Re-thinking your packaging design for the new digital consumer

Re-thinking your packaging design for the new digital consumer

iCitizens; Millennials; digital natives; call them what you will, but if your business model is still trying to catch up with what ‘them confounded Millennials’ want in packaging, you are going to get left behind by a new “generation” of digital nomads. And it has less to do with age and more to do with their increased buying power, tech savviness, global connectedness, environmental concern and an insatiable craving for instant gratification and the experiential.

The drive towards smart and connected packaging has been driven to some extent by the need to “talk” to this consumer, but with millions of brands vying for their attention, there is so much more to doing it right than just scanning QR codes that lead you to a company website.

Who are these digital nomads?

The Digital Nomad

The term ‘digital nomads’, often associated with Millennials, is defined as “a type of people who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and…conduct their life in a nomadic manner. (They) often work remotely from foreign countries, coffee shops, public libraries, co-working spaces, or recreational vehicles.”

Yet it extends beyond just one age group. It encompasses a workforce of freelancers of all ages who now are constantly on the move and empowered by the digital revolution to do so. It includes Millennials building their careers, baby boomer consultants, Gen X WAHM’s (and WAHD’s) and even a Gen Z and Gen Alpha consumer base that will possibly have a digital footprint before they are born.

Their combined buying power and need for speed and convenience is a powerful factor, whether it comes to seeking information, communicating, deciding on or making a purchase. Accustomed to immediate results, current research shows that if this consumer type doesn’t have their question answered within minutes of asking, more than half will easily stray to the next convenient option.

What does this mean for packaging?

Packaging, therefore, needs to tussle with the transformation posed by digital nomads, not only because of their buying power but because of their experience of the internet, digital marketing, digital communication and soon the Internet of Things (IOT), as the norm.

Gail Macleod, CEO of Stratcom Branding

In the past the retailer had more power, but the balance of power has shifted to these informed consumers. The fact that they are so well-connected means that a digital nomad knows that if a product is inferior, the service bad or if the brand does not live up to expectations, and if they are not satisfied, will be able to find an instant alternative, using social media to publicly criticise a brand just as quickly,” says Gail Macleod, CEO of Stratcom Branding, a specialist packaging design company in South Africa and a member of the Global Local Branding Alliance (GLBA).

Digital Nomads are estimated to be as much as 70 to 80 percent less loyal to brands than previous generations, which makes targeting them less about on-shelf presence and more about regional, digital, and social presence. This essentially means that a product needs to be ‘on trend’ as digital nomads are well-informed ‘WOKE’ citizens and globally connected.”, Macleod adds.

Needless to say, then, that they respond to digitally astute and responsive packaging, which needs to be unique compared to other products (particularly in China) as well as socially attractive.

Whilst price counts, the real differentiator in a world where many retailers are offering similar products at similar prices, is creating a unique brand experience that targets the insights, core beliefs and behaviours of Digital Nomads. The ‘whole package’ must then, without a doubt, drive the decision – from the messaging, innovation, product, packaging, naming and claiming, to the user interface of structural design.

And it needs to be Instagrammable, of course.

4 Golden Packaging rules for Digital Nomads:

Everything is an experience

Retail outlets need to become ‘click and collect’ friendly to adapt to the changing desires of consumers. Shopping is as much about entertainment and having a unique and exciting experience, as it is about the product.

Designing packaging for the new generation means you are designing an experience and Digital Nomads are particularly excited about new packaging concepts. They in turn, will put their energy into trying to find packaging that provides an experience and calls out to them on an emotional level. They want something to share and talk about on social media.

They will engage with packaging that is smart, has augmented reality (AR) ability and with a unique ‘give back’ proposition and awareness of niche need states. They want more value for their money.

These nomads strive for fun graphics, bright colours, and typography that reminisces of relevant regional nostalgia. As they actively seek out immersive experiences, they react to limited edition packaging and personalised branding.

Personalise it

In a world of subscription boxes and “dark kitchens”, the days of monopolistic companies with mega brands and ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategies, are numbered. The consumer is seeking something that is bespoke to them and emotional drivers include their need to be heard for who they are, not what a homogeneous group thinks they want.

