4 important digital transformation questions answered

Companies across an increasingly wide range of industries are waking up to the need for digital transformation. Rightly so too. Digital transformation doesn’t just allow organisations to keep up with the changing world around them, it also gives them a distinct business advantage, especially when it comes to factors such as customer experience.

By Tanja Lategan, CEO, Enlight Strategic 

In fact, 56% of CEOs say that digital improvements have led to revenue growth. Research from Accenture shows that 75% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a company that knows their name and purchase history and recommends products based on their preferences.  

Digital transformation is, in other words, imperative. But knowing that you need to do something and knowing how to do it are two different things.

With that in mind, I’ve outlined some of the questions I’m most frequently asked around digital transformation as well as the answers to them. 

1. What is digital transformation?

Digital transformation is such a broad term and the definition can change depending on your context and focus area.

Digital transformation will therefore look different for each company, but essentially it is the process of using digital technologies to create new, or improve existing business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet the changing business and market requirements.

This could be driving efficiencies through robotic process automation, upgrading your IT infrastructure or improving sales through better customer experience and data analytics tools. 

Enlight Strategic believes in a holistic approach to digital transformation that covers five main areas of business:

  1. Leadership
  2. Customer
  3. Technology
  4. Operations
  5. Culture

In order to achieve true digital maturity, all these aspects need to be assessed and considered.


Is your business ready for transformation? Take our 5-minute Digital Maturity Assessment to find out and get a FREE report.


2. Why do companies need to embrace digital transformation?

The incentive is to remain relevant, survive and thrive. It’s basically do or die. If your company does not adapt, you may experience the same fate as some companies who had to close their doors in the retail and media sectors when they were disrupted by Google, Facebook and Amazon.

From a community and economic perspective, we might not be able to change government policy or end load-shedding, but I believe it is every organisation’s responsibility to embrace digital transformation.

Companies must position themselves to contribute positively to the economy and the employment rate.

3. What does digital transformation mean for job creation?

A recent survey published by the ManPower Group predicted a very gloomy outlook for employment. It’s acutely the weakest it’s been in 5 years and down 3 percentage points compared to this period last year.

It is, however, encouraging to see that industries experiencing major disruption and companies that have subsequently undergone digital transformation are showing an uptick in hiring.

This shows a positive correlation between digital transformation and job creation and means that the strongest opportunities for job seekers will be in the Finance, Insurance, Real Estate, Business Services sectors where the net employment outlook is +9%.

Companies also need to place more focus on Augmented Humanity and consider how technology can support rather than replace their human capital.

4. How does a company go about getting digitally transformed? Where do they start?

You can start by knowing your digital maturity and understanding what it means on a practical level.  A digital maturity assessment can help businesses to not only understand their own digital maturity but also how it compares to that of their competitors and industry as a whole.

Companies can then work with a digital transformation consultancy to fast track their digital transformation journeys, improve their digital maturity and get recommendations on how to address problem areas.

Enlight Strategic offers a free online digital maturity assessment for example, so there is really is no reason not to do it.


Is your business ready for transformation? Take our 5-minute Digital Maturity Assessment to find out and get a FREE report.


Tanja is the CEO and co-founder of Enlight Strategic, a digital transformation consultancy. She has more than a decade’s worth of experience as a senior executive in the digital publishing and agency space and is passionate about the role technology can play in transforming businesses.

The 5 stages of digital maturity: How does your organisation rank?

One of the most common misconceptions about digital transformation is that it’s about the implementation of cutting-edge technologies and IT systems that optimise operational processes. While technology plays an important part in digital maturity, it doesn’t give us the full picture.

By Catherine Murray, Head of Digital Transformation, Enlight Strategic

Many companies implement new digital tools and platforms only to find that they remain unused or unable to deliver the intended transformative impact due to low digital maturity levels within the organisation.

In fact, research into challenges companies face adjusting to the faster pace of digital business, from MIT Sloane and Deloitte, indicates that digital transformation constitutes a culture and mindset change first. Rethinking technology happens further down the line.

Digital transformation is better defined as a process of adopting new or different business processes and ways of thinking that help an organisation adapt and compete effectively in an increasingly digital world.

This means that companies need to understand how digital affects and can transform all aspects of the business, including leadership, culture and customer experience in addition to technology and operations.

Understanding readiness to transform across these areas is also critical, as differing levels of digital maturity require different approaches – there is no one size fits all solution.

But what is digital maturity and why is it important?

Digital maturity is simply a measure of how ready an organisation is to both understand and adapt consistently to ongoing digital change.

