‘It’s time to redefine and reimagine how your customers engage with your business’ says payment expert, PayGate.
Research by World Wide Worx shows that e-commerce in South Africa is growing at a phenomenal rate. According to the latest study, online retail grew by 25% from 2017 to 2018. Representing 1.4% of South Africa’s total retail spend in 2018, online sales are expected to reach 2% by 2022. In short, people are paying attention to the convenience and variety that online has to offer.
This is great news for an online business. Lots of customers, growing commerce, improved reach, better volumes and profit – what’s not to like? The problem is that it’s also becoming harder for the business to keep up with customer trends and demands. It’s one thing to have a ton of customers flooding into your store, but quite another when you don’t have access to the right technology or know how to make them feel special.
Emerging technology brings an impressive array of solutions into this mayhem that any business can use to woo shoppers and keep them coming back for more.
The technology innovation your online business needs
Here are five of the biggest emergent technologies that you should consider getting your business and your head around.
1. Social commerce
Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are now offering the option to purchase directly from their sites. In China, WeChat has already achieved financial success with its introduction of social commerce and this trend isn’t likely to slow down any time soon as other platforms follow suit. With social commerce, you’re offering your customers the ability to check-out directly from their favourite social media platform. This really does buy into the growing customer demand for more frictionless and simple purchasing experiences. They can go online, find something they like, and purchase it immediately.
On Facebook, social commerce consists of its Marketplace pages, on Instagram it’s the Shop Now button, and on Pinterest you can use the Buyable pins. There are also third-party plugins that you can use on social media to make your life a lot easier and smarter. Take a leaf out of Marvel’s book – they used both organic and paid traffic, and then even added a third party app for an automated chatbot checkout sequence, to sell movie tickets directly to the public on social media.
2. Image search
Image search has become one of the most powerful ways to attract customers. It is increasingly being used as part of their buying behaviour as they search for specific items online. Almost a third of web searches now use Google Images, which makes it a huge platform for you to be found in an online search. The goal is to catch the customer when they are hunting for a specific item so use gorgeous images and bright photos to really showcase your products.
3. Shopper personalisation
There are a lot of online stores. Some of them sell the same items. So, what makes one more exciting than the other? It could be that the one has invested into technology that drives a high degree of personalisation. Every customer that comes to the site is treated like an individual, a returning friend, not just another customer. Smart algorithms powered by artificial intelligence (AI) can really help you personalise your customer’s experiences by analysing their previous actions, demographics and personal data to offer them products that would appeal to them.
A great place to start is in personalising your email marketing with segmentation tools, and then, for more sophisticated personalisation, using specialised third-party e-commerce software that integrates with your website.
4. Conversational marketing with chatbots
Traditional marketing channels flow only in one direction, like a river. But customers want two-way communication. Chatbots provide real-time, personalised, one-on-one communication that allows customers to ask questions, get answers and feel heard. If you invest into AI with chatbots, you can have conversations with your customers and keep them coming back for more. They can be designed to match your brand voice, handle multiple conversations at once, and even provide support.
In South Africa, there are now omni-channel service solutions that will allow you to support your customers using the web, Twitter or Facebook. You can even use WhatsApp for a truly immersive, real time customer experience.
5. Mobile commerce and payments
The increased adoption of smartphones has meant that websites, businesses and technologies have had to adapt to their unique screen sizes and requirements. People want to be able to purchase on the go, research on the move, and essentially tap into the online world from their mobile device. If you can create an accessible shopping experience optimised for mobile, then you’re winning the battle for customer engagement.
The rise of mobile has been supported by faster, more efficient and secure payment platforms which really does help you when it comes to refining your mobile shopping experience. In Africa, QR code payment apps like Zapper and SnapScan have proven very successful, as have Instant EFT and quick payment solutions offered by reliable payment platforms. Just make sure that you partner with a provider that offers a wide variety of payment choices so your mobile customers can pay their way.
Technology is boosting the potential of e-commerce in so many different ways, but no more so than in customer engagement and retention. With these emerging technology tools in hand, you can really dig deeply into what your customers want, engage with them on their platforms, talk to them in real time, and personalise your interactions. This will not only see customers come back, time and again, for the seamless experience you offer, but will help you to strategically grow your business in both the long and the short term.