Digital technology could 'revolutionise' shopping

2013-11-22 09:40
Retailers can exploit technology to boost customer engagement and sales. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Retailers can exploit technology to boost customer engagement and sales. (Duncan Alfreds, News24) (Duncan Alfreds)

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Cape Town - Retailers can exploit a growing shift of online customers who are more discerning to boost the bottom line, an industry marketer has said.

"Retailers are giving bigger discounts to customers who purchase from their e-commerce sites and not to those who visit their stores," David Ross, director at PVision told News24.

The company specialises in display technology and Ross said that retailers could use a combination of technologies to personalise the purchasing experience.

"Marketing efforts are often generalised and not personalised and therefore do not appeal to everyone all of the time. Imagine a clothing store that knows your colour likes and dislikes, knows your preferred style based on previous purchases, knows your size and can suggest items that you may want to buy when you enter the store.

"This can be done by using a combination of client database management, Wi-Fi, mobile and display technologies. When you enter the store an app on your phone senses the Wi-Fi and prompts you to view the items that the store has in your size, colour and style," Ross explained.


Some estimate that e-commerce transactions are growing at 12.95% a year and as more people adopt smartphone technology and data costs decline, it is expected that the growth rate will escalate.

Goldman Sachs reported in 2011 that global e-commerce sales would reach $963bn this year and grow at 19.4%.

According to a survey conducted by the Google Shopper Marketing Agency Council, 79% of shoppers can be classified as "mobile shoppers".

Around 62% of those shoppers use their mobile phones at least once a month to assist with shopping and 17% use their phones at least once on the week.

Experts on e-commerce see that South African consumers will increasingly use mobile devices to conduct research and purchases.

"The growth in online is significant again this year, with some key merchants growing above others. The growth in small merchants going for the first time online is very significant, this is helped by such services as EasyMerchant from PayU," said Mark Chirnside, CEO of PayU.

Good deal

As customers who use digital platforms become more shrewd, retailers should move to be flexible as they had no guarantee of loyalty, Ross urged.

"Online, a customer can change stores with the click of a mouse, but once in-store the retailer can control the buying experience. A retailer with 50 stores could have different line items that are slow movers in each store and technology can tap into their inventory database and identify these items and then automatically promote them."

He added that retailers had the capacity to use technologies to their advantage to generate customer loyalty by tailoring offers to suit buyers' needs.

"Every customer wants a good deal, so give them one."

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