Higher-maturity organisations are nearly three times more likely than lower-maturity organisations to report net profit margins and annual revenue growth that are significantly above the averages in their industry, according to research by Deloitte.

Digital maturity models evaluate how well companies have incorporated digital into their operating models, how effective they are at executing on digital initiatives and their ability to adapt to disruptive technology, events, market trends, competitors or other major factors – both culturally and operationally.

Performing an assessment of an organisation’s digital maturity levels across all aspects of the business is the best place to start a digital transformation journey. It allows you to determine where you’re at in the present, so that you can define where you want to go in the future and how to get there.


Ready to transform your business? Take our 5-minute Digital Maturity Assessment and get your FREE report.


What are the 5 stages of digital maturity?

In my experience, organisations fall into one of five broad stages of digital maturity:

1. Traditional: These are companies stuck with legacy systems, processes and outdated ways of thinking. They make little use of digital technologies and lack the ability to drive change across the business. Activities that support digital transformation are usually accidental and not a result of strategic intent. They are likely being disrupted by competition and must act quickly to build a strategic plan and organisation-wide awareness of why digital transformation is critical to save the business.

2. Emerging: These organisations embrace digital slowly and have modernised some aspects of their business but are largely reactive and only make changes when they have to. They are unable to outpace digital disruption. These companies must start addressing digital transformation seriously and avoid creating more legacy issues that will make it difficult to scale and compete in the future.

3. Engaged: These businesses experiment with some critical elements of a winning digital transformation strategy. Limited foundational activities and pockets of innovation are in place, but often siloed and lacking focus or leadership. These companies need a plan for driving adoption of a singular digital vision. Key stakeholders must be engaged to develop a structured and sustainable transformation roadmap that delivers measured business value.

4. Competitive: Companies in this category have a digital roadmap in place and are starting to combat disruption. They compete effectively in the current market but need a strategy for future growth. These companies should start optimising, and address any remaining blockers preventing them from launching and supporting new digital products or services that leapfrog competitors.

5. Maturing: These companies have a well-established transformation roadmap in place that effectively fends off disruption and evolves as needed. They use digital technologies to run their business and have the ability to drive continuous change across the company. These companies must develop a roadmap for continuous transformation and delivery, in order to realise their full potential and become leaders in their industry. Finding ways to remove friction enables them to react swiftly to market trends and speed up delivery of new digital experiences.

I prefer the term “maturing” to “mature”, as the nature of digital requires transformation to be an ever-evolving process without a finite end.

Digitally maturing businesses are always transforming, and never transformed. These organisations constantly move forward on the digital continuum by regularly assessing and adopting new technologies, processes, and strategies.

How do we rate an organisation’s digital maturity?

There are varying digital maturity assessment models, but broadly all involve scoring an organisation’s digital maturity performance across several pillars of the business, including but not limited to: Leadership, Customer, Technology, Operations and Culture.

Analytics and data should be included as a measure of performance within each of these categories as it is critical to the success of any digital transformation programme.

Comprehensive digital maturity assessments typically involve several months of stakeholder interviews, surveys, research and analysis by digital transformation experts immersed within the business.

That’s great, but where do I start?

Start by completing an initial short, high-level online digital maturity assessment. This will provide you with helpful indicators and an initial appraisal of where your organisation stands, which be used to motivate your company to undertake a full audit.

Keep in mind that digital transformation doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long-term game with gradual progression.

Starting small with one sector of your business or examining one system is also a great way to show proof of concept and test out new ideas.

The pillars of your business that score lowest for digital maturity could be an initial focus for your digital transformation programme, as they are still developing and may require immediate remedial action. Understanding exactly what this means for your organisation and developing a clear action plan is an important first move.


Ready to transform your business? Take our 5-minute Digital Maturity Assessment and get your FREE report.


Catherine is the Head of Digital Transformation at Enlight Strategic. She has over 13 years digital experience and specialises in customer experience (CX), digital disruption, platform and digital maturity analyses, research, and cutting though the noise, to find simple, pragmatic solutions to complex challenges.

How to supercharge your e-commerce sales

E-commerce offers its practitioners a lot of advantages over traditional brick-and-mortar stores, but one of the biggest is the massive amount of real-time customer data they can lay their hands on. More important than collecting that data, however, is making sense of it.

By Tanja Lategan, CEO, Enlight Strategic

Fortunately, there are more data analysis tools available than ever before. And, used correctly, they can help e-commerce stores of all sizes supercharge their sales.

