Mobile strategies for African retailers in 2014
Written by Bevan Ducasse, wiGroup's Chief Executive Officer
At wiGroup, we’ve spent the past five years developing and delivering a platform that enables retailers, brands, agencies, banks, mobile apps and mobile wallets to work together to make mobile marketing and mobile transacting easy.
In the process we’ve worked with a lot of retailers and learned from every one of them. These are the three most important lessons we’ve taken away so far.
1. Implement, measure, adapt, repeat
Whatever campaign a retailer embarks on – whether it’s implementing a loyalty programme, partnering with a brand for a special promotion or launching a series of special offers – the ultimate point is to deliver more sales at the till.
So far, so obvious; but mobile brings something new to the party. For the first time ever, it’s now possible to track the sales impact of every campaign in fine detail, from first touch to till.
This is a big deal. Sure, it’s always been possible to check the sales impact the next day after a new TV ad airs: But now you can do that at the level of the individual customer. Which deals do they go for? What’s the lag between getting the voucher and completing the sale? What messages are most effective at triggering impulse buys? What’s the real impact of in-store media? You can measure it all.
And then, of course, you need to take it one step further: Change what you’re doing based on what the numbers are telling you. Do more of what works, and try something different to what isn’t working. Check the numbers again, and tweak again. Do this until you’re an expert at fine-tuning your campaigns on the fly.
2. Play to your strengths
Retailers aren’t all technology experts. Fortunately, they don’t have to be – that’s what technology suppliers are for. What retailers are experts at, the one thing they seem to do better than anybody else, is understanding their customers.
That customer insight, not knowledge of technology, is what drives a successful mobile marketing campaign. To take just one example, during 2013 we saw mass-market retailers like Shoprite Checkers starting to offer prepaid airtime as loyalty rewards. We think this is, frankly, a stroke of genius. R2 or R5 of airtime means nothing to the average reader of a business magazine, who’s probably on a postpaid contract anyway – but to the average South African, it’s a real reward.
A retailer needs the right technology platform in place to enable campaigns like this, of course – but that’s done, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
3. Look for inspiration in the right places
We’ve read a lot of white papers in the past few years, and a lot of research reports and articles full of advice on how to do mobile marketing. Most of them have one thing in common: They’re not much help in a South African or African context.
The reality of North America, Europe and other developed-economy markets is near-universal smartphone penetration, relatively high disposable incomes and a population that’s so media-saturated there’s a constant arms race to see who can produce the biggest Next Big Thing.
Our local reality is very different. Smartphone penetration may be growing rapidly, but it will continue to be a minority for the next couple of years at least. Disposable incomes are so low people will go out of their way for R2 of airtime – and people are more media starved than media saturated.
A different landscape calls for a different strategy – and those who win are going to be those who understand this best.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”