The challenge is of course volume vs. value for the bigger brands, as they are changing their approach continuously, while still trying to hold on to their profits.

The world of limited editions is going to drastically change the landscape of packaging. From the ideation, concept and creation stage, through to moving from traditional print processes to digital print in the drive to be more responsive in record time, more relevant to smaller groups of purchasers, and able to engage through AR to each user – brands will have to cater to the ever-changing needs of these nomads.

Let them play

Participating in the creation of a product that’s just for them is a Digital Nomad’s ‘ON-button’. They enjoy participation and being able to take an active role in designing the products they choose to consume. Innovative brands are empowering these buyers with the tools to add custom messages, their own image, or other creative elements to enhance the products they purchase.

Additionally, these personalised products are typically created through an e-commerce platform, crafting packaging that meets Digital Nomads where they shop – online.

As a society they are reminded daily of the dangers and turmoil around them, but this should not become a persuasive attitude to the way we approach marketing and packaging. They are looking for a happy, engaging and disruptive experience.

They buy with a purpose

Digital Nomads support brands that support local communities, and they attach themselves to brands that take the time to have a deep understanding of them as the next strategic value consumer and heavy purchaser of the future.

They might not want to use the same products their grandparents or parents do, but prefer to make a statement of their own, and sway to brands that are steeped in heritage but do not look dated and old. They will buy brands that evolve and are not afraid of understanding this changing dramatic and culturally rich society we live in.

Digital Nomads care about the environment and are extraordinarily aware of the impact that their consumer behaviours have on the environment and therefore, shop very consciously. 

Sustainable packaging materials are front-of-mind for these conscious consumers and they purposefully minimise the amount of waste they create. Going for green packaging concepts at every possible angle is a win-win and it gives an opportunity to show that your company strives for the social impact of a positive social economic future. This means you will need compostable packaging sooner than you expect.

What about Africa?

The omni-channel retail model in South Africa and other parts of Africa is maturing, but there is still a trend towards ‘Bricks-and-mortar’ element to shopping decision-making which entails going into the store to look at an item and then ordering it online anyway.

The key then is for brands to give these consumers a digital experience even when they are on the shop-floor. From smart packaging that aids decision-making process to personalisation options to ease of delivery and product demonstrations, the retailers and brands that do it right, will gain the greatest following.

Africa is well-connected in e-commerce, and with the ageing traditional consumer, packaging strategies will focus on roll out segmentation that includes the recruitment strategy for new loyal users with a drastically different set of drivers.

In a continent where, insufficient waste management plans could have devastating consequences, Africa is ready to be aware and make active choices to influence the impact of science and technology on society. This is key in speaking to our environmentally conscious consumer, but also to take responsibility in the war against waste.

In terms of e-commerce, South Africa tracks the American model more closely (although we are a good few years behind), but brands would do well to look at what is happening in China where consumers are changing fast and product packaging has to be constantly changing to keep up with trends and demands.


Stratcom Branding is a brand and design agency that partners with brand owners to innovate, ideate, strategise, design and craft packaging concepts that talk to consumer insights and is always astutely driven by both aesthetics and function.

Logistics and e-commerce: evolution through technology

Logistics and e-commerce: evolution through technology

The impacts of technology are widely felt across all sectors. The advancement of technology as it pertains to the logistics sector is detailed in Broll’s recently released 2018 Logistics Report where the evolution of the logistics sector is discussed. It also highlights commercial activity around South Africa’s four main economic hubs: Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.

The report clarifies the difference between the singular function of a warehouse as compared to the multiple functionality of a distribution centre (DC) and the activities involved in logistics. Holistically logistics comprises services that support the physical movement of goods, trade across and within borders including warehousing, brokerage, express delivery, terminal operations and related data and information management.

A DC offers value-added services including the likes of cross docking, packaging, product mixing and more. DCs also store products, although generally for a shorter time period in comparison to warehouses, and emphasis is placed on the moving of goods to either wholesalers, retailers or even consumers.”

