E-commerce has become a large part of the way people do their shopping – also in South Africa – and mobile tech has done a great deal in terms of bringing online deals to the public at large. A recent report by the American think tank Pew Research revealed that South Africa has an internet penetration rate of 59%, with at least half of respondents that took part in the survey reporting that they own a smartphone.

The options for small businesses and entrepreneurs to receive payments via mobile point of sales have expanded significantly, and many banks have also started to offer clients the option to pay with their mobile device, instead of always having to carry a card or cash. The recent introduction of Samsung Pay to the South African market is just another way in which smartphone users can now easily remunerate businesses for their products and services.

The growing popularity of online shopping has put pressure on brick-and-mortar stores to up the ante in terms of the incorporation of interactive tech into their own retail offerings.

What opportunities do mobile tech and engagement hold for retailers?

Local software developer redPanda offers retailers the opportunity to engage closely with customers using their mobile devices, with a tailored customer-experience platform called Connected Solution. According to redPanda’s Software UK Chief Executive Officer, Leon Coetzer, mobile technology can aid retailers that may have found themselves worse off due to the rise of online shopping and other forms of e-commerce.

“Mobile is perfectly poised to combine all the benefits of a brick-and-mortar shopping experience and an e-commerce shopping experience – giving customers the best of both worlds,” says Coetzer.

Apps and other forms of mobile technology now give customers the opportunity to pay using their mobile device, but the mobile technology of the retailers they frequent also give retailers the opportunity to engage more directly with customers via mobile apps, push-based notifications (notifying customers about special offers on certain products) and Bluetooth beacons (that transmit product information and sales information when a user is in range) while users are in stores.

Customers are already using barcode scanners and price comparison apps to compare the prices of their favourite products, but mobile messaging technology now allow them to directly communicate with staff in stores, without having to search the store to find an employee to assist them.

It seems South African retailers will have to start joining the party, or risk losing customers to online platforms that are increasingly more convenient, and more targeted at their specific needs than they have ever been before.

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