Online shoppers value unique digital experiences

Online shoppers have little tolerance for ineffective or clunky purchasing experiences. Consumers expect reliable sites and easy ordering and fulfilment, in large part because of the elevated transactional experiences digital commerce leaders like Amazon, and others have proven possible. Free shipping, shipping tracking and information about returns are the top three capabilities services online shoppers expect brands and retailers to offer.

Online shoppers seek out digital experiences that are on par with what is available from a physical retailer: zero fees for receiving a product, complete knowledge of when their purchase will arrive and access to no-fuss returns.

Now that there is an almost universal expectation for seamless experiences online, brands and retailers must push into experience-driven commerce territory to stand out. An emphasis on experience-driven commerce has not diminished the importance of factors like convenience, selection, search and price to shoppers. Rather, brands and retailers must master these capabilities to even earn shoppers’ consideration, and then go beyond them to differentiate from competitors.

Consumers go where they can receive the most seamless, memorable experience, not just the best price or delivery options. With standards for seamless transactions so high, content represents the key differentiator for brands and retailers to earn business.

Online shoppers may turn to popular marketplaces and retail giants for perks like low prices, but they appreciate how brands and retailers can offer memorable, educational content experiences. Personalised content experiences enable brands and retailers to really shine.

Regardless of where shoppers choose to engage a company, they should be able to trust the accuracy and completeness of the information they find. It’s clear that brands and retailers must approach content marketing with a clear strategy for scaling and delivering experiences that are relevant to shoppers’ personal needs.

Introducing a fraud-fighting first in South Africa

The PWC Global Economic Crime and Fraud survey 2018 South Africa cites that South Africa has the highest level of fraud in the world. PWC’s 2018 Fraud Report estimates that R100 billion was lost in revenue due to fraud.

In our age of all things digital, high value documents can be fraudulently altered within minutes with free PDF hackers, but technology can also provide a solution.

The DigSig from iPLATE Technology is fighting fraud on the front lines. It is the first and only technology that can actively protect businesses against fraud. “Scanners, PDF documents and universal fonts make forging a document child’s play,” says Nicola Tempest, Director at iPLATE. “The solution lies in making information on these documents ‘unalterable’.

Revolutionary anti-fraud technology, a first in South Africa, creates a DigSig, or digital signature, secured in a QR code that is embossed onto a document or encrypted onto a digital platform. The DigSig secures the authenticity of the information by securing the information digitally, thereby protecting the original data and making it immune from alteration.”

The iPLATE DigSig is a revolution in the fight against counterfeit documents like pay slips, proof of payment, proof of accounts, title deeds and academic qualifications.

The cost of proactively preventing fraud pales in comparison to the costs that are incurred to prosecute it. 19% of South African organisations have had to spend between twice and ten times as much on investigations as the original amount lost. (PWC Economic crime survey 2018)

“The DigSig is a digital signature secured in a QR code that is embossed onto a document or encrypted onto a digital platform,” explains Tempest. “The DigiSig secures the authenticity of the information by securing the information digitally, thereby protecting the original data and rendering it immune from alteration or forgery. The authenticity of the information can be checked using the iPLATE app that is easy downloaded from both Apple and Android app stores.”

“Levels of detection are still being outpaced by fraud risk. The rules are changing for businesses, profoundly and irreversibly, with tolerance for corporate and/or personal misbehaviour vanishing. Not only is public sensitivity about corporate misconduct at an all-time high; in some cases, corporations and leaders are also being held responsible for past behaviour, when the ‘unspoken rules’ of doing business might have been more lax. PwC’s 21st CEO Survey underscores this theme, with chief executives citing trust and leadership accountability as two of the largest business threats to growth. All of this points to a heightened risk of incidents of fraud or economic crime occurring, and to a need for organisations to take the lead in preventing it before it can take root”, says the PwC 2018 report on economic crime.

“We’re excited to be bringing this innovative technology into South Africa which is already having significant impact among both small and large businesses,” says Nicola.

