The closure of the 159-year-old department store Stuttafords, which had been described at the “Harrod’s of South Africa”, has brought to the fore important questions about how industries need to develop stronger business plans and innovate to serve tech-savvy customers.
While many have simply pointed to the domestic economic slump as a contributor to the collapse of Stuttafords, there is much talk about the store’s failure to take advantage of future-proof digital business strategies to identify new growth opportunities and reach customers beyond brick and mortar.
Constellation Research established that more than 50% of companies in the Fortune 500 list of 2000 did not make it to the 2015 list. This is a reminder 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, allowing companies 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 20m mark last year, and is expected to grow to at least 22.5m in 2017. This will undoubtedly encourage e-commerce.
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 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 see their business models, product offerings and value chains digitised, driving new revenue streams.
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 companies, 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 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 wanting to serve 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.
- Vino Govender is executive for product innovation and marketing at Dark Fibre Africa