Archive for Lipiec, 2012

When you first need to train the trainers

By admin, 31 lipca, 2012, No Comment

Improvements to the effectiveness of the sector education and training authorities (Setas), put forward by the government’s green paper on post-school education and training, are laudable – but should be viewed against the potential administrative hitches when it comes to garnering the important public-private co-operation.

This is according to Sean Jones, a director of Ikaya Fundisa Techniskills Academy (IFTA), the black-owned artisan training company bought by Jones and his partner, Mandisa¸for R20 million in 2008

Jones said while the government’s forward-thinking recommendations are “very positive”, administrative bottlenecks could scupper plans to inculcate and achieve public-private co-operation. “The devil is always in the detail and, as always, the best of plans put forward can be waylaid by lumpy or inefficient admin – and this is one of the challenges we will be facing.”

He said that “at the heart “of education and training – and its ultimate success – is the further education training institutions (FETs). “Unfortunately many FETs are sub-standard and when a student leaves with a qualification it is not trusted by businesses out there in the real world. Image-wise, the qualifications don’t carry with them enough value – because the market place generally doubts the efficacy of certain FETs. This is an inherent problem,” said Jones.

He said one of the problems is that a large proportion of trainers just don’t have the “proper insight gained through relevant experience” to fulfill their mandates to train learners properly. “Many of the FET trainers lack the hands-on experience to train properly. We have witnessed cases where an institution has all the necessary equipment, on which to train learners, but lecturers don’t really know how to operate this equipment. So while the necessary funds are being allocated to the institutions, in many cases this equipment is standing idle – and not being used at all.

“This means we need to take a look at the successful institutions, and note just why they are successful – and then get the others to emulate them. But we know, as industry players, that there might first need to be some ‘training of the trainers’ taking place, coupled with extensive hand-holding by industry.”

Jones said he is aware this might be an “unpopular comment”, adding that it is, however, time to “stop pulling punches and fix the real problems”

VMware Receives GTDC ‘Rising Star’ Award in Europe

By admin, 31 lipca, 2012, No Comment

GTDC’s ‘Rising Star’ awards honour technology companies that maximise performance through effective use of distribution partnerships

VMware, Inc. (NYSE: VMW), the global leader in virtualisation and cloud infrastructure, has announced that it has received the 2012 Gold Rising Star Award from the Global Technology Distribution Council (GTDC) in recognition of outstanding sales growth in Europe through GTDC member distributors.

VMware’s exceptional performance was noted from among hundreds of IT manufacturers and publishers who rely on GTDC distributors to supply IT resellers and solution providers around the globe. More than $100 billion in sales to end consumers — from the largest enterprises to home/office notepad users — is conveyed through this channel.

During the Rising Star awards programme at the GTDC European Vendor Summit, VMware was specifically cited for the Gold Rising Star Award in the €500 Million and over category. Sales figures determining Rising Star award winners are based on the past year’s actual European revenue as calculated by the CONTEXT Distribution Panel, an industry research organisation.

“Receiving the 2012 GTDC Gold Rising Star Award truly recognises VMware’s commitment to our channel and the tremendous opportunity for the cloud we are driving together with our partners. Our partner community is vital in helping us deliver the significant benefits virtualisation and the cloud bring to both small and medium businesses and enterprise customers, and we are delighted to be recognised for our business growth,” said Andy Hunt, VP, EMEA partners & general business, VMware.

“With our continued investment in the VMware Partner Network and our technology leadership, VMware is ideally suited to be the preferred business partner to help drive growth and business transformation. We are proud of this achievement and look forward to continued success together with our partners through 2012 and beyond,” he adds.