With the integration of technology and material handling equipment, cyber security is becoming increasingly important as automation and robots are likely to become the norm,” the report notes.

The report reflects on e-commerce and technological enhancements that bring about adaptations in the sector that respond to the changing demands of consumers. This has resulted in multiple channels in the supply chain.

Following the now well founded “sharing” system around services, there are various apps available for the transportation of goods. These apps connect shippers and carriers and allow for real-time freight tracking, alerts, reports and analytics, upfront rates, quick automatic payments and more. A shipper is able to see trucks which are close by and select only the jobs it wants.


Another aspect of the evolvement is the importance of design with particular attention to green-building compliance. “Factors such as lighting, building insulation, water conservation and solar panels are increasingly sought- after for an increased green footprint, as well as potential cost-saving measures.”

Among the factors listed for consideration in the design are intended use, equipment selection, flow of facility; with one-way found to be the best option.

The report explains the complexities of logistics and its influence over tenants and investors and how they select locations. These include proximity to metropolitan areas, regulatory concerns, demographics, transport infrastructure and the total cost particularly as it relates to supply chain.

Having decided on location, other factors need to be considered. Some of these include layout and amenities; inflows and outflows of goods; the size of the facility; fire safety and security among others.

Regional focus

The report, in highlighting the important logistic nodes, describes Johannesburg as South Africa’s main economic hub contributing about 16% of the country’s GDP. The backdrop to this is the turn in economic tide to one that is knowledge-based, with a focus on technology, e-commerce and financial services.

In Durban the high activity areas are in the southern and northern industrial basins, with the area to the north of the city the most active in recent years.

Durban’s industrial land costs are the highest in the country, the report claims, and, “Developers are having to come up with creative ways of increasing yields on these buildings – for example, placing docking doors and dock levellers at 45-degree angles to the yard traffic flow to lessen required yard space and increase yields.”

In Cape Town one of the two prominent logistics areas is the R300 Corridor which includes the industrial nodes of Brackenfell, Stikland Blackheath, Kuilsriver and Bellville South. According to the report, these nodes are easily accessible off the R300, N1 and N2, making this a preferred location for logistics and distribution.

The Coega Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is Port Elizabeth’s centre of logistics. It offers investors “world-class infrastructure, tax incentives, rebates and a duty-free zone.” Existing tenants include Famous Brands, DSV Sun Couriers, ID Logistics, Digistics, FAW and Vector Logistics.

The report expresses the view that logistics should embrace technological influences, innovate where necessary and align with requirements at the basic level, which include reliable connectivity and technology-based security.

To download the full report go to

Liberty Two Degrees bolsters its asset management team

Liberty Two Degrees bolsters its asset management team

One of South Africa’s premier South African retail focused real estate investment trusts (REITs), Liberty Two Degrees (L2D), recently announced the appointment of Carmen Collison to its team of vastly experienced asset managers – while Nikiwe Mkhabela, Brian Unsted, Bharathi Kawal and Sumenthree Moodley have taken up additional responsibilities.

The L2D portfolio, which houses Eastgate Shopping Centre – the retail powerhouse of the east of Johannesburg, is now managed by Carmen

Carmen Collison

Collison who has a track record spanning 15 years in the property industry. Prior to joining L2D in 2018, Carmen managed retail assets across a number of listed portfolios, one of which was awarded the Best Performing Property Fund over three years by MSCI South Africa.

L2D believes strongly in growing and providing opportunities to its own people. Nikiwe Mkhabela, an Asset Management Executive, has now

Nikiwe Mkhabela

taken over managing the Sandton City precinct which includes the Sandton City Shopping Centre. Nikiwe has over 10 years experience in the property industry. She was previously nominated for the 2015 South African Women’s Property Network Young Achiever Award, a reflection of excellence in the work she delivers.

Bharathi Kawal

Another exciting change to the business has seen Bharathi Kawal, who has extensive experience in the retail property industry spanning over 15 years, being promoted into the role of Asset Manager from her previous role of Senior Portfolio Analyst. Bharathi will now take care of Botshabelo Mall as well as the office portfolio.