Here’s how to set yourself up for success:

1. Know which metrics matter

When it comes to e-commerce analytics, it can be all too easy to focus on sales as the only metric that matters. In reality, there are a number of other metrics that are equally, if not more, important.

These include purchase amounts, billing locations, product performance, transactions (revenue, tax, shipping, quantity), and time to purchase (days and sessions to the transaction).

But you also need to know how well your marketing and advertising efforts are working, which platforms are helping you generate more customers for your business, and what are the best traffic sources, not just in terms in quantity, but in terms of quality.

Remember, the goal is to grow your customer base, not just increase sales. Knowing these metrics and why they matter is vital.

2. Embrace automation

For small-scale e-commerce players especially, unravelling all of this analysis can be challenging.

Fortunately, the best analytics tools increasingly provide automated insights into the metrics that are most important to your store.

It’s therefore worth getting as familiar as possible with whatever tools are available and to what kind of automated reports they can give you.

3. Use the right tools

When it comes to choosing tools, the choices have, by and large, never been better. Most of the big e-commerce platforms, such as Shopify and WooCommerce, provide a fair amount of raw data as well as some base-level analysis.

What they won’t tell you how, however, is how to grow or scale a business year over year. For that, you’ll need to understand a host of factors, including the trickle-down effect from changes in SEO rankings to traffic fluctuations and conversion rates.

you really want useful analytics and analysis, therefore, it’s worth using third-party tools.

Analytics product Oribi, for instance, recently launched an ecommerce analytics tool which allows Shopify users to, among other things, better test the connections between different product purchases, evaluate which product combinations are the most popular, test the impact of UI changes, and gain insights into individual customer journeys.

4. Don’t forget the human touch

Focusing on data and gaining as much insight as possible from analytics is important. This approach works best, however, when it’s combined with a human-centred understanding of the customer experience. While conversions and customer journey profiles can tell you a lot, so can individual complaints and compliments.

Key to getting this blend of data and humanity right is working to understand what your users are going through when they buy from your store and along the pathways they use to get to it.

Data and analytics can tell you what’s working and what isn’t, but it’s only once you really put yourself in the customer’s shoes that you’ll really understand why those things are and aren’t working.

5. Keep playing

As much as e-commerce can feel like a data-driven science there’s still an element of artistry required to get it right. That artistry comes from using the data available to make smarter choices, launch more inspired products, and continually improve the customer experience.

Get it right and you’ll end up supercharging your e-commerce sales.


Why 2020 should be the year we stop fearing ‘the robots’

As artificial intelligence (AI) become increasingly pervasive, so have headlines about robots taking people’s jobs. While there’s undoubtedly truth in that (in as much as new technologies have always rendered some jobs obsolete), the societal impact of these new technologies is frequently misunderstood.

By Tanja Lategan, CEO, Enlight Strategic

As such, I believe that 2020 should be the year we learn to stop fearing AI and robotics and rather focus our attention on how technology can augment humanity.

Artificial intelligence to create more jobs

Certain jobs are being, and will continue to be, replaced. But on the whole, new jobs will also be created and humans are likely to remain central to the workplace for a long time to come. In fact, it is predicted that by 2020, artificial intelligence will be a positive net job motivator, creating 2.3 million jobs worldwide while only eliminating 1.8 million jobs.

While there have been plenty of predictions about the industries that’ll be most affected by these new technologies, it is a more complex task than many believe.

Industries likely to be affected by AI and robots include agriculturecall centresbanking and retail. Within these industries, some companies will thrive and others will fail. Which one any given company falls into will largely depend on their attitude to technology.

The companies that will be most resilient are those which embrace digital transformation, adapt to the changing world, and take advantage of the opportunities offered by new technology.

Technology can also enhance the abilities of humans

It’s also important to reiterate that in most industries, technology could enhance the abilities of human employees rather than replacing them. But in order for that to happen, human workers will have to develop skills outside of their traditional remit.

But what do these skills look like?

The simplest answer is to be better at being human. Robots and automation typically take on repetitive work. What they struggle with is creative and abstract thinking.

A look at the World Economic Forum’s top 10 skills for 2020 — which includes complex problem solving, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence — shows exactly how important “human” skills are.

The reality is that AI is much less of a threat to human employees than is sometimes presented. But companies and industries need to take a long-term view and understand that AI is most effective when combined with human talent and not when it’s just used as a replacement.

Tanja is the CEO and co-founder of Enlight Strategic. She has more than a decade’s worth of experience as a senior executive in the digital publishing and agency space and is passionate about the role technology can play in transforming businesses.

