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Must-Watch Trends for 2013

The consumer trends that are changing our world.

Stephanie Houslay

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We live in a world that moves so quickly that it takes a brave person to make forecasts. But looking at the way the market moved last year, here are a few trends I expect to play out in 2013 and beyond. Most of these trends are all about how technology is empowering consumers to shape brands more actively than ever before.

Sharing value for the win-win

Today’s consumers examine brands carefully and look for those with a genuine commitment to creating value for their customers and society at large. For this reason, companies should no longer focus only on maximising profits for shareholders, but must also reflect a true commitment to creating shared value for a broad range of stakeholders, including their customers.

Social innovation will be at the heart of any brand’s competitive advantage. Companies will not be able to claim in the future that consumers, employees, and the community are at the heart of their business – they’ll need to demonstrate it through actions that bring their values to life in a more meaningful way.

Look out for: The rise of shared value auditors, who score and certify companies’ shared value outcomes.

Tech objects in day to day life

Mobility isn’t only about smartphones and tablet computers any more. More and more objects featuring embedded sensors, image recognition technologies, NFC payment and wireless connectivity are being connected to the Web.  And wearable computers, touch and gesture interfaces are creating new, easier ways for users to tap into the power of computers and the Web.

These technologies may offer competitive advantage for early adopters or offer potential for significant market disruption. However, companies need to use these innovations to power smart apps that help their customers and employees to improve everyday life. The challenge brands will face is to create real value, rather than creating and adopting tech products just for the sake of it.

Look out for: Technology will become embedded in more and more objects we use every day – from fridges and televisions to cars and clothing. One example is Google’s Project Glass, a set of computerised glasses that lets users take pictures and find information; another is the cool head-up display embedded in Oakley’s Airwave ski goggles for monitoring speed and reading text messages.

Social Web gets mobile

Mobile technology ensures that we are always available and connected – we have access to our social network on the go. We take our social identities on our mobile devices wherever we go. With a portable, durable online identity, users have the opportunity to share their data between sites to build, maintain relationships and stay up to date with the people they know and the things they care about.

Organisations must tap into the social identity and integration frameworks that drive the mobile Internet. They must apply social thinking at every level of their businesses to successfully speak to and engage with mobile consumers.

Look out for: The most successful brands will embrace the world of social mobility both inside their businesses for internal collaboration and communication as well as with the consumer.

Big insights from big data

Thanks to social media and always-on access to the Internet, companies are able to gather heaps of data about their customers. 2013 will be the year which challenges organisations to turn this data into a business advantage.

This data enables marketers  to take personalisation to the next level. They can use the insights in this data to better understand the needs of their customers; predict consumer behaviour; and ultimately, personalise, refine and optimise marketing to each customer’s desires, behaviours and interests.

Look out for: The true data analyst will have one of the most important skills sets on the market since companies will need him or her to make more sense of the customer journey.

Retail moves beyond the storefront

Consumers are adopting online comparison shopping, mobile payments and other new technologies as part of their shopping experience. They don’t have to feel and touch to buy, but they do want a shopping experience they can access wherever and whenever it is convenient to do so.

Consumer behaviour together with new technologies means brands must rethink their “retail space”. Today, retail can be nearly anywhere, thanks to mobile. For example, Tesco in the UK did a 2012 pilot of a screen at London’s Gatwick airport that allowed travellers to order everyday staples from their smartphones. Their order was then timed to coincide with their arrival at home.

Look out for: The power of “AND”, it will matter. Consumers are continuously demanding value, freebies and novelty in their shopping experience.

Smarter urban living

Governments and businesses are harnessing technology to offer more sustainable solutions and better lifestyles to city dwellers around the world. These solutions drive smarter, greener cities for an increasingly connected global citizenry that is informed and aware about the environmental and social impacts of urbanisation.

2013 will continue to guide the rise of a new world of connectedness, networks, central databases which is already resulting in cities providing e-services – e-health, e-education, e-traffic, e-home, e-government and e-offices.

Look out for: The likes of Siemens and IBM are involved in creating collaborative solutions to proactively manage urbanisation, but consumers will demand more from governments and businesses alike.

Stephanie Houslay is the general manager of Acceleration Media. She has extensive experience in managing global and local multichannel accounts across industries as diverse as fast-moving consumer goods, pharmaceuticals and telecoms, and is passionate about branding, strategic communications, social marketing and business sustainability.

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Business Landscape

How Investors Can Take Advantage Of The Rand’s Currency Trading Rates

Negative sentiment is likely to be pervasive with the SA economy, and it will take more than a new figurehead in government to right the wrongs of a mismanaged economy.

Harald Merckel

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The USD/ZAR currency pair is trading in the 13.65 range heading into mid-December 2017. Over the past year, the 52-week low was 12.3126, and the 52-week high was 14.5742. As one of the more volatile currencies in the trading spectrum, the ZAR is closely associated with the political shenanigans taking place in South Africa.

The year to date return for the currency pair is -0.50%, after having started 2017 at 13.7351. Much of the activity taking place with the ZAR is speculative. Futures contracts are largely responsible for the whipsaw movements in prices.

Wilkins Finance strategists stress the importance of credit ratings agencies on currencies:

‘Whenever credit ratings agencies such as Moody’s and Fitch downgrade their assessments of the South African economy, this has a negative impact on the ZAR. The impact is not always predictable however – towards the end of November 2017, the USD/ZAR had appreciated after the recent ratings downgrade of the economy.’

Moody’s Investors Service downgraded South Africa’s economy to a rating of Baa3. This is the lowest rating level for Moody’s. Further ratings will be announced in February next year. Fitch has already downgraded the foreign currency and local currency to BB +, but has offered a stable Outlook for the ZAR.