Methodology

To be eligible for a Rising Star award, vendors must have sold corresponding products through IT distributors for at least one year. Selections for Gold, Silver and Bronze winners in each revenue category are based on CONTEXT SalesWatch data from April 2011 – March 2012. Winners are determined on year-over-year growth percentage in the following categories:

  • Vendors with revenue of $500 million or more
  • Vendors with revenue of $250 – $500 million
  • Vendors with revenue of $100 – $250 million
  • Vendors with revenue of $50 – $100 million
  • Vendors with revenue of $25 – $50 million

Take full advantage of x-play IP applications with secure, powerful and cost effective IP-VPN

By admin, 31 lipca, 2012, No Comment

By Dean Young, T-Systems in South Africa

Internet Protocol (IP) technology has revolutionised the communications landscape, enabling a variety of different applications to run off a single network, opening up unprecedented integration opportunities for business. Increased availability, a variety of access technologies and affordability of bandwidth in the local market has meant that these applications, previously inaccessible, have now become a reality for local enterprise. Voice, video and data over an IP network has become known as triple-play, but IP has evolved even further. From voice and data to multimedia and even business applications, practically any facet of business can be run off an IP network, in what has become known as x-play technology. This technology is available in South Africa and offers many benefits, but in order to leverage the full advantages of x-play, it is vital to have a secure, powerful, flexible and cost-effective network in place. An IP Virtual Private Network (VPN) delivers the right combination of security, scalability and opportunity for modular expansion, ideal for the provisioning of a variety of IP-based applications.

Using the right IP-VPN solution, organisations of all sizes, both local and multinational, can integrate various sites as well as home offices, remote workers and even extranets, with flexible and scalable bandwidths, opportunities for modular expansion and high security standards. This paves the way for a transition from traditional to IP-based telephony and opens up possibilities for other IP-based applications, including multi-media, back-end and front-end business applications, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools and more.

IP-VPN offers anytime, anywhere connectivity, ideal for organisations with multiple sites, a remote workforce or complex communication needs. Security is built-in through secure gateways from the VPN to the Internet and vice versa. However, since the needs of all organisations are unique in terms of security taking mobility, video, VoIP and other applications into consideration, an effective IP-VPN solution needs to be fully modular and customisable. This allows organisations to pick and choose the aspects that apply to their business and will deliver the greatest value.

A fixed connection delivers a direct connection between company sites, regardless of their geographical location. This should be a completely scalable solution that can be customised to meet the exact individual needs of an organisation. It should support multiple access technologies in order to ensure cost effectiveness, including standard DSL and premium DSL with Quality of Service (QoS), links, leased links and data centre access, as well as Ethernet with optional Classes of Service (CoS).

Best practices within IP-VPN include data prioritisation with QoS in various CoS so that network traffic can be prioritised and transmission quality determined in accordance with application importance and sensitivity. Real-time applications are given priority to ensure quality, but when these are not in use other applications will be given more bandwidth temporarily. This ensures optimal bandwidth usage at all times. Multi-VPNs can be created using a VPN access point, to enable secure and reliable communications between subsidiaries, partners, offices and so on. DSL traffic offloading is also important for redundancy and business continuity. In the event of a network malfunction traffic can be diverted to a secure, high availability Internet connection. When the network is functioning normally, this secondary connection can be used for low-priority traffic, increasing the cost effectiveness of DSL traffic offloading.

Remote connection is a cost-effective, scalable solution that allows enterprises to integrate mobile users, home offices and small branch offices into their networks. This delivers secure, anytime access to a corporate network regardless of location, device or infrastructure with a variety of access options and secure dial-up. Using remote connection, organisations can allow for flexible working arrangements by enabling workers to connect to corporate networks from outside. Networks can be accessed with a user ID via an IP router, or via secure Internet connection. Data transfer is encrypted for security purposes using IPSec or SSL. One-time passwords can also be added for additional security. Remote connection also offers a cost-effective way of incorporating small branch offices into the network.

Fixed and remote connections form the basis of a VPN solution. By adding on an extranet solution, companies can also connect with suppliers, distributors and partners beyond enterprise boundaries via a secure network, taking collaboration and communication to the next level. Using a shared extranet platform for the exchange of data allows organisations to extend their enterprise network and harness to power of real-time communication with suppliers and partners.

IP-VPN offers a host of benefits, including improved business productivity as a result of more efficient network usage, high availability and traffic prioritisation. It is also highly flexible, allowing corporate networks to be easily modified to accommodate changes to company structure, and connections are scalable in terms of CoS, QoS, redundancy, backup and multi-VPN.