What digital transformation means for customer experience in 2020

By Tanja Lategan, CEO, Enlight Strategic 

By now, most companies have at some level realised that they need to embrace digital transformation. For the most part, however, these efforts are still limited to upgrading IT infrastructure, with very little thought given to the rest of the organisation. 

A more holistic approach to digital needs to be adopted and “the customer” should be given more focus in an organisation’s digital transformation efforts. It is, after all, customer experience (CX), more than any other factor, that sets an organisation apart from its competitors. 

Marketing, CX, and digital transformation

In fact, research from Gartner shows that more than 81% of companies are competing mostly or completely on the basis of CX. The same Gartner research also found that marketing departments own the budget for and drive the execution of CX in most companies. 

That should hardly be surprising. Marketing departments typically possess customer data and the platforms needed to analyse and understand customer wants and needs. And, increasingly, what customers want is hyper-personalised, hyper-relevant, interactions on the digital channels of their choice.  

Any marketing department that understands this and has the backing of senior leadership within the organisation is ideally poised to play a leading role in its digital transformation. 

With a wider array of digital channels, and higher levels of customer expectation than have ever existed before, Digital Customer Experience will only become more critical in 2020 and beyond.  

Breaking down silos

That’s not to say that digital transformation should be left to the marketing department. Far from it. Instead, the customer-centric approach to digital transformation should be adopted across the entire organisation. That means breaking down the silos between Marketing, IT, Finance, and various other departments that make up a business. 

After all, a customer will likely interact with several departments during their relationship with an organisation. Using the right data in the right way, organisations can ensure that every customer gets a consistent experience with relevant, personalised messaging.  

Digital maturity 

But before any organisation embarks on a digital transformation journey, it is crucial that they understand their digital maturity level in the area of customer experience. 

While many companies will say that customer experience is their primary motivation for enhancing their digital communication, the truth is that they see cost efficiency as the goal and customer experience as the nirvana. Trouble is, starting with cost efficiency as the main business driver seldom results in a good customer experience. 

It’s also vital that companies regularly assess how digitally transformed their marketing efforts are and how effectively they’re helping the organisation meet its wider business goals. With digital tools becoming increasingly democratised, what was cutting edge in 2019 may be old hat in 2020.


Contact Enlight Strategic at info@enlightstrategic.com for a free digital maturity assessment to see where your company stands.


21 online digital transformation courses your employees should take in 2020

By Catherine Murray, Head of Digital Transformation, Enlight Strategic

No business hoping to thrive in the future can avoid digital transformation. To do so is to risk being left behind by an ever-growing field of competitors who have embraced it as a strategy.

In fact, in some markets, more than a third of companies have already undergone a digital transformation. And, by the end of 2019, two-thirds of global CEOs were set to focus on digital strategies to improve customer experience.

There are a number of initiatives a company looking to digitally transform itself can undertake. One of the most important, however, is to ensure that its employees have the requisite skills to embrace this shift.

Fortunately, the education space itself is digitally transforming and there are a number of online courses that allow businesses to give their employees the skills they need to embrace digital transformation.

Here are 21 of the best of them available in South Africa: 

Digital transformation and business strategy

South African business executives have traditionally understood digital transformation as a function of the IT department, focused on technology and infrastructure.

In reality, digital transformation affects every aspect of the business and should be baked into its strategy.

When it comes to helping executives understand how to effect this integration, Singularity University has a number of online courses aimed at the transformative role of technology in the workplace.

The institute is a leader in exponential thinking, making it the go-to destination for cultivating the right mindset for digital transformation.  For those looking for something a little more offline, SingularityU South Africa offers a three-day executive programme.   

Several other institutions offer highly rated digital transformation courses:

 MIT, for example, has Digital Business Strategy and Organizational Design for Digital Transformation courses. 

The Gordon Institute of Business Science, meanwhile, offers a Leading in a Digital Economy programme. 

Wits offers a Core Concepts in Digital Business course, while its business school offers an Executive Education Programme.

Finally, the University of Johannesburg offers its own Business Innovation course. 

Customer experience

Customer experience (CX), should always be at the heart of any digital transformation effort. A business’ primary goal should, after all, be to meet the wants and needs of its customers.

While most people in most businesses understand this intuitively, few wouldn’t benefit from a dive into the practicalities of CX.

Here, the UCT Graduate School of Business’ Customer Centricity in Practice course and the University of Stellenbosch’s Customer Centric Management Strategy: Principles and Practices course are both incredibly useful.

AI and machine learning

Over the past few years, there have been plenty of fearful headlines predicting that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will result in massive job losses.