Why more retailers are going green, by Iggy Sathekge

Every week, around the world, an area of floor space the size of Paris is constructed. With building and construction comes harmful emissions that remain with us for decades, threatening our environment, livelihoods and economy. Buildings and construction contribute close to 40% of the emissions causing climate change today.

The recent World Green Building Council survey found that, because of climate change, 77% of organisations are looking to reduce their energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Green buildings are growing in popularity – particularly in the retail sector – and not just because of the positive impact on the environment, but on people and profits too.

Understanding green buildings

Green building refers to both constructing, operating and maintaining a building that is environmentally responsible, resource-efficient and sustainable. Green buildings consume less energy and water, have less indoor air pollution, and manage waste more effectively – reducing the negative impact of construction and development.

South Africa currently has over 100 certified green buildings – one of which is the Menlyn Park Shopping Centre in Pretoria, the country’s largest green retail space. In 2014, Pareto re-invented its 500-store, 170 000 m2 mall to go green, introducing sustainable building materials, sophisticated metering systems, responsible transport options, air quality sensors and waste management programmes. As a result, today Menlyn Park uses 49% less energy and 71% less water than SANS204 compliant buildings.

Retailers going green

Because shopping centres boast large floor spaces (that need to be cooled or heated) and thousands of occupants (with ablution needs), the need to go green is pressing. But the benefits are many. Outside of tackling global warming, lower utility and operational costs benefit owners and tenants, while healthy, attractive indoor environments result in less sick days for staff and longer stays for shoppers. Something as simple as introducing more natural daylighting and greenery, for example, can increase sales by 40%.

For South African retailers, who are regularly plagued by local issues like load-shedding and water shortages, green solutions also mean more uptime and less disruption. By installing solar PV panels, Massmart has been able to produce some 4,4 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy a year, accounting for 60 to 80% of the building’s daily electricity needs.

Millennials expect green

Going green is also likely to appeal more to today’s millennial consumers, who are increasingly dedicated to wellness. A Nielsen study found that millennial consumers are willing to pay extra for sustainability. While this is currently more for the product itself, it’s not long before it expands into the environment from which the product is sourced.

The “Australian Food and Grocery Council’s Green Shopper Summary Report”, for example, found 96% of shoppers place importance in a retailer’s efforts to reduce their environmental impact. The renovation rate of shopping centres in Europe is also 4,4% higher than other buildings, as consumer demands shift and expectations for more sustainable solutions increase.

The opportunity in front of us

South Africa currently has the sixth most shopping centres in the world, with close on 2 000 individual centres, and hundreds of new stores and expansions in the pipeline. Given the current impact of buildings on the environment, and the increasing size of malls today, this presents a massive, untapped opportunity for us to make malls greener, addressing climate change and promoting wellness on a broad scale.

The World Green Building Council has set a goal for all new and existing buildings to be net zero carbon by 2050. It’s an ambitious goal, but achievable if more stakeholders join the cause. As Pareto, we have committed to creating a base for knowledge-sharing, leadership and overall expertise within the South African built environment, so that sustainability is something we can achieve together.

About Pareto

Pareto is one of South Africa’s largest retail property companies with a portfolio worth R25 billion. That portfolio includes some of the country’s most prized regional and super-regional shopping centres, including Menlyn Park, Africa’s largest mall at 177 000 m2 and a 25% stake in Sandton City, the continent’s most expensive retail space per square metre.

About the World Green Building Council

The World Green Building Council is a non-profit organisation and global network of national green building councils. It has member councils in over 70 countries worldwide, which collectively have    49 000 members (25 000 member companies and 24 000 individual members).

The organisation is committed to achieving the following goals by 2050: limiting global temperature rises to 2°C; reducing the building and construction sector’s CO2 emissions by 84 gigatons; and ensuring all buildings have net zero emissions. These goals will ensure the buildings and construction sector plays its part in delivering on the ambition of the Paris Agreement.

