By Vino Govender CM (SA) | DFA, Executive: Product Innovation and Marketing
The closure of the 159-year-old “Harrods of South Africa” department store, Stuttafords, has brought to the fore important questions about how industries need to develop stronger business plans and innovate in order to serve the tech-savvy customer. While many have simply pointed to the domestic economic slump as a contributor to the collapse of the Stuttafords business, an emerging conversation has been around the store’s failure to take advantage of future-proof digital business strategies to identify new growth opportunities and reach customers beyond their brick and mortar stores.
Constellation Research established that more than 50 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 list of 2000 did not make it to the 2015 Fortune 500 list. This serves as an indicator of what happens to ideas that do not adapt fast enough. Businesses of the future are those that embrace ‘innovative’ changes to remain competitive in today’s environment. E-commerce provides a key innovative shift, enabling businesses to convert insights into action and reach a wider customer base. According to The Internet Penetration Report 2017, the South African Internet user population passed the 20-million mark for the first time last year, and is expected to grow to at least 22.5-million in 2017. This will undoubtedly encourage improved e-commerce opportunities.
The global digital migration journey is inevitable and South African businesses need to leverage technology so that it can benefit as many of their customers as possible, as fast as possible. The truth is, businesses cannot afford to not invest in this digital future and risk being left behind. The looming increase in connectivity and connected devices promises benefits that will change the way in which many businesses operate, for the better. Through e-commerce, travel, tourism, agriculture, retail, and many other sectors will enter a digital space in which business models, offerings, and value chains are digitised, driving new revenue streams and substantive business outcomes.
Today, consumers are demanding innovation as they insist on a seamless, integrated multi-channel experience that enables them to shop from anywhere and at any time. Accordingly, businesses must press forward urgently and include digital initiatives such as e-commerce in their strategies. Digital tools and skills are becoming the very oxygen that will enable them to anticipate and respond rapidly to the expectations of tomorrow’s consumers.
For many businesses, embracing e-commerce will set them on a course for renewed growth and more predictable prosperity. By leveraging big data and applying the insights gained across the entire value chain, many businesses will open up opportunities to create personalised offers and provide bespoke services to many more customers. Considering the current economic outlook and tough growth challenges, with e-commerce, businesses can decrease the cost of managing their inventory of goods and automate inventory management using web-based management systems.
There are many more benefits that e-commerce gives businesses, including:
• Building brand advocacy and loyalty by personalising customer experience
• Creating markets for niche products
• Allowing for targeted communication
• Supplying considerable information through comprehensive descriptions of products
• Reducing the cost of maintaining and managing inventory
• Enabling deals and comparison shopping
• Automating core processes and analytics
E-commerce provides a favourable approach for businesses that are willing to tap into the future and serve the customer of the future. It also enables businesses to build agile enterprises with capabilities to react swiftly to market shifts and the evolving business landscape.
Dark Fibre Africa (DFA), through its open access fibre infrastructure deployment, continues to play a critical role in enabling service providers to deliver a range of high speed fixed and wireless internet access technologies and services to their consumer and business markets. SqwidNet, the Sigfox network operator in South Africa, wholly owned by DFA, is also responsible for deploying a national IoT network and enabling an ecosystem that aids the digital transformation journey of businesses which is enabled by IoT. DFA continues to contribute significantly towards the development of the digital economy in South Africa.