While it’s true that these emerging technologies may see some job categories fall by the wayside, they’re actually predicted to be net job creators. New jobs will arise, and this is why there is a need for growth in particular skills.

As AI and ML become increasingly ubiquitous, businesses will have to ensure that their employees understand, and have skills related to, the role of these technologies in the workplace.

In the AI field, GetSmarter offers courses from MIT, Oxford, and Berkley. MIT and Berkely also offer courses in machine learning, while anyone interested in the related field of the internet of things (IoT) can also take a course from MIT.

Big Data and data science

We live in an age of massive data, producing around 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day. By 2020, there will be around 40 trillion gigabytes of data (40 zettabytes). No matter how big or small a company, it will deal with increasingly large amounts of data.

Any business looking to thrive in the coming years must be able to mine this data and apply insights from it to its overall operations and customer experience.

While a business may eventually need to bring in new talent, it can also upskill its existing staff with the likes of Berkley’s Data Science Essentials and Rice’s Data Science for Business and Data Analysis and Visualisation courses, all available from GetSmarter. 

Ongoing learning

Ultimately, what all these courses underline is that digital transformation is not a static “one-and-done” process. It requires ongoing practice and learning.

Any business set on thriving into the future needs to embrace that mindset and equip its staff to adapt to the evolving demands of digital transformation.

Catherine is the Head of Digital Transformation at Enlight Strategic. She has over 13 years digital experience and specialises in customer experience (CX), digital disruption, platform and digital maturity analyses and research, and cutting though the noise, to find simple, pragmatic solutions to complex challenges.

The digital skills matrics and graduates will need in 2020

By Tanja Lategan, CEO, Enlight Strategic

Over the next few months, South African matrics and university graduates will have one eye firmly on the future as they try to identify which career path will give them the best chance of success. And with youth unemployment at nearly 60%, it’s hard to understate the importance of considering digital skills as an option.

Ironically, far too few young people are making the choice to go into the digital and technology spaces, where South Africa is experiencing a major skills shortage. So bad is the skills shortage that research from the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA) shows that 37% of employers are recruiting from outside South Africa’s borders to fulfil their technology needs.

Digital skills

It’s also important to remember that, today, digital skills are needed in every industry. A PWC study, for instance, found that some 80% of business leaders in the financial services space are concerned about skills shortages as an impediment to growth. 

Young people acquiring digital skills isn’t just an important way to reduce unemployment, therefore, but also an important step in growing the economy and transforming businesses. But technology and digital are broad fields, encompassing a wide variety of skills. So, where does one start?

The following new areas are rapidly developing and in need of skilled professionals:

Artificial intelligence

A lot of people are fearful of the impact that artificial intelligence (AI) will have on human workers, believing that it will see them replaced entirely.

In the future, however, we are more likely to see something called “augmented humanity” where the majority of workers are being assisted by AI rather than replaced.

It is predicted that by 2020, AI will be a positive net job motivator, creating 2.3 million jobs while only eliminating 1.8 million jobs. Young people are in a great position to take advantage and should look to develop the specific skills required for the jobs of the future.

As much as businesses will need people who can build AI-enabled solutions, they’ll also need employees who can understand where AI will and won’t benefit the business. While the former requires dedicated study, some basic short courses on AI will go a long way to helping with the latter.

Internet of Things

Broadly speaking, the Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the growing system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people. This interconnectedness is changing the way we run cities, transport networks, factories, and even offices.

People who can build and service IoT devices, as well as those who program the software they run on will be in high demand. 

Also highly valued, however, will be the people who can understand and analyse the high volumes of data that come from IoT systems and extrapolate what they mean for the businesses concerned.

Analytics

But IoT devices aren’t the only things producing data. We live in an age of massive data, producing around 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day. And by 2020, there will be around 40 trillion gigabytes of data (40 zettabytes). Anyone capable of processing and analysing that data is, and will continue to be, in high demand.

The shortage is so acute that one South African institution providing courses in data science offers graduates their course fees back if they don’t find a job with an annual starting salary of R240 000 or higher. 

Here again, being able to use the available tools such as Oribi and Decibel are incredibly sought-after skills and don’t require any programming ability.

Automation

Automation is another trend which fearmongers believe will result in mass job losses. But implemented properly, it can actually help workers be more productive and add value.

In the digital marketing space, for instance, automation software takes care of repetitive tasks, reduces human error, helps workers manage complexity, and allows them to measure and optimise their efforts.