Creating standout digital shopping experiences

While there has always been a natural uptick in how often people shop online, consumers’ digital habits have started to stabilise. Digital commerce will reach critical mass in 2019. This is according to Episerver’s “Reimagining Commerce” report, an in-depth look at the trends, tactics and technologies guiding brands and retailers in the age of experience-driven commerce.

In a survey of more than 4 500 global online shoppers, 26% of online consumers currently shop online at least weekly. This is just a small increase from last year’s report, which found that 23% of online consumers shop online at this frequency.

Bluegrass Digital CEO, Nick Durrant, points to the report and says the plateau effect in digital commerce leaves companies with a clear mandate to improve or get left behind. “The quality and diversity of digital commerce experiences play an even greater role in the struggle to stand out and earn customer loyalty.”

“To understand just how valuable innovative online shopping experiences are, consider today’s commerce environment. Leaders like Amazon have perfected seamless transactions, leaving fewer opportunities for differentiation via investments in this area,” he explains.

At the same time, traditional retailers are using technology to improve the customer experience and deliver new perks through sophisticated loyalty programs, bridging the online, in-store gap. The average shopper’s path to purchase is more complex than ever, filled with a wide variety of capabilities and attractions popularised by digital native brands.

Vying for consumers’ attention and wallet share will only grow more difficult as additional players enter the fray, further congesting an already crowded digital shopping ecosystem.

To get ahead, brands and retailers must implement dynamic, integrated content marketing and customer experience strategies that forge personal, emotional connections with shoppers beyond transactions.

Durrant says retailers need to look at the principles to achieve standout, experience-driven commerce that converts consumers into customers and buyers into brand advocates. “According to the survey, final purchases require guidance because only 20% of online consumers say all of their online purchases are pre-planned.”

Although seamless transactional experiences are the standard, online shoppers say the top three capabilities or features brands and retailers should support include free shipping, shipping tracking and information about returns.

“Even though 88% of online shoppers say it is the same or higher priority for brands and retailers to offer personalised experiences online in 2019 compared to 2018, 93% say it is the same or higher priority for companies to respect their anonymity online,” he adds.

It is also evident that digital commerce overwhelms consumers, nearly half of online shoppers have failed to complete a purchase online because there were too many options to choose from. Ten percent of online shoppers view an item five or more times before making an online purchase, adding to feelings of always-on commerce.

The survey also says ineffective content has major consequences: incorrect or incomplete content on a brand’s website or mobile app has stopped 98% of online shoppers from completing a purchase.

Social media has evolved into an established shopping channel, particularly for younger shoppers. Influencers are more important than ever  ̶  52% of online shoppers who use social media have clicked on an influencer’s post, according to the report, and a third of those shoppers (31%) have made a direct purchase from the post.

The report states that 21% of online shoppers aged 37 and under turn to social media for inspiration online when they do not have a product in mind for purchase, compared to just 5% of online shoppers aged 38 and older.

Durrant says according to the report, marketplaces are online shoppers’ top destination. “Online shoppers flock to marketplaces to start their online purchase journeys, whether they have a product in mind for purchase (46%) or not (39%).”

According to the report, voice-assisted shopping is most effective for repeat purchases. Voice is gradually becoming part of online shopping habits; more consumers are turning to voice for online shopping.

“Voice technology has also grown in popularity, 17% of online shoppers use voice devices to make purchases multiple times a month or more frequently, and 22% use the technology for research purposes in the same time frame,” he concludes.

The report, however, shows there is a preference for voice research over voice purchase. Brands and retailers should consider using voice to attract frequent shoppers for repeat purchases, while using traditional channels to build relationships with new customers or less frequent shoppers.

In conclusion, 43% of consumers cited a lack of security features as the number one reason they won’t make more purchases via voice-enabled devices. Difficulty searching for and comparing products were also cited as barriers to increased voice purchases.

