This year’s shopping season ‘officially’ kicked off with a staggering 348 transactions per minute taking place on Black Friday (24 November), and 201 transactions per minute on Cyber Monday (27 November).
And that’s just the beginning – the December holiday period is traditionally the busiest spending season of the year, followed by January which is the most popular sales month with massive discounts on offer. Many dedicated shoppers plan their buying around specific dates and price reductions at their preferred stores. This time of year, offers sales major sales opportunities for South African retailers, both online and instore.
While a lot of planning, research, time and money is spent on the end result – where & how customers purchase the product) – the journey-to-purchase is often neglected.
According to the 2017 E-Commerce Industry Report by Effective Measure, released last month, online shopping is increasingly becoming the norm in South Africa. Around 80% of local shoppers have either maintained or increased their online shopping habit over the last 12 months and 46% of offline shoppers say that they will make an online purchase within the coming year. Over 50% of South Africa’s online shoppers research the product or service they’re purchasing by using social media and price comparison sites. Interestingly, 30% of consumer pre-purchase research includes browsing in-store.
One critically overlooked value driver in the retail mix is skilling their employees with basic network system skills, says Bruce Peters, regional manager for the retail sector for Cisco South Africa. “Many retailers have missed empowering their own workforces with, for example, digital collaboration tools, real-time customer insights, and virtual assistance. A workforce that is armed with relevant knowledge and insights is also essential to improving the in-store customer experience, a key differentiator for bricks-and-mortar retailers over their online rivals.”
According to research from Cisco, employee productivity technologies can deliver the greatest value for increasing efficiency, optimising the checkout process and improving worker collaboration. Investments in these areas also contribute to improved shopper experiences and increased loyalty. Just 6% of retailers’ 2016 investment priorities were focused on employee productivity use cases, despite research indicating that use cases deliver the greatest return on investment for retailers; in other words, digitisation is a $187 billion (roughly R2,6 trillion) opportunity, according to Cisco.
“The key initiatives that improve employee productivity all rely on a network that understands how people interact, can be customised easily, and can control access irrespective of the device that the employee is using — all things that today’s retail employees demand,” Peters says.
In retail, investments in workforce digitisation deliver value to operations, the labour equation, and talent retention. Since all of these support new and compelling customer experiences, digitising the workforce enables a value chain that is critical to retail success.
“A focus on technology investments that empower employees takes on a whole new meaning in South Africa, which already struggles to overcome education and training challenges,” Peters says. “With digitisation, companies have an opportunity to improve skills across the board in the retail industry, which will contribute hugely to the growth of the country’s economy, whether on Black Friday or throughout the year.”