As technology starts managing more mundane tasks, specific human qualities such as creativity and cognitive flexibility will become more important. Jobs that will remain in high demand include sales executives, customer service and experience agents, people co-ordination and people management roles, creative directors and technologists, software developers, computer programmers, and of course data scientists to name but a few.

It should hardly be surprising then that the World Economic Forum’s top 10 skills for 2020 include:

  1. Complex problem solving
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People management
  5. Coordinating with others
  6. Emotional intelligence
  7. Judgment and decision making
  8. Service orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive flexibility

Exposure and opportunity  

Of course, the nature of South Africa’s unequal society and the attendant education issues mean that many young people simply aren’t exposed to these skills and the opportunities they present.

While several organisations, including codeX, WeThinkCode, and Google Digital Skills for Africa, are looking to change that, they can only do so much.

If we’re to make a real dent in youth unemployment, the education system needs to be overhauled to ensure that digital skills are baked into the entire curriculum. If not, then even the young people who are aware of the opportunities it presents will always be playing catch up. 

Young people need to know that these skills are in high demand and direct their efforts at acquiring them. It is ironic that in a country with an unemployment rate as high as South Africa’s there are industries desperate to employ people. By bridging the gap between business and youth, we can close the skills gap and tackle youth unemployment at the same time. It may be a challenge, but it’s far from insurmountable. 

Tanja is the CEO and co-founder of Enlight Strategic. She has more than a decade’s worth of experience as a senior executive in the digital publishing and agency space and is passionate about the role technology can play in transforming businesses.

5 lessons learned from a Black Friday customer experience fail

Black November is upon us and retailers, both online and offline, are gearing up for the biggest shopping event of the year. To ensure smooth sailing, it’s critical to pay close attention to customer experience, both good and bad.

By Catherine Murray, Head of Digital Transformation, Enlight Strategic

Originally a Thanksgiving holiday sales ploy imported from the US, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now reshaping consumer behaviour in South Africa. With 30% growth on 2018 sales predicted, and promotions extending days and weeks earlier into November, the shopping marathon is set to be bigger than ever in 2019.

When retailers get it right, Black Friday can provide a major revenue boost from both ecommerce and brick-and-mortar sales. Takealot reported record sales for the day in 2018, at R196m — a 125% year-on-year growth. The group sold R11.5m in merchandise before 01:00am that day, a major boost up from the R1m generated from Black Friday in 2015.

If companies get it wrong however, it can result in major reputational damage on top of crippling revenue losses.

HubSpot research found that 80% of consumers would stop doing business with a company because of a poor customer experience. To avoid this, it is absolutely critical to focus not just on making sales on the day, but on the entire journey customers experience throughout the period.

A Black Friday customer experience disaster

Last year my iron broke a week before Black Friday. I tend to avoid big sales events as I find the marketing noise and shopping chaos overwhelming, but on this occasion thought I would likely get a good deal on a grudge purchase. Like most customers, I spent the days leading up to Black Friday comparing models and prices between major ecommerce stores, before settling on a couple of options.

Retailer A is my go-to ecommerce store and offered the model I wanted with overnight delivery at a higher price. Retailer B offered a similar model at a lower price but displayed a warning on their site stating that deliveries on Black Friday orders may take longer than usual.

I’d already had a frustrating experience with Retailer B, as the UX on their site was poor, it was slow, and they provided no useful product descriptions. I wanted to give them a chance however and decided I could wait a bit longer to save some money, so opted to purchase from them anyway.

After waiting over 7 days with no order status communication from Retailer B, I called the customer service centre who were difficult to get hold of and only offered scripted responses that my order was being processed. At this point I was irritated and starting to really need the iron. I gave them another couple of days, and after hearing nothing went back to Retailer A and purchased the more expensive iron which I received the next day.

When I eventually received the product from Retailer B, nearly 3 weeks after the purchase date, I headed to the nearest branch to return the iron. After experiencing further incompetent service in-store, I vowed never to purchase anything from them ever again.

The outcomes of this customer experience failure are that the transaction likely cost Retailer B more than they made on it, and my loyalty to their competitor was only reinforced.

5 ways to improve your Black Friday customer experience

Here are 5 key lessons ecommerce retailers can learn from Retailer B’s mistakes to ensure that they have a solid customer experience strategy in place for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

1. Don’t skimp on infrastructure

The most critical place to start is the reliability of your online shopping experience. Increased website and app traffic loads on Black Friday and Cyber Monday put pressure on retailers to keep infrastructure stable, operational and error-free.

Website downtime and slow page speeds can result in major revenue losses as users abandon ship and shop elsewhere. Amazon’s July 2018 “Prime Day” started with several hours of site outages, costing the ecommerce giant over $72 million in lost sales and thousands of unhappy customers complaining on social media and support channels.

