There is no life without technology

Read time 4min 30sec

This may come as no surprise: people can’t imagine life without technology. And falling behind when it comes to technology adoption, and use, is equally unthinkable.

These are some of the findings of a study conducted by Ipsos, the world’s third largest market research company, based on interviews with 22 000 consumers, across 33 countries.

The insights were shared by Tasnim Kolia, Ipsos account manager, and Hendrik van Blerk, an Ipsos account director, at a Google Cloud for Retail event in Cape Town yesterday.

“Our conversations with customers showed that technologies enable them to feel like they are part of a global community. Like they can tap into things beyond our borders and become citizens of the world. They’re no longer just restricted to their own countries,” noted Kolia.

For South African customers, credibility and convenience prove key drivers in the online retail environment, added Van Blerk.

Not only does online retail take the friction out of shopping, in many instances the survey participants noted that shopping online meant they had more options, allowing them to browse through a greater variety of products and services. When done right, these platforms are also gaining popularity among local customers because they are better equipped to offer the personalised experiences everyone is after.

But customers can get overwhelmed by all the options out there, so more and more are sticking with the brands they know and trust. Other factors motivating online shopping behaviour include customer experience and level of service, the Ipsos team shared.

According to Kolia, local customers are concerned about privacy and the use of their data but they are willing to make the sacrifice for the personalisation and convenience mentioned above. “If South African customers want personalisation, they understand they need to be willing to share some of their information in order to get it.”

So, how can brands use these findings to up their retail game? According to Ipsos, retailers need to do the thinking for the consumer. Making suggestions to them that are appropriate, communicating with them in ways that aren’t invasive and using their data to offer them tailored, appropriate, customised experiences.

Linah Maigurira, retail industry manager for Google South Africa.
Linah Maigurira, retail industry manager for Google South Africa.

Rise of the empowered consumer

We all know the retail ecosystem is changing and that mobile is driving much of this transformation, noted Linah Maigurira, retail industry manager for Google South Africa. Just because we’ve all heard this before, doesn’t make it any less relevant, she continued. The reality is that mobile is still something that retailers need to be keeping their eyes on today, and in to the future. Not just in Africa but across the globe.

“Your customers are walking into your shop with an intent to buy and that intent is backed by knowledge. They’re visiting the mall with intention and they know what they want to purchase and from which store.”

Your consumers are more curious, they’re more demanding and more impatient than they’ve ever been before, noted Maigurira.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the top game-changing technologies in retail and it is what retail businesses need to successfully engage with this more informed customer. And yet, AI hasn’t become a key spending priority for retailers, continued Maigurira.

“AI is such a game-changer that our CEO has even gone so far as to describe AI as something that will be more impactful than fire or electricity.”

But making use of AI requires data. And it’s not just about having data; it’s also about using that data effectively. “Data is the backbone of retail,” said Maigurira. If modern retailers want to understand their customers, they need to collect information so that they can actually know their customers better and not just market and sell to them.

“The retailers that are going to survive are the ones who market to this empowered customer who is constantly connected, who has high expectations when it comes to personalisation and who wants stuff on-the-go.”

But before companies blow the budget on digital transformation, Maigurira highlighted that 98% of sales in South Africa still happen in physical stores, meaning that just 2% of transactions are happening online.

These figures shouldn’t deter retail businesses from boosting their online efforts. According to Maigurira, many of the in-store experiences customers are having start with a Web search on a mobile device. So, the shopping may take place in a physical store but the path to purchase is all happening online, she explained.

“It doesn’t matter how you’re shopping, the fundamentals remain the same,” Maigurira concluded. “Some of the components of their journey to a purchase are different – some are online, some are offline. If you’re able to build connections between online and offline systems and use data to understand customer behaviour, it really does become a single channel.”

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