Jonathan Sinden, Chief Operations Officer at L2D comments “L2D prides itself in its diversity, transformation and providing growth opportunities to its people. We are therefore proud to announce that some of South Africa’s most iconic assets will be managed by black women. This will make our portfolio one of the most transformed in the industry.”

                          Brian Unsted

Nelson Mandela Square, Liberty Promenade and Liberty Midlands Mall are managed by Brian Unsted as the Asset Management Executive.

L2D has a superior analytics and data set. The analytics derived from the data collected allows the company to better understand tenants and shoppers’ ever changing needs in order to provide the most relevant offerings that meet their requirements. This has enabled L2D to be home to South Africa’s most influential and most visited assets.

Sumenthree Moodley

Sumenthree Moodley joined L2D in 2017 as a Property Analyst. She has grown into a more senior position, heading up the analyst team which includes overseeing the monitoring of operational performance of the portfolio, analysing trading patterns and financial returns against budgets and benchmarks. Sumenthree has a strong financial background and is highly skilled in financial modelling and the analysis of investment opportunities. Her career spans over eight years in the analysis of companies in JSE listed properties, retail and the food producers sectors. While she was at ABSA Asset Management, Sumenthree was part of the team that was awarded the Raging Bull for Best South African Real Estate Fund for 2016.

“L2D promotes a high performance culture, driving innovation and the execution of strategy in order to create value for all stakeholders. The track record of our appointees speaks for itself, supporting the delivery of L2D’s strategy. Their approach to retail and office property management and analytics, as well as their considerable knowledge and skill-set has thus far proven invaluable as we seek new opportunities within the sectors” Sinden concludes.

Innovation, retrofitting, refurbishment, landscaping and spatial connections = Ferndale on Republic

Innovation, retrofitting, refurbishment, landscaping and spatial connections = Ferndale on Republic

Ferndale on Republic, previously known as the Brightwater Commons and the Randburg Waterfront before that, was initially created as a city waterfront development – a romantic notion in Johannesburg in the 1980s. The waterfront element was removed when it underwent a renovation and became the Brightwater Commons, which introduced landscaping and parks to the development as well as a flea market.

The Moolman Group has been instrumental in developing the new scheme, starting with the refurbishment of the existing cinemas into Kagiso Media’s new Urban Brew Studios. This project then served as a catalyst for the upgrading of the existing buildings as well as the addition of a new 27 000 m2 shopping mall. MDS Architecture was approached by the Moolman Group and asked to invigorate the development for the Ferndale on Republic Consortium (Moolman Group, PHG Group & Braam van Huysteen) and re-brand it as Ferndale on Republic. The new additions increase the total GLA to about 42 000 m2.

Sean Pearce, a partner at MDS Architecture, says that while some parts of the existing building will be retained, others will be demolished to allow for more efficient parking and to link it with the new enclosed mall. Landscaping will be a key design principle to soften the design and help integrate the old with the new.

We wanted to retain some of the nostalgia of a waterfront, as well as the greenery and landscaping. For this reason, greenery was used as a design ethos,” he says.

Randburg is experiencing rapid development. Ferndale on Republic has good access from both Republic Road and Hans Strydom with a quieter entrance via Cross Street into the neighbouring Ferndale. “We are trying to create a convenient, neighbourhood shopping centre providing a safe, family destination with feature lighting and pedestrian walkways, with creepers and living green walls. The large parking lot will be broken up by red brick paving and landscaped vertical screens, serving as a strong axial link,” he says. Pedestrians have much greater prominence and further design measures are being taken to soften the area.

The full development is expected to be completed by September 2019”

Large trees from the existing Brightwater Commons will be relocated to the main entrances to create strong focal points and connect to the past development.

The development will feature ‘green lungs’ around the perimeter where people can relax and enjoy a safe shopping environment. Ferndale on Republic will be a mixed use development with offices as well as large retailers such as Checkers & Pick n Pay and other national brands. Family restaurants and coffee shops will also be included throughout the new development.