Retailers can prepare for this by optimising technical infrastructure to cope with excessive demand:

  • Load test all aspects of the online experience well ahead of time.
  • Review checkout page and mobile load times – Google’s research shows that 53% of mobile visits are abandoned if a page takes longer than 3 seconds to load (in reality the average page load time on 3G connections is 19 seconds).
  • Put technical checks and alerts in place to monitor performance so that remedial action can be taken in real time.
  • SaaS ecommerce platforms and cloud hosting solutions offer more agile infrastructure that scales up and down with traffic fluctuations.
  • Know when to expect traffic spikes – data from Black-Friday.global and BankservAfrica shows that the intensity of shopping was at its peak between 8 and 11 am in 2018.

2. Optimise the user experience

There are two main types of shopper: 1) Those who know what they want, and just want to get in and out as fast as possible, and 2) Spontaneous shoppers without a plan, browsing for something that catches their eye.

Streamlining the experience of both user types browsing your site and apps during both research and purchase stages can massively improve your chances of making a sale.

The user’s path to purchase needs to be as frictionless as possible. Ensure that:

  • Products are properly categorised and tagged in detail, and users have quick access to navigation menus, filters and keyword search functions.
  • You invest in third-party user testing across your site ahead of time to obtain an honest, objective view of your online shopping experience – sometimes just small tweaks can make a huge difference.
  • You do everything you can to prevent shopping cart abandonment. The most common reasons this happens are:
    • Product out of stock after adding to cart.
    • Long load times.
    • Inability to access user account.
    • Losing spot on page after adding item to cart.
    • Search doesn’t deliver items user is looking for.

Historically, the most popular categories of products among South African Black Friday shoppers are clothing, shoes, groceries, electronics, and home appliances, in that order. Think about how to surface these products and categories more prominently on the day.

Also consider that the sale is not complete once the customer completes and pays for the order – you also need to ensure that they keep the item and don’t return it.

Providing detailed product descriptions and customer reviews that help customers compare products effectively, understand exactly what they’re getting, and judge fit, can really make a difference here, especially for clothing and shoes. Superbalist does this particularly well by providing size conversion charts and measurements of the clothing model pictured.

3. Take a long, hard look at order fulfilment

In the age of instant gratification, taking more than 7 days to deliver online orders just doesn’t cut it anymore. Even with an optimised online experience, competition is fierce and inefficient supply chain management and order fulfilment processes will put retailers at a severe disadvantage.

  • Using specialist ecommerce predictive analytics software to monitor user behaviour in the lead-up to Black Friday can help you understand which products customers are interested in purchasing and plan ahead of time. Track which products they search for, view, compare and add to wish lists in advance, and ask your customers for input on what they want.
  • Spread the load by offering promotions days or weeks ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday to encourage purchasing in more manageable chunks and secure the sale before your competitors do.
  • Consider click-and-collect as an option for order fulfilment – it not only takes the pressure off your delivery system, but also gets consumers into your stores where you have the chance to make another sale.
  • Don’t over promise and under deliver – if you are likely to experience delivery delays over the Black Friday period, warn your consumers but stick to the deadline extension and don’t leave them wondering by being uncommunicative.

4. Prepare customer service staff

Emotions run high on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, consumers are stressed and expect hassles, and generally don’t have much time to waste. Angry, tired, and impatient consumers demanding unreasonable things will also take their toll on employee morale, and you need to make sure your staff are adequately experienced and prepared.

  • Ensure customers feel that you care – address them by name, personalise communication, pay attention and show that you have listened and understand what their issue is.
  • Take responsibility and consider offering incentives to return when things go wrong .
  • Offer VIP treatment to loyal customers – access to exclusive flash sales, extra discounts, or early access to promotions are all great examples.
  • Empathise with customers and understand the emotional need states that drive their behaviour in order to surprise and delight them – consumers are increasingly placing more value on their time and pleasant experiences than on simply getting what they paid for no matter what.
  • Provide prominent and easily accessible customer service channels.

Excellent customer experience 100% starts with your employees. Their attitude toward customers both online and offline is a major factor in how they perceive your business, especially if it’s the first time they’re engaging with your brand.

Prioritising a short-term growth in sales at the expense of customer happiness during Black Friday will ensure you’ll be investing money into the business just to stay in preservation mode.

5. Make automation your friend

Utilising the right technology to elevate customer experience and save money is imperative in the age of digital transformation. Advances in automation and artificial intelligence (AI) can offer ecommerce retailers significant competitive advantages.