Harnessing the power of IP-VPN, organisations can gear themselves for growth, with a highly scalable solution that ensures bandwidth is available for the applications that need it, when it is needed. This enables enterprises to leverage the advantages of IP technologies, from VoIP to multimedia, business applications and any other x-play technologies that appear in future.

Konica Minolta Medical SA introduces cost effective paper x-ray print solution

By admin, 31 lipca, 2012, No Comment

A combination of the latest x-ray technology from Konica Minolta Medical Japan and print innovation from business technology company, Konica Minolta South Africa, allows Konica Minolta Medical South Africa (KMMSA) to produce high quality x-ray images on plain paper and, as a result, eliminate high film-printing costs.

This cost effective solution is made possible by linking Konica Minolta South Africa’s bizhub C220 model to Konica Minolta Medical South Africa’s digital radiography system.

Radiographers can use either their computed radiography (CR) or digital radiography (DR) acquired images and print these images on both A4 or A3 paper sizes. This technology also allows for printing n-up impositions, which is reducing and printing several images onto one page.

“Since these images will be handed to the referring doctor they do not require x-ray film for diagnostics, resulting in reduced costs. A CD with the original images can be made available to the referring doctor, keeping the process legal,” says Chrizelle van der Westhuizen, product manager at Konica Minolta Medical South Africa.

“When one considers that film costs approximately R25 per sheet to print and to produce an A3 print will cost approximately R3.50 per colour print, a total saving of 86 percent is achievable per print, and more if n-up is used.”

Although paper-printed radiology images are not suitable for making a diagnosis or for providing a diagnostic report, they are an appropriate patient’s copy. The bizhub C220 is also the ideal printer for printing x-rays as it is a colour printer incorporating sophisticated technology that enables clear and high quality printouts, which show unambiguous contrasts and details.

“Another bonus is that the multifunctional device has an inherent energy saving design making it environmentally friendly, high-speed throughput enabling faster productivity and it can be upgraded to offer full office functionality, if required by a practice,” adds Van der Westhuizen.

The synergy between KMMSA and Konica Minolta South Africa, both Bidvest Group companies, is most beneficial to clients, as the relationship means that software and hardware work optimally together providing an all-in-one cost effective solution to radiologists.

“Furthermore, the value of the after-sales service lies in the advanced technical skills available in-house at Konica Minolta, which eliminates outsourcing to a third party, allowing us to provide excellent customer service,” concludes Van der Westhuizen.

Multi-skilling and multi-channel routing strategy improves call centre efficiency

By admin, 31 lipca, 2012, No Comment

Call centres regularly turn to multi-skill and multi-channel routing strategies in their quests to improve agent efficiency and utilisation.

“Essentially these strategies create larger pools of contacts and agents, which leads to the greater likelihood of an agent completing a contact just as another comes in,” says Pommie Lutchmann, CEO at specialist contact centre solutions and services provider, Ocular Technologies.

“This is a desirable position as it creates economies of scale and leads to increases in occupancy, which is the amount of time individual agents are working. The greater productivity lowers the overall number of agents required.”

Lutchmann adds that cross-training the entire complement of agents is often unrealistic. However, the multi-skill configuration enables contact centres to experience the benefits of cross-training some agents without having to train everyone.

There are differences between an ACD dialler/ media server and workforce planning tools. The goal of the ACD is to route contacts to agents on the day, while workforce management tools are there not only to understand current routing, but also how contacts might be routed to agents in the future and to model both current and future environments.

How to model the optimal multi-skill staff plan remains an area of debate. However, Lutchman says the ideal workforce management tool must allow companies to carry out long term planning, implement the plan and make rapid daily staffing adjustments. To achieve this goal, the workforce management tool must be able to pinpoint current daily staffing needs but also identify the numbers and types of agents required to meet the organisation’s future goals.

“Significant agent turnover is common and aligned to improving agent proficiency in existing work types and developing additional skills,” says Lutchmann. “The key is not to model individual agents, but rather types of agents and contacts. In time, levels of experience and aptitude in a particular type of agent will remain consistent even as agents are added or removed from the group. Modelling the type of agents rather than the individuals enables a workforce management tool to identify the types of agent required to meet future workloads.”

