kalahari.net pushes mobile shopping
Cape Town - Online retail should include mobile access to cater for a generation of users who choose cellphones and other mobile devices as their web access point, an online retailer has said.
"We don't differentiate between traditional PC-based internet access and mobile for want of a better term because we're looking at it in terms of how people want to communicate with us, how they want to buy from us, how they want to interact with us," Gary Novitzkas, CEO of kalahari.net told News24.
The online retailer recently launched its mobile site that allows a user to purchase content. Novitzkas said that the company was expanding into the mobile internet to cater for users who preferred to use mobile devices for online shopping.
According to a kalahari survey, 37% of connected South Africans spend in excess of R1 000 on the mobile web.
"If a mobile device is your preferred choice, then why would you exclude it to say 'Primarily we're an internet PC-based company.'
"You can have two offerings of the same content, because obviously you can't show a website on a mobile device. Even if you take iPhone, the mobile version of kalahari for example would be very small and cluttered," said Novitzkas.
One of the challenges for websites that migrate to a mobile platform is that navigation becomes difficult because of the small screen size, relative to the PC. For kalahari, allowing users to access the site from multiple platforms is a way to reach consumers on their device of choice.
"Navigation is great when you're on a PC. For mobile, search is more important, so what we're looking at is a search driven solution that can you the same content as if you're on a PC.
"We don't break it up into two separate things: We're looking at more the device and navigation versus search as an alternative," Novitzkas said.
He rejected fears that the low numbers of shoppers on mobile devices makes the system a commercial dead end. Many South African retailers have said that mobile e-commerce will never be big enough to warrant support for the platform.
"We've seen sales come through immediately on the device. If you are looking for an item and the device has it in in front of you, why say to somebody 'No you can't do that'.
"It's integration between the mobile and the PC. It might be short-sighted to say this is just a little niche that's sitting on the side," he said.
Novitzkas was particularly bullish about the youth market being web- and mobile-savvy. This market commonly buys content online as demonstrated by the success of social network MXit.
"The mobile-based users who have never been PC-based - kids 14 to 16-years-old who do everything on the phone and do not use the PC at all. They are buying on the net."
He warned that retailers who dismiss the mobile market would become irrelevant.
"If you just sidetrack that market, eventually it's going to bypass you," he said.
Despite the very recent entry into the South African market of tablet devices like Apple's iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Novitzkas said that these devices would eventually overtake traditional computers and even replace books in schools.
"I think that mobile and tablet are the devices that are going to move forward, and I don't know whether PC is going to keep up with it.
"I'm seeing every child with a tablet instead of school books - everything is downloaded; you're walking around with your tablet. Everything is accessible, you know, that's an always-on device."
Despite the fact that it's still early days to evaluate the model's success, kalahari.net expects mobile purchases to make up a significant portion of its revenue over the next five years.
"We're expecting a hybrid model and I wouldn't be surprised if 10% in the very near term is mobile-based," predicted Novitzkas.
He suggested that traditional retailers might be in for a surprise if they continued with a business-as-usual approach where mobile, or even online shopping, is seen as a niche market.
"I hope that they maintain that standpoint. There's still a lot of upward momentum for the online retailers and I can't imagine that there's a world for much longer where all retailers are just retailers."
News24 is part of 24.com, a subsidiary of Media24, which is in the Naspers stable. kalahari.net is a subsidiary of Naspers.
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