to higher incomes; almost 60% of those who earn over R30 000 a month said they will buy more from a brand if the online experience is a good one.

“We consistently see that customers who have a seamless experience on our platform spend more money with us, so it makes clear commercial sense to continue to identify and remove points of friction. This can be as simple as enabling buyers to set up alerts so they are notified as soon as a product they’re looking for becomes available and having automated prompts that guide advertisers on how to categorise their products with tools that rate the quality of the images that accompany their ads,” comments Gumtree’s digital marketing manager Michael Walker.

Up against the best in the world

Notwithstanding site speed, good navigation and customer support, local brands are also being compared to international giants like Uber and Amazon, whose apps often sit side-by-side local brands. “Look at anyone’s mobile phone screen and it’s likely you’ll see local and international brands’ apps sitting side by side,” says ovatoyou’s Amanda Reekie. “Consumers dip in and out of these brands all day long, switching from Uber to News24 or Netflix to Takealot in milliseconds. And they expect a seamless experience across all of their apps; there is no differentiation in their minds between South African and global brands – they all need to work as well as each other.”

To overcome this brands must invest more in their apps’ usability to make sure that the experience is intuitive and not only be as good as their nearest competitor but as good as Uber.

Face to face

While banking online or via an app is the most common reason why consumers are online in the first place, with 85% of the sample reporting they use the platform for this reason, not everything can be fulfilled online; consumers still want a degree of physical contact, especially with financial services.

“When considering our customer journey, across income groups, consumers prefer to engage with us through human-manned channels. They’re comfortable with searching for information in the first part of their journey, when looking for options to meet their needs, however when they get to the buying phase they seem to be hesitant to make that in a digital environment and they want to fulfil the buying decision in a human environment, such as a call centre or face to face. This is a nuance of financial services as people tend to like human touch points,” comments a CX expert from a leading insurance provider.

Reinforcing this preference for a human over machine, 37% of those surveyed said it’s easier to go into a store or a bank branch.

Vicious venting

If customers don’t get what they want online, they are very quick to bad mouth a brand: a whopping 99% of consumers said they would tell friends and family about their ordeals. “In a world where people rely more and more on advice and recommendations from friends and family – and that then influences them as to where they spend their money – these experiences are more powerful than above the line marketing; you believe your friend over an ad. For existing brands, if there are negative experiences out there it just piles onto the brand. People still talk about experiences that happened years ago; it’s hurting you today and will hurt you tomorrow. On the other hand, those that had a good experience leads to a repurchase (44,5%). I think that if brands can look at this and understand this, that if I deliver a good experience, then 44% will spend more and recommend to friends and family, what is the knock-on effect of this? Bad experiences are the silent killer; you don’t feel the pain until it’s too late,” says Ahlfeldt.

Getting it right

While there are no quick fixes, brands that have online platforms, can and should address common consumer challenges. “Given the rate at which South Africans are coming online and using the digital platform to engage with and buy from brands, businesses should be investing far more than the average 10 – 24% of their marketing budget on their sites, to prevent them throwing billions of Rands down the drain thanks to high incidences of shopping cart abandonment!
“Site speed, good UX, offering customer support and making sure products are available online are all relatively easy things that brands can do to improve their customers’ experience and which when implemented will significantly increase consumer loyalty, return visits and ultimately sales.”

How to recognise the lies customers tell

Source: Sales Guru

A white lie here, a fib there …

Just how honest is your prospect being with you?

We uncovered the top 5 lies favoured by your prospect. They’re naughty, but here’s how to play the lying game the professional way.

Lie 5: We don’t have the budget
Almost never true, lie 5 really means “we have the budget, but it’s been assigned to other projects with higher priority”.

Your move: Ask questions to find out where the money is currently being spent. Once you’ve discovered what’s funded and why to reposition your offering and the value it provides so that it becomes a higher priority than budget items that are currently funded.

Lie 4: I make all the buying decisions
NEVER does ONE executive make all the buying decisions. There is always consultation with others or a decision-making process that needs to be followed.

Your move: Ask about the specific reporting structure and gently probe to find out the “stakeholders” who “influence” the decision. Read between the lines and you’ll probably be able to figure out which people actually have to be sold in order for a deal to go through.

Lie 3: Your competition is cheaper OR we always get a discount
This may be true, or it may not be true. Either way, don’t fall for this popular tactic – it’s simply meant to entice you to drop your prices.

Your move: Position your offering, and the privilege of working with you and your company, as being of much higher value than working with your competitor. If they’re demanding a discount, they’re testing to see whether they ‘got the best deal’. If you do indeed drop the price, you’ll lose credibility and end up cutting a non-profitable deal. Both loses, and no wins (for you).

Lie 2: I’m sorry I missed our meeting
If they miss a meeting more than once, then there’s no way that they’re telling the truth. Fact is, they may want to blow you off and they don’t have the courage to say so.

Your move: Once you’ve calmed down, reassess the viability of meeting with the client again and try to schedule another rendezvous if you think it’s worth it (it’s almost always worth it).

Lie 1: She’s not in the office right now
If you’re cold calling, this is almost undoubtedly a lie – fed to you by the PA or receptionist or similar gatekeeper.
But the gatekeeper is just doing their job: keeping you away from the decision-maker.

Your move: Pretend that it’s true, always, and remain calm. Ask when would be a good time to call. You may need to sell the gatekeeper on the idea that your call is important enough to put through.

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