In modelling the workforce as it changes over time, it is vital to incorporate an abstraction between actual and types of agents as this is useful in making quick daily staffing decisions and enables planning ahead for the particular skills or combination of skills required to meet next month’s overall service level objectives across all types of contacts.

“The multi-skilled staffing problem can be solved by dividing types of contacts into forecast groups and types of agents into staff groups,” says Lutchmann. “The multi-skill routing logic relating forecast groups to staff groups should be captured within a third layer known as a routing set. With staff groups, analysts can track the contribution of agents with specific skills sets so that the economies of scale achievable through partial cross-training and utilisation of skills-based routing can be accurately calculated.

“Less analytical approaches merely simulate the routing of contacts to individual agents without applying group abstraction,” says Lutchmann. “The service level anticipated for the contacts is sufficient, but the staffing information falls way short of helping analysts determine what needs to be done in terms of planning. Modelling based on individual agents can only tell the analyst that there is an anticipated service level problem with customer services. It cannot think outside the box, which is what is required for an optimal solution.”

Schneider Electric adds “Data Center Curriculum” to Energy University programme

By admin, 31 lipca, 2012, No Comment

Schneider Electric, a global specialist in energy management, announced it is integrating “Data Center University”, the globally recognised online resource of data centre courses, with its online, free, vendor-neutral energy efficiency learning programme, Energy University. The move gets Schneider Electric one step closer to its stated goal of supplying comprehensive energy efficiency learning for all segments and industries within the next three years.

“The addition of Data Center University is another step in our commitment to help fill the gap in available educational resources for energy efficiency and sustainable operations,” says Susan Hartman, global programme manager: Energy University at Schneider Electric. “Business leaders have a tremendous opportunity today to reduce energy consumption and costs, and the inclusion of the data centre content allows for individuals in the IT space to have access to all aspects of efficiency learning.”

Data Center University has existed as a highly successful e-learning programme from Schneider Electric’s IT business unit for the past seven years, with more than 360,000 courses taken within the resource. The 90,000 registered users of Data Center University will be migrated into Energy University, making it the second college of learning within that resource. The Data Center University name and identification will be retained.

Energy University has outpaced growth expectations since its launch in 2009. The programme’s 120,000+ users have taken more than 115,000 courses in 165 countries and 12 languages. It is endorsed by 17 global professional organisations, 13 of which offer continuing education credits for members who take part in the programme.

Delivered entirely online, Energy University courses are designed to support anyone involved in the decision-making, management, planning, design, or construction of a space impacted by energy.  The online format enables those seeking to continue their education and expertise in energy management with access to content without time, travel or budget restrictions. Courses provide awareness of energy opportunities and the knowledge needed to prioritise projects, win approval, successfully acquire safe, reliable and cost effective solutions, and monitor performance to sustain significant energy savings over time.

“Only through education and awareness can companies take advantage of the significant energy savings available to them today,” says Andy Chatha, president and CEO of ARC Advisory Group. “By providing users with commercial-free knowledge and expertise of various topics, they will be able to implement sustainable energy-efficient solutions that are good for the environment and good for their bottom line.”

Energy University is available on-demand anytime at www.MyEnergyUniversity.com. For more information about Schneider Electric South Africa or its integrated solutions, visit its website at www.schneider-electric.co.za.

Data is new raw material of business – almost on a par with capital, labour

By admin, 31 lipca, 2012, No Comment

By Richard Topham, director of product and propositions in Experian’s EMEA Decision Analytic division

Between the dawn of civilization and 2003, five exabytes of data was created; now that amount is generated every two days, according to Hal Varian, Chief Economist at Google.

An exabyte is a large unit of computer data storage, comprising a billion gigabytes; one gigabyte is one billion bytes. An exabyte of storage could contain 50 000 years’ worth of DVD-quality video.

I draw attention to these statistics to demonstrate the explosion of data in our midst. And if you regard these numbers as vast, consider that IDC estimate that by 2020 we will witness a 44-times increase in data, 80% of which will be unstructured data accessed through one trillion connected devices.

