Uber, Airbnb set scene at CT e-commerce conference


Cape Town - Uber happened because its founders were willing to question the status quo.

"We believe in the point where supply meets demand. We see this happening in cities where Uber operates," Alon Lits, general manager for sub-Saharan Africa at Uber, told delegates at the recent eCommerce MoneyAfrica Conference in Cape Town.

"Through price cuts we saw our earnings increase due to the higher demand. New York City is one such example."

As for protests against Uber, Lits said Uber would actually like to see how Uber drivers and traditional taxis could co-exist. In South Africa, for instance, he sees more and more traditional taxi drivers who supplement their income by being Uber drivers during their downtime.

Another trend he sees in SA is that Uber services areas that traditional taxis have not covered in the past.

"If you are not thinking of disrupting your [business model], someone else is. This disruption never ends.

Velma Corcoran, general director of Airbnb in South Africa, said the company is reinventing travel in Africa. Currently there are about 3 million homes in more than 190 countries listed on Airbnb. On average about a million people stay in an Airbnb each night and the current record is more than 2 million people who stayed in Airbnbs on New Year's Eve 2016.

"We are all about delivering authentic travel experiences and all our innovations are app based.

READ: Trust a big factor for e-commerce in Africa

Regarding the impact of Airbnb in Africa, Corcoran said it is about taking tourism to communities. About 27% of the Airbnb guests in Africa indicated that they would not have visited the continent if it was not for Airbnb.

She provided examples of how Airbnb enabled people in Africa to become empowered entrepreneurs in the tourism industry.

James McCormick, principal analyst, customer rights at Forrester, spoke about digital intelligence.

He explained that digital intelligence is about technology management in a holistic sense in order to deliver the right service.

"It is an insights driven strategy that will keep you up to date with your customers. In the digital age the customer can decide when and how and to what extent he wants to interact with you," said McCormick.

"Companies should use data to drive action. To digitally compete data must, however, be turned into action. Insights driven firms are faster and fleeter than the rest."

He warned that companies will have to be insights driven by 2020 or they might as well pack up now already. Insights driven businesses use digital intelligence to engage with customers. They innovate and optimise continuously.

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