Part of the existing mall attached to the waterfront/building will be incorporated into the new shopping centre mall and will have the feeling of an old railway shed or building. Red brick has been used to provide a warm contemporary aesthetic and the individual buildings create a village feel. “Shoppers will walk through the existing mall and then through into the new mall creating a special connection between new and old. We are working with existing structures and keeping high level windows but introducing new shop fronts and bulkheads. The retrofitting and refurbishment will create interesting interactions and spatial connections between the two structures,” says Pearce.

The interior will also include a lot of greenery to soften the spaces. Lighting and signage, floor tiling and paving will all contribute to a completely different experience.

Kagiso Media’s Urban Brew TV studios and phase 1 (refurbishment and construction of the first parking section) are currently underway and due to be completed in March and June 2019 respectively, with the full development expected to be completed by September 2019.

The co-owners are making a concerted effort to promote family retail again and for this reason, pubs will make way for Spur, Panarottis and other family orientated offerings.

Pearce believes that in its new form, Ferndale Mall on Republic has a romantic attraction. “It is an evolution that retains the good things associated with the development. The design is efficient but sensitive to the residential area adjacent to the site while taking advantage of accessibility and visibility from Republic Road,” he concludes.

Better life decisions with AI

Better life decisions with AI

By Vaughan Rowsell, CEO of Vend

When you think about artificial intelligence (AI) and how it will impact our daily life, what are the images you conjure up? Intelligent robot companions that clean and cook and keep you company? A disembodied voice that controls your car, home, TV and your life? You can relax in the afternoon by demanding “Computer, turn the lights down, run me a bath and play death metal”. We all relax in different ways. Or are you being really dark and the image of a robot army coming to retire all humans one at a time is how you imagine AI? Isn’t it exciting to think about how technology is going to change (or end) our lives?

Artificial Intelligence is in its basic form when a computer is able to make “intelligent” decisions that a human would otherwise make. So, lights that automatically turn on when it gets dark is a form of AI. Google maps finding you the fastest route to drive somewhere is a more advanced version of AI, and several levels up from there are self-driving cars that can not only turn on the headlights automatically and plan the fastest route, but can also drive you there without killing anyone along the way. Soon your Tesla can express its anger at passing human motorists with a robotic finger at which point AI has completely replaced us when it comes to driving.

AI is also now starting to appear in our homes as smart devices like Alexa or Google home, where they listen to our every word in hope we ask it something, like what’s the capital of Turkey, what’s the best Jason Statham movie and what’s a recipe for a good vegan lasagne. The “AI” is able to understand human speech and then, basically do a Google search on what we just asked and find the best result. When it can solve oxymorons like what’s the best Jason Statham movie then it can truly do more than what is human. As more of our devices we surround ourselves with get “hooked up” to the internet, these smart speakers can also interact with our TV, lights, doorbell and even the washing machine. So Alexa can blink the lounge lights when the washing is done, or turn the TV up really loud when it detects a door to door sales person via the video doorbell.

Computers are learning so much about us and learning new tricks to pretend to be us. They can listen, talk, give us advice and drive complex machinery. Soon the AI can be with us wherever we go to, like our own personal guardian angel, or virtual life assistant reminding us when to leave home to make it through traffic to our coffee date on time.

Vaughan Rowsell

The AI I imagine and want is like one of those spy handlers. The girl of guy in your earpiece, who lurks in a bunker at Langley or MI6 somewhere monitoring your every move and vital statistic, whispering to you the names of old school friends you have forgotten as bump into them at the mall and providing you the fastest route to escape an awkward conversation about their poor life choices.

My hope is we’ll all retain some semblance of free will in the AI driven world. So we can all make better life decisions, and have more time to bump into old friends.”

As technology becomes more and more portable, so do we become more and more mobile. As our lives become more automated, as cars drive themselves, as supermarkets predict and deliver the groceries we need, this all frees us up to have more time to do fun things. Like shopping.

But wait, isn’t automation and Amazon killing retail?