According to Gartner, by 2015, tablet unit sales will be 326 million and smart-phone unit sales one billion. Gartner also suggest that last year more than 140 million people worldwide used their mobile phones to process $85 billion in total payment volume – 38% more than on 2010.

Of particular and profound relevance is that data is becoming the new raw material of business – an economic input almost on a par with capital and labour.

Indeed, never before has there been an opportunity to have such deep access to user behavioural and demographic data to create actionable insight. A corollary observation is that customers who use social networking to interact with an organisation are more profitable and loyal than those who do not.

The critical driver in optimising the mountain of data is an awareness of how vital it is to put the customer first while balancing regulation with innovation.

In its quest to strike that balance, management needs to weigh up numerous (often contrasting) criteria. It must:

  • equate growth and expansion with the simultaneous need for a tight, conservative approach to risk;
  • innovate and test ideas against a background of constantly rising customer expectations;
  • satisfy customers’ ever-widening demand for new technology while overcoming the difficulties posed by outdated systems; and
  • appreciate just how crucial is speed and accuracy of decision.

A continual focus on innovation and improvement will create value through empowering management to make informed decisions, utilising and optimising both internal and external data assets, and using technology that enables, rather than constrains, the business.

Management should be aware of each and every management tool able to enhance performance. A prime example is the use of a sophisticated decision engine to enable organisations to use their internal and external data in all customer interactions.

Other steps designed to ensure that the right decisions are made include:

  • using off-the-shelf-decisioning solutions which have been built by experts and already embed best practice;
  • embedding marketing and economic data into risk scorecards to provide a more broad view of the customer;
  • addressing application fraud with a national fraud prevention service which shares data across the industry and tackles fraud through co-operation between lenders; and
  • giving the business users the tools to be agile, innovative and customer-focused to enable the organisation to react to market changes, test new strategies and use any new data sources that improve insight about customer behaviour.

Experian Decision Analytics software solutions are being increasingly recognised as an invaluable aid to managing customer decisions across the full customer lifecycle, today and into the future. That’s because today’s decision management software is created with the business user and complex data in mind making it easier to use and quicker to implement and so achieving a faster return on investment.  The Experian Decision Analytics software platform, PowerCurve is therefore ideally suited for clients’ current and future needs.

The approach is typified by a flexible, intuitive graphical user environment for the creation and administration of value adding risk management strategies. It uniquely combines predictive analytics, business rules processing, and strategy reporting capabilities in a single, integrated environment.

As a single centralised automated decisioning platform, PowerCurve combines data to find the right customers by implementing strategies at every customer interaction point.  Indeed, it ensures the company only acquires the right customers; that it takes on those with a risk profile that matches the company’s strategy.

It almost goes without saying that management should understand and prioritise the organisation’s most profitable customers. Centralised automated decisioning actively targets and acquires them before the competition through the intelligent use of marketing and customer data sources.

This competitive advantage can be achieved, for example, through the use of all data available to set competitive and appropriate terms at the point of acquisition to improves take-up rates, minimises bad debt, optimise capital adequacy and ultimately maximises profitability.

The value of knowing all there is to know about existing and potential customers cannot be exaggerated. Organisations must adopt new data sources to build the rich history of a customer more deeply to understand customer relationships, changes in behaviour and risk exposure, by gaining a holistic customer level view.

From that platform, the organisation is able to build, nurture and maximise lasting, profitable customer relationships while fully leveraging all available data assets to understand tell-tale behaviour patterns, bearing in mind that people’s profiles change over time.

With a view to generating revenue growth while keeping costs and losses at a minimum, attention should focus on maximising the value of every interaction, whether that is in the customer prospecting, on-boarding, account and customer management stage .

In all their interaction with their financial organisations, customers expect great service and quick responses. But if that is all the organisation provides, it is missing out on a whole gamut of opportunities – like cross-selling, retention activity, pre-emptive strategies and product promotion, strategies that their competitors might well be employing in these times where customer expectations are rising, response times need to fall and the need to understand and manage customer profitability is at an all time high.