Predictive personalisation software uses AI technology to provide a layer of personalisation to an e-commerce site by tailoring each user’s visit using their unique preferences and real-time purchase intent. The software ensures customers return for the experience, not just pricing or products alone, and customers now expect it from their online shopping experience.

Automated merchandising uses AI to help businesses put the right product in the right place at the right time. Algorithms map complex relationships between products, and consumer behaviour is monitored through site-search tools and added to the algorithm through machine learning. This automates website search processing, creating a self-operating, consistent, accurate, scalable and efficient system that gets more intelligent with time.

Consider investing in marketing and CRM software that enables an omni-channel customer experience. Hubspot defines this as a multi-channel approach to marketing, selling, and serving customers in a way that creates an integrated and cohesive customer experience no matter how or where a customer reaches out.

Three technology trends shaping the property industry

By Tanja Lategan, CEO, Enlight Strategic

The Digital Revolution is changing our economy, and with that, the way businesses operate and serve their customers. The property industry is no exception. Three key technology trends are shaping the sector’s value chain, disrupting old models and bringing about new opportunities.

When it comes to digital technology, the world of real estate is catching up fast. A 2018 global survey by KPMG amongst 270 real estate decision-makers from 30 countries shows that 97% of respondents believe digital innovations are somewhat influencing their businesses.

More than half (60%) feels technology is having a profound impact on their operations. In addition, one in nine participants said they have either a clear digital technology vision and strategy in place or are in the process of developing one.

An internal digital and innovation strategy is a crucial asset for any company which wants to remain agile, be able to adapt to changes, and tap into new trends, of which three stand out.

1. Disintermediation

The first one is disintermediation, which is a fancy word for processes and tools that give consumers direct access to products and services instead of having to deal with an intermediary.

Think of apps that connect property investors, buyers, sellers, owners and renters directly to one another, bypassing agents and other third parties, or online platforms that facilitate remote 360-degree viewings of properties and neighbourhoods.

Another example is the variety of Blockchain-based solutions that enable sellers and buyers to sign smart contracts and leases, each from different parts of the world, without needing to be in the same room or requiring a witness.

2. Augmented Analytics

The second trend companies in the property sector need to keep an eye on is Augmented Analytics. This particular concept is all about data, any business’ most important and valuable asset. The reason is simple: being able to capture, interpret, and analyse relevant information allows you to see trends more clearly and make more informed business decisions, which will strengthen your overall operations.

Having access to data can assist property companies to predict market fluctuations, mitigate the impacts of these changes, and seize opportunities when they arise.

Harnessing the power of IoT and Artificial Intelligence (AI), for instance, may help you identify cash flow irregularities, predict water and energy usage trends within your developments, schedule the maintenance of technical building components, assess the optimal usage of rental spaces, and understand the behaviour of your customers.

All of this may sound complicated but, thanks to the digital age, you don’t have to be a data scientist to capture and analyse data due to a wide array of easy-to-use digital solutions.

Like Oribi for example, a solution that is turning the mystery of data analytics into child’s play. This platform provides insights that are easy to understand without requiring any assistance from an analytics expert or developer. These insights can be translated into actions and improve your ROI substantially.

3. Tenant Centricity

Finally, a third trend that is taking the real estate sector by storm revolves around tenant centricity. These days, the success of any residential complex or office block is about being able to meet your users’ expectations. These have changed significantly over the past few years.

Today’s home-owner expects more from the place he or she calls home. Besides security and comfort, many are after tech-enabled, fibre-ready units that provide them with an experience, from lifestyle amenities, sports facilities and retail outlets to entertainment options.

Living has become more than residing in between four walls. It is no surprise the mixed-use sector has seen tremendous growth in South Africa over the past decade.

The same can be said for commercial tenants. Today’s business-owners need less space to operate than a few years ago, with a greater need for technology infrastructure.

This has paved the way for a booming co-working sector. Such shared office hubs offer private workspaces and offices, but with shared facilities such as boardrooms, telecommunications infrastructure, teleconferencing facilities and other tech-enabled amenities.

This ties in with a growing need for flexibility, for instance, in terms of working hours. Most shared business hubs are open 24/7, and this is not a coincidence. Companies no longer run between 9 am and 5 pm.

Real estate companies need to be mindful of how technology is changing customer needs and expectations, and continue to adapt their services and processes to remain relevant.

Technology provides an abundance of opportunities to improve your business, and the companies who are willing to explore and embrace this will certainly come out on top in the future.