About Bluegrass Digital (

Bluegrass Digital is a leading provider of digital solutions for business. We simplify tech. We help you architect and build digital products and services, ensuring you transform and succeed in a digital world. With over 20 years of engineering experience and proven track record, Bluegrass Digital offers expert knowledge and its unique offering that is centred on service delivery excellence.

Canal Walk Shopping Centre launches social media brand campaign

Since their rise in popularity in the mid-20th century, shopping centres in this day and age tend to reflect the communities they serve; delivering on daily wants and needs, as well as acting as central meeting points for young and old. Understanding the social importance a shopping centre reserves within a community led Canal Walk Shopping Centre to launch its latest brand campaign, #CWSquad, spearheaded by three homegrown, Cape Town-based social media icons.

“Understanding our customer has always been of paramount importance to Canal Walk” explains Camilla Lor, regional marketing executive for Hyprop Investments Limited. “Being relevant to our customer within the societal context in which they live, work and play is key to our overall success, and so we turned to influential content creators within our very community to assist in delivering our brand message.”

Introducing the #CWSquad

The #CWSquad is made up of Nadia Jaftha, Aqeelah Harron Ally and Paula Lakay; three young ladies that will over the next year showcase the best Canal Walk has to offer across over 400 stores. When considering candidates for the campaign, it was important for Canal Walk’s marketing team that each squad member selected was not only already a friend of the brand, but also a greatly admired social media content creator offering their followers relevant and entertaining content.

“During the selection process, we naturally gravitated towards Jaftha, Harron Ally and Lakay because they effortlessly reflect who our customers are,” adds Lor. “From meeting friends for coffee and a catch up, doing a spot of wedding shopping, indulging in a shopping spree or two, grabbing a bite to eat or taking in a movie, Canal Walk has been part of these ladies’ lives every step of the way; as it has for so many of our customers.”

Over the next months, the #CWSquad will share with their followers everything from the season’s hottest lip colour, to where to find the best outfit for that special occasion, and anything and everything in between. “What makes the #CWSquad so impactful is not only are they respected and revered by their followers, but that they are genuine Canal Walk customers,” says Lor. “Customers no longer respond to disruptive, non-consumer centric content; they respond to recommendations from those they trust and admire.”

Meet the #CWSquad

Nadia Jaftha

Jaftha, known as the Content Queen by her fast-growing following, is always out and about creating hilarious pranking videos and relatable content. She has a charismatic, outgoing and vibrant personality, which captures her audiences on Instagram and YouTube.

Follow Nadia: Instagram | YouTube

Aqeelah Harron-Ally

The always elegant yet edgy Harron Ally is on the pulse of modest fashion styling and the latest beauty trends by means of her vlog. Along with her husband, Malick, she loves travelling the world and capturing their adventures. She is a total girl-boss, with a strong vision for her brand, Fashion Breed.

Follow Aqeelah: Instagram | YouTube

Paula Lakay

Most know her as Ms Paula Bee, through Instagram and her blog, but she recently got married to become Mrs Lakay. She is all about embracing and nurturing her gorgeous natural hair, as the Curl Queen, giving her followers beauty tips and tricks and capturing her life through vlogs.

Follow Paula: Instagram | YouTube

Plan of action

Month-by-month, Canal Walk will offer its shoppers a more in-depth look into each #CWSquad member’s life; highlighting their unique style by means of in-centre marketing touchpoints as well as via its direct marketing, and digital and social media platforms.

Canal Walk Shopping Centre is open from 09:00 to 21:00 seven days a week.

Social media and digital information for Canal Walk


CWSquad campaign information





Hashtag #CWSquad




Leadership disrupted: how retail stays relevant

The former Group MD of Woolworths has several valuable survival lessons for retails brands under siege in the digital age.

“More than ever before, retailers have to be extraordinary to attract and retain customers, because almost is not good enough.” So said the legendary Andrew Jennings – author of Almost Is Not Good Enough – at an intimate breakfast event hosted by Odgers Berndtson – leaders in executive search.