Ultimately, to facilitate the creation of specific decisioning models, flexibility is vital; flexibility to implement more granular segments to make offers that exactly match the customers’ needs and data is the medium through which that flexibility is attained.  Without automated decisioning solutions these new sources of data become overwhelming and the result is that an organization misses out on an opportunity to drive its profitability while increasing customer satisfaction and behavioural insight.

Richard Topham is director of product and propositions in Experian’s EMEA Decision Analytic division. 

One of Africa’s biggest IT industry events to take place in Nairobi, Kenya in September – save the date!

By admin, 31 lipca, 2012, No Comment

The anticipated 2nd annual IT Leaders East Africa Summit will take place from 5 to 6 September 2012 in Nairobi; in the heart of Kenya’s esteemed capital city. The summit is produced and hosted by international business-to-business conferencing company, Kinetic Events in proud association with the Kenya ICT Board (KICTB) and Kenya Information Technology and Outsourcing Services (KITOS).

The summit provides a unique and exclusive business-to-business platform for IT executives and industry leaders to share experiences, network among peers and engage in interactive discussions with fellow senior executives, government officials, senior decision makers and international industry guest speakers.

The summit will focus on enterprise IT challenges facing the African IT industry, preventing enterprises within the continent from reaching the international standards of first world nations. The summit will address today’s top ICT and operations issues, and technological advancements impacting your enterprise with strategic guidance and actionable tactics.

Discover the most effective solutions in delivering IT projects and services that will enable business growth and innovation, while successfully leveraging existing resources and investments. Advance goals of operational excellence through powerfully demonstrating the value of IT organisation to the enterprise. Attendees will actively engage in topical discussions addressing how IT industry challenges can be overcome through effective innovation with the productive alignment of business.

The strategic summit will feature internationally renowned guest speakers, industry topics and discussion points appropriate to Africa’s IT industry, and prompt interesting debate among fellow industry peers through innovative and interactive workshops, best practise case studies and expert-led keynote sessions and presentations.

International guest presenters represent CIOs, government officials and IT leaders from all major industries; addressing crucial topics including innovative tactics to best improve IT processes and operations, and future industry trends and technological advancements to effectively improve enterprise infrastructure. 

The IT Leaders Summit series is hosted in strategic locations all over the world including Johannesburg, Dubai, Ghana, Cape Town and Nairobi. The series hosts over 150 CIOs and senior IT executives representing leading companies from the respective regions.

For more information, to apply to attend, comment or photographs, visit www.itleaders-eastafrica.com or contact Shaunei Meintjes on +27 21 555 0866 or shaunei@kineticevents.net. Follow @ITLeadersAfrica and @KineticEventsSA on Twitter for daily updates and news feeds.

Kaspersky Lab’s corporate security solution blocks 100% of widespread malware, winning another VB100 award

By admin, 31 lipca, 2012, No Comment

Kaspersky Endpoint Security 8 for Windows has received yet another award following the latest independent testing by Virus Bulletin magazine. Up against 37 other solutions for business and server platforms, Kaspersky Lab’s corporate product successfully blocked 100% of malware without generating a single false positive. That impressive performance earned the Kaspersky solution its fourth VB100 award since its release in autumn 2011.

The main aim of the testing – conducted on a Windows Server 2008 R2 platform – was to check whether the solutions were capable of detecting the latest malware from both a traditional and an extended collection complied by the WildList organisation. Detection rate was assessed in on-demand and on-access tests. An equally important factor was testing for false positives while scanning legitimate files. Only those products scoring 100% in all the tests received a Virus Bulletin award. Kaspersky Endpoint Security 8 dealt successfully with all the tasks.

One of the most important additional aspects of the research was the Reactive and Proactive (RAP) testing in which the solutions were disconnected from the Internet and cloud-based security databases. The Reactive test examined the products’ ability to detect the very latest malware that had been discovered no earlier than three weeks before testing. The Proactive test assessed the ability of heuristic analysis to detect malware discovered after all antivirus databases had been frozen. The Kaspersky Lab product succeeded in detecting 96.49% of threats in the reactive security test and 79.93% in the proactive security test. Despite the limited number of security tools used in these tests, Kaspersky Endpoint Security 8 for Windows produced significantly higher results than the average scores of 88.04% for the Reactive and 65.98% for the proactive tests. The experts at Virus Bulletin also highlighted the Kaspersky solution’s simple, step-by-step installation and the speed at which database updates occur.

