- Ecommerce is expected to continue growing across Africa despite the current global economic downturn.
- Adopting an “omnichannel” approach can allow retailers to take the most advantage of the growing industry especially as Black Friday approaches.
- Omnichannel is a method for retailers to increase engagement with customers and receive vital information, through methods like hyper-personalisation and increased social media presence.
Ecommerce is a distinct point of optimism in Africa. The continent’s ecommerce industry is expected to be worth $75 billion by 2025, according to research shared by telecommunications firm Infobip.
On Thursday we were invited to a roundtable discussion with Infobip to unpack the latest trends in ecommerce on the continent, with a focus on South Africa, before the looming Black Friday sales this year expected to begin on 25th November.
Last year, figures released by FNB and Standard Bank showed that consumers were shopping in greater numbers than in 2020, but not at the levels seen before the start of the pandemic.
FNB reported that spending on Black Friday has increased by 19 percent year-on-year, with the bank’s cardholders making purchases of about R2.5 billion, an increase of 15 percent compared with 2020.
Standard Bank echoed FNB, indicating similar transaction patterns, with total card transactions for Black Friday increasing by 17 percent compared with 2020.
However, experts are warning that inflationary pressures caused by global economic factors and a much more informed and savvier consumer base are likely to force retailers to take a more pragmatic approach to Black Friday.
Just this week, the world’s ecommerce juggernaut Amazon announced that it was making company-wide cuts that several reports indicate will be around 10 000 employees.
It is alleged that Amazon was seeing lower sales forecasts during the typically-lucrative holiday season and has continued to struggle against high inflation, tighter household budgets and increasing energy costs. This has apparently led to mass firings.
Infobip says that despite the economic downturn affecting ecommerce worldwide, the company continues to be optimistic about the market in Africa due to its continued upside as it was a growing industry across the continent even before the pandemic spike.
“Retailers are likely to have to fight tooth and nail for every sale this year, especially in a very crowded and competitive online marketplace, which will force companies to evaluate their offers more critically and adopt strategies that will enable them to stand out from their competitors,” says Kabelo Ngwane, Head of Customer Success at Infobip.
To this end, Ngwane opines that retailers need to define a “hyper-personalised communications” approach. This will enable retailers to match customers with appropriate item targeting in order to meet their preferences and make sales.
“As opposed to conventional personalisation, hyper-personalisation fine-tunes customised advertising for relevance for each individual customer to maximise customer response and increase sales,” he says.
Hyper-personalisation is just one of the features that are handled by Infobip’s omnichannel support. The company says that it facilitates the deployment of omnichannel features for retailers, big and small.
It also offers tiered payment options as not all retailers will require the same amount of infrastructure, based on the size of their user base and other metrics. So a startup will not have to pay the same amount as a huge corporation.
An omnichannel approach, as its name specifies, uses multiple different methods to reach and communicate with customers, be it SMS, social media, email and so on. Omnichannel approaches not only give more engagement with customers but also facilitate accessibility and eventually sales.
Another advantage is the customer information that can be gained through analytics anchored on these different “channels” such as social media, or email.
“Many brands, especially those in retail, use AI technologies and Machine Learning to analyse customer data to get a key understanding of a customer’s intentions, which allows them to target the right communication at the right customer,” says Ngwane.
“However, there are various other things that online retailers should also consider if they want to be unique and attract current and new customers to their offers on Black Friday.”
Firstly, retailers must ensure that their websites are available on a 24/7 basis, as well as that they provide customers with the option to communicate with the brand either through a chatbot or an agent at a support centre.
“But whatever marketing strategy retailers choose to deploy on Black Friday, it must be underpinned by an omnichannel customer engagement approach that gives customers a choice over how they want to engage – whether through chat, voice or other virtual channels,” Ngwane adds.
“Omnichannel retailers are experiencing exceptionally high growth figures, and creating a highly personalised and seamless customer journey should be the foundation on which retailers can differentiate themselves and their offerings on Black Friday,” he concludes.
[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]