SA retailers undervalue digital at own peril
by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – GROCERY and other retailers in South Africa are dramatically underestimating the impact of the onslaught of digital on the industry.
This is according to an industry executive, Tim Bishop, ahead of the historic Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit scheduled for Cape from June 15 to 17.
Scores of CEOs of both global and local consumer goods companies will join the Global Summit – the first of its kind on the African continent – to debate issues such as sustainability, food safety and security.
Bishop, Director at Deloitte Digital Africa, said the in-store expectations of consumers were evolving faster than retailers were
delivering on those expectations – a gap referred to as the ‘digital divide.’
“Unless retailers step up to the plate and capitalise on evolving consumer behaviour, they will struggle to stay relevant in today’s marketplace,” said Bishop.
Bishop said the most important aspect of crossing the ‘digital divide’ is engagement with individual consumers.
“South African retailers seem set on doing all the clever tech stuff as quickly as possible, such as creating special apps, but forget that the crucial factor is reshaping their relationship with their customers. We may be in the era of digital, but we have never left the age of human beings.”
The executive said while most countries are heading in the direction of increased digital adoption and usage, South Africa had not followed the traditional route of migrating from laptops to mobile.
“We have skipped some of the adoption stages experienced by developed markets and gone directly to mobile. And we’re not just talking smartphones – feature phones are also being used extensively in this process.”
Bishop said South African shoppers were increasingly using digital access to tailor the way that they shopped, and were creating their own ‘path to purchase.’
“Retailers have lost control of the conversation,” he said.
He pointed out shoppers were more informed than ever, and the information they access most easily and trust the most was often no longer coming from retailers.
“This means retailers must think broadly about how product information is communicated to today’s consumers. The old methods of retail marketing are long gone.”
– CAJ News
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