The retail industry is set to benefit immensely from technology and AI, and retail is an industry I know a bit about having helped it adapt to technology over the last 10 years. Technology and AI could do all our shopping for us. Technology and algorithms can find the right sized clothes and automatically pick items based on our preferences, AI can do this right now. But I don’t think we want to be dressed by our AI or have the gifts we buy our friends automatically picked for us based on their Facebook activity. That can lead to some really awkward “Make America Great Again” themed gifts. But mainly I don’t think we will delegate all this to AI because this takes away our free will and our ability to make choices. You can drive my car, and pick the route but please don’t pick my underwear.

Instead I think our personalised AI assistant will be there in our ears helping us find and navigate to the stores we are looking for, give us in depth product information as we hold an item, manage our finances asking us if we really need that new pair of shoes and finally have someone honest at the changing room to tell us if our ass looks big in this.

AI will automate the chores in life, like grocery shopping, making more time for us to cherish things and have new experiences.

More practically if you are the retailer then the time that AI will save you will be the difference between business failure and amazing growth. In small business this is where you will see AI make the biggest impact today. Every day small business owners are facing make-or-break decisions. Decisions based on data and 9.72 times out of 10 rely on solid analytical skills. Exactly the sort of thing that a computer is great at. Smart business assistants are already popping up, powered by AI, that can process all your key business data in real time and make sensible suggestions, like what your next supplier order should be based on how sales have been. AI can help you identify the profile of your best customers and give you tips on how to best engage with them. Every morning your personalised store AI can greet the store owner with the summary of yesterday’s sales and what to try different today. Try discounting these products, and these customers are slipping away so perhaps run an online campaign to re-engage with them.

I imagine AI as being that smart friend you want to hang out with because they make you smarter. Technology isn’t going to replace us, it’s going to free us up for the more important things in life, like meeting friends, going shopping or seeing our family. It will become our trusted advisor, it won’t run our lives or businesses, but it will give us some pretty good advice.

This, I guess, all depends on whether or not our personal AI assistant is provided “for free” by Google or Facebook. Nothing is ever free, and you will end up with an annoying friend trying to convince you to buy vitamins and matrices all day. My hope is we’ll all retain some semblance of free will in the AI driven world. So we can all make better life decisions, and have more time to bump into old friends.

Mirror, Mirror…in the Mall

Mirror, Mirror…in the Mall

The Foschini Group recently set out to highlight the natural beauty of women through a fun and interactive digital activation at Sandton City Mall.

Experiential activations agency, Living Masks, tasked Moving Tactics, South Africa’s leading digital signage solutions company, with the job of providing a solution that would attract shoppers’ attentions and encourage participation and interaction. There also had to be a way that mall-goers could quickly and easily share the interactive digital activation experience via social media.

The concept, developed by Living Masks magic-maker, Zelia Michaels Shangase, saw Moving Tactics’ Digital Impact division design and manufacture a custom-made mirror that would give women the opportunity of seeing their reflection on a specially treated glass panel that was concealing a 55-inch touchscreen. Combing these two elements in a custom-made housing, together with a DSLR camera and a wide-angled GoPro camera, we were able to create an experience for the ladies where they could see a full-length image of themselves in the mirror as well as a scaled-down version in the digital display.

“We used software designed and developed by the Moving Tactics Digital Impact team so that shoppers could take photos of themselves and then share them via various social media platforms. The GoPro camera was used to record photographic stills in the time-lapse function so that the entire campaign could be viewed in a high-speed replay,” says Andy Higginbotham, Creative Director at Moving Tactics Digital Impact.

According to Shangase, “Working on this campaign with Foschini has been an extremely fulfilling experience. The activation brought to life an amazing concept but more so a message that all women should have affirmed daily, which is ‘I AM PERFECT’. The interactive mirror that Moving Tactics developed was central to the interactive digital activation combining two winning elements, selfies and social media! What it truly did though, was allow women to see themselves as they truly are, in all their splendour and to share that with the world (via Facebook) #Nofilter”.

The #IAMALLWOMAN #IAMPERFECT Foschini campaign, which was inspired by the power and perfection of women, proved to be a success and a great way to honour the women in South Africa.

Moving Tactics is a leading South African digital signage solutions company that develops customised digital signage technologies and is constantly creating innovative communication solutions.