mCommerce, Omni-Channel emerge as game changers at eCommerce Africa conference 

The 2016 eCommerce Africa Confex took place last week from February 17 – 18 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

The conference and exhibition, which doubled in size from the inaugural edition in 2015 kicked off in the auditorium where advisory panelist, Emilian Popa, discussed where the top smart money VCs are investing in eCommerce. “The total amount of growth funding globally is $12 billion, but only US $200 million is invested in tech start-ups in Africa, so the continent is still a very small proportion of the global market” said Emilian, Principal of Digital Growth Africa and Middle East.

Claudia Foster, Senior Strategic Solutions Consultant for Platinum Sponsor, Oracle Marketing Cloud, highlighted omni-channel communications as a trend for the confex by showing the conference audience how to drive conversions by placing customers at the centre of all communications using a case study during her keynote session.

Setting the tone for another recurring theme to surface at the confex, Efi Dahan, Regional Director in Africa and Israel for PayPal, looked into the trends and habits of South African online shoppers in international markets. During his keynote, Efi shared their predictions that mobile commerce will grow 70 per cent from 2015 to 2016. Paypal has also found that South Africa is growing faster in ecommerce than any other market at a 27 per cent year on year rate with online shoppers’ spending rate [30 per cent] growing at more than double the rate of global spending growth. Efi encouraged the audience not to try and change the behaviour of the consumer, but rather listen to them. This statement was reinforced in the much anticipated keynote by founder of Internet Solutions, Ronnie Apteker.

Now a ‘Cooltrepreneur’ at Coolfidence, Ronnie delved into his initiatives and experiences in the online world in South Africa and examined how to approach the business world with a lighter touch to bring out a creative element, get people engaged and establish a sense of ease with your customer.

With the modern consumer expecting brands to communicate with them on a personal level based on their stated preferences and implicit behaviour, Preseetha Kollamthodi, EMEA Channels Leader represented IBM and filled conference attendees in on tactics and strategies that drive highly personalised brand experiences. Michael Schoenacher, Sales Engineer also represented the Platinum Sponsor during their tech demo on enhancing the buyer journey with the IBM marketing cloud experience.

Reinforcing mCommerce as a major trend at the confex and in the industry at large, Dirk Henke, Managing Director of Emerging Markets for Gold Sponsor, Criteo, shared that globally, a staggering 35 per cent of all digital sales take place on mobile devices.“eCommerce Africa Confex 2016 has been a fantastic event for us. Not only have we been able to connect with existing and potential clients, but we had the opportunity to discuss and explore industry themes and trends that are having a massive impact on the African continent, like m-Commerce and mobile advertising. In my opinion, the e-Commerce Africa Confex is a must for any organisation looking to do business in Africa,” said Dirk.

PayU’s Mel Gischen, the Consumer Head of PayU South Africa says, “Social media usage in South Africa is driving mobile device obsession. This is impacting on our levels of trust and convenience.”

“We are now seeing innovative products being launched to capture this shift in behaviour. The focus will be on making transactions more personalised, flexible and easier for the end user, while offering businesses the potential for more transactions and greater customer loyalty over time. The result is a seamless blend of online and offline payments for consumers. Keeping up may be a challenge, that’s why it is critical to choose a payment provider like PayU.”

As South Africans have become used to using their phones to pay for coffee and parking, the next frontier, says Mel Gischen, is people using online payment methods more easily via their digital wallet.

A session presented by Vincent Hoogduijn, CEO of Spree, looked at the importance of mobile as well as offline ux as the underlying iceberg of ecommerce in SA and how Spree has streamlined payment, delivery, returns and refunds. Also digging into mobile, Andre De Wet CEO, Entrepreneur, Mobile Specialist concluded that mobility is about helping, not selling.

The two day confex was a balanced mix of expo and conference that covered major aspects of businesses in the eCommerce ecosystem, including eTailers, Retailers, Last Mile Fulfilment Companies, Sellers on Marketplaces and CPG companies arriving at CTIC to learn, share and adopt the best practices in technology, processes and trends that will shape the growth and sustainability of their businesses.

Vinculum was present at the confex and had its own contributions to make, showcasing its suite of software products enabling the eCommerce ecosystem with order management, B2C fulfilment, consistent product information across channels and real time view of inventory.

On one of the panelists focusing on eCommerce fulfilment was the Head of Middle East and Africa Region – Mr Arvind Sahay, who voiced his opinions towards the challenges faced during eCommerce deliveries and how fulfilment software can be a crucial link to cracking the multi-channel fulfilment code.

eCommerce Africa Confex 2016 highlighted the importance of bringing more efficient and streamlined eCommerce solutions to the market. It is clear now that partnerships like PayFast and uAfrica are becoming more relevant and necessary to meet the demand for simple and effective eCommerce solutions for businesses.

Other sponsors and exhibitors at the eCommerce Africa Confex included; One World Express, Parcel Ninja, Sage, Vizury, iVend Retail, Ram, Ameyo, Episerver, Fontera, Mimecast, FSS Technologies, Zapper, What3Words, Payfast, Courier IT, On the Dot, This is Me, Zensar Technologies, True ERP, Nedbank and Shepherd IT.

“eCommerce Africa was a good experience for the NMP(SA) team. Being a full-service digital marketing agency it was interesting to note such a significant focus on payment methods, fulfillment and other services while very little thought went into the shopper’s path to purchase, analytics of that process and how companies get their message to the right audience in the first place. As the only digital agency in attendance we found great benefit of being able to discuss what needs to happen “first” before processing an order becomes an option. We’ll certainly be back and look forward to helping South African businesses get more feet through their digital door.”

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