“Virus Bulletin testing really puts corporate and home security solutions through their paces. On top of that, the Proactive and Reactive tests simulate some fairly unrealistic scenarios whereby there’s no Internet connection and no way of receiving updates for a week, but threats, that in most cases come from the web, find the way to attack the system. Even in such difficult conditions, Kaspersky Lab’s corporate solution demonstrated a much better result than the industry average, while scoring a perfect 100% when it came to the standard malware detection tests,” said Oleg Ishanov, Director of Anti-Malware Research at Kaspersky Lab.

A summary of the testing conducted by Virus Bulletin in June 2012 is available at http://www.virusbtn.com/vb100/archive/test?id=176

Success of mobile app model takes mobile retail mainstream

By admin, 31 lipca, 2012, No Comment

Opportunity for innovative new apps and user interface design overhaul

By Simon Bestbier, Account Director Realmdigital

For more than a decade, mobile retail occupied a very narrow, highly profitable but insignificant niche involving small-ticket items like ringtones and wallpaper.

Unstructured and fragmented, the industry doddered around in extended infancy, suffering reputational challenges along the way due to the unscrupulous practices of some merchants who largely escaped accountability.

Hit by a tsunami of change

But with the rapid rise of mobile platforms such as the iPad and the success of the app store model this has changed irreversibly.

Just as the Internet shook the foundations of bricks-and-mortar retail, so mobile presents a tsunami of change. Once again, retailers are reconsidering how best to get in front of the tablet and smartphone generation.

What has changed?

The rise of the iPad and the app store model was massively influential in legitimising mobile retail and giving it formal structure. How did this happen?

  • First, new addictive hardware formats (tablets, Kindle-like readers and a new generation of smartphones taking advantage of the app model) took the market and retailers’ interest away from Web-based online commerce and feature phones.
  • The app model, in which content is verified and controlled centrally, brought respectability and trust to content distribution, driving downloads.
  • Lastly, the capabilities of the new hardware took higher-value content mainstream.

How to get in front

What’s becoming apparent now is the need and opportunity for new apps and new user interface design tweaks.

­New design considerations

Selling on mobile (hardware other than desktops and notebooks) brings with it a number of caveats – especially in the African context.

Firstly, mobile data is more expensive than fixed data, and secondly, screens are frequently smaller. For this reason, design bloat must be avoided as far as possible, and uncluttered, simple interface designs will always trump busy, bitty pages.

A mobile screen, manipulated by touch and not mouse clicks, is further subject to a number of new restrictions, such as size of active elements and the use of drag-and-drop.

A new design direction called adaptive design is becoming a requirement for small-screen tablets and smartphones, where the angle at which the device is held determines display orientation and, accordingly, the dynamic arrangement of page items.

New apps

Another area of consideration is the whole new vista of apps becoming possible as tablet and phone owners take their devices everywhere with them.

Offline retail companion apps are of particular interest. Shoppers browsing a retail store are free to either buy online on the same store’s website, or do comparative browsing online and shop elsewhere. In this scenario, mobile loyalty schemes are becoming a must. Coalition loyalty schemes like Shopkick offer rewards (‘kicks’) for merely walking into stores, with ‘kicks’ redeemable on any partner merchandise.

With Apple’s iOS 6 out later this year, Apple Passport will allow storage of electronic loyalty cards on the phone, taking this idea one step further. Near-field communications (NFC) in upcoming devices will add the final piece of the puzzle to close the identification-authentication-payment-loyalty loop.

Let’s roll

While the mobile world brings many challenges to retailers, the opportunities inherent in the accompanying new content model far outweigh the hassle.

The return on investment of innovations such as NFC may be under scrutiny for a while in Africa, but not all apps require a high-LSM client base or anything fancier than a feature phone. Already there’s talk of bringing something similar to Shopkick into South Africa.

It’s time to roll with a whole new crowd.

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