With close to five decades in retail, Jennings has seen it all. Former Group MD of Woolworths, with experience leading some of the world’s most iconic brands like Harrods, House of Fraser, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Karstadt Group, he says retailers today have minimal time to get their message across.

Under pressure

Jennings believes traditional brands are under siege, with stores crumbling globally under the pressure of high rental rates. During the 2008 recession, 6 000 stores in the US joined the “retail graveyard”. Last year, 8 000 stores went under. Worldwide, numerous brands have gone insolvent, including Stuttafords in SA. High fixed costs and the expense of stocking merchandise are behind this, with pressures exacerbated by the rise of online shopping. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s a recipe for getting it right.

 How do we bring the shopping experience back to life?

 Jennings’ secret to surviving? “Be relevant.” Here are his four guiding ‘rules’ to achieve sustained relevancy in retail, compiled with input from 33 retail senior executives and CEOs around the world:

 Know your customer. “In 2019, we’re living in a world where the customer is the super being. They know exactly what’s going on at the touch of a button. They want and expect transparency, value for money at every step of the journey, plus convenience. Understand their needs, wants and aspirations. Too many retailers don’t spend enough time thinking about and talking to their customers. Do your staff ask customers how their experience was as they walk out the door? This kind of research isn’t expensive. You can do it on your own at minimal expense and maximum return.”

Hire the right people who are passionate about what they do. “My definition of passion is the ‘human soul on fire’. People make or break an organisation. If you don’t have the right people, get the right people. To move a business from good to great, you need:

  • Leadership that inspires the business.
  • Management that can ruthlessly implement the strategy of the organisation.
  • Frontline staff who exceed customer expectations. I once asked the founder of Four Seasons, Issy Sharp, the secret to service. He said it’s consistency. “Every interaction with a customer can either polish or tarnish your brand.”

His view is echoed by Chania Stempowski, joint MD of Odgers Berndtson sub-Saharan Africa, “You only get one shot at making an impression on your customer. As leading experts in recruitment and succession planning, we’ve seen, time and again, how the right people can instantly transform a business.”

Constantly innovate, and innovate with excellence: “In Amsterdam, I saw the launch of the first plastics-free aisle in a supermarket. In Shanghai, I came across a staff-free, mobile shopping business built on wheels. You access the store and pay for goods via an app. The idea is that because driverless cars are coming, soon the mobile business will drive itself to the warehouse to be restocked. In Taiwan, there’s a bubble tea business where you are served by bots. I’ve always set the bar high on newness. At Woolworths, I set a target of 70% new products per season. A business that’s constantly innovating is usually a successful one.”

Keep change at the centre of your business: “The pace of change today is like driving on the autobahn. You can be going at 180 km/hr and still get overtaken. AI and machine learning will take us to the next generation of shopping experience – think of Amazon’s predictive tech expertise. Retailers have to become magnets. We need to attract people into our stores by being relevant, giving them newness, service and inspiration. Customers don’t just want to be served by us, they want to be thrilled by us.”

Stempowski concludes, “It will take a leader who is well equipped for a disrupted world – with deep strategic clarity, team building skills and thinking dexterity – to keep up with the accelerated pace of change in the retail sector. Our LeaderFit™ model measures mindset and agility to assess a candidate’s readiness to lead in a time of disruption.”

More top tips for retailers from Andrew Jennings – a man with 50 years in the industry:


  1. Inventory management is key.
  2. Break down siloes and get departments to talk to each other.
  3. Have a brand point of view; a personality. If someone gets blindfolded and dropped off in your store, you want them to take the blindfold off and know where they are.
  4. Bricks and mortar retailers need an online business.
  5. Customers want a wow factor. They want a memorable experience.
  6. Don’t expand until your core business is 100% successful.
  7. Change the way you recruit. Think differently; creatively. You need young people, they’re the future of retail.