Related: The Business Of Anxiety In Business: Giving Heroes Permission To Feel Vulnerable

That S&P also downgraded the South African economy to sub-investment grade is an important decision, and one that will have negative ramifications for the South African bonds market. Now, the Barclays Global Bond Index will no longer feature South African bonds. That South Africa’s bond market will be excluded from the World Government Bond Index will also be a bugbear to any hopes of the ZAR appreciating.

Interest Rates in the South African Economy

The South African interest rate is highly attractive to foreign investors, given that the UK, US, Canada, Japan, and European bank rates are at historic lows. There is little to be gained by investing cash in fixed-interest-bearing securities in these economies. The current interest rate in South Africa is 6.75% (as at November 23, 2017). The interest rate has dropped to expand economic activity in the country.

Overall, South Africa’s inflation rate for the year is expected to remain at 5.3% dropping to 5.2% in 2018 and rising to 5.5% by 2019. Global investors remain concerned about the risk/reward environment in South Africa. The country has experienced significant capital outflows in recent years, driven in large part by uncertainty regarding future prospects. The USD/ZAR was trading at 14.60 in late November, and current ZAR strength is being attributed to USD weakness.

Related: Offshore Business Opportunities Abound For South African ‘Oldpreneurs’

Factors on Both Sides of the Atlantic

One of the major economic events affecting exchange rates will be the reconciliation of the House and Senate bills on US tax legislation. Any major overhaul of the US tax code will invariably result in a dramatically boosted USD, and a weakened ZAR. For traders, it appears to be short-term call options on the local currency and long-term call options on the USD.

It is evident that currency traders are hedging against the ZAR over the long-term. The fundamentals of the economy are structurally unstable. The power grid infrastructure, water supply problems, and political instability at the highest echelons are but a few of the many problems plaguing South African growth prospects.

However, the ZAR will draw strength from the election of a credible leader, and this will be particularly noteworthy with Cyril Ramaphosa’s appointment. Overall, negative sentiment is likely to be pervasive with the SA economy, and it will take more than a new figurehead in government to right the wrongs of a mismanaged economy.

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Get Cracking

For many people, the holiday season represents a time of change.

Rhyse Crompton

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For many people, the holiday season represents a time of change. Some folks have made the decision throughout the year to start a new business in 2018, and the festive season’s message is one of hope for a bright new entrepreneurial future. Unfortunately, for most, this dream can become a nightmare without considerable amounts of planning on part of the entrepreneur and start-up founder.

So, without sounding too depressing, Christmas and New Year’s should be a time for stringent planning rather than celebration for the season and the year ahead. Call me Ebenezer Scrooge, but hitting the laptop and doing research is the best thing an entrepreneur can do while family and friends are unwrapping gifts or holiday-making.

As a business owner who has used the month of January as a starting block for my foray into a new industry, I can say that one of the problems I encountered was not accurately defining my customer personas, both in real-time and online. It got me thinking; if I can make the mistake when it comes to accurately segmenting customers in real-time, how many people make the mistake of inaccurately creating customer personas for their online brands?

It’s All About the Customer

Creating a customer persona is easy. Most business founders have an idea of who their customer is before marketing their product. And once you know who the customer is, its just as easy to find out their likes and dislikes, as well as their habits.

Related: Want To Leave Customers Grinning And Vowing To Return? Do The Following

The best way to create customer personas is to base your personas on research and data. Many established businesses find this a simple task, as they have a wealth of clients from which to draw this data. Unfortunately, this is not the case for business founders, so they must carefully test the waters using surveys, third-party research, and an ear-to-the-ground within the industry.

Once a business understands its various buyer personas, it’s time to start considering the typical online buyer persona…

Characteristics Mapping

Just because you can accurately determine your optimal customer due to your created customer personas, you may have to create alternative personas for online consumers. This is because a slightly different person will be looking for your product online.

As an example, Bob owns a pool business, building as well as maintaining pools for residential clients across Johannesburg. Bob’s nominal customer persona is that of Adam, the 40-something business owner who owns a home in a middle-class neighbourhood. Adam is likely to come across Bob’s out-of-home marketing material, or comes to Bob for business through referrals. However, Adam differs from Lerato. Lerato is a different age, race and gender. Even more importantly, Lerato looks for products and services exclusively online. To appeal to Lerato over Adam, Bob’s customer persona must be changed for the online customer, and the online customer must be exposed to tailored content to be appealed to.

Lerato also lives in a middle-class neighbourhood, but Lerato has young children, while Adam’s children have now moved out of home. This means that Bob can take advantage of Lerato’s need for pool safety nets and a custom-built pool fences, and Bob will make sure that Lerato is exposed to content about these services while making her online journey.

Content Mapping

When creating online material, ensure that it is developed to take advantage of the online customer. One mistake that business owners make is that, in their attempts to be recognised as industry leaders, they try very hard to use industry specific language. They make attempts toward showing their prowess in the trade and showcase their own certification and business journey.

The online customer persona representing the business’s primary online buyer does not care about the business’s goals and objectives, and they have no clue as to what is being said when the website uses online lingo. They want content created for them; they want to know why they need the product or service, they want to know that they are using the best business for the job, and they want social proof regarding the service offered.

Make sure that you do proper content mapping research, and identify the online journey taken by the consumer through online channels before they make a purchasing decision.

Related: Direct Marketing: Go Where Your Customers Are

Take this a step further and make sure that you define several online customer personas. Determine the value of each persona and structure content and the consumer journey for the most profitable of the personas. Additionally, determine the lifecycle of the journey, how much attention a segment of online content generates, and capitalise accordingly. For example, if most of the purchasing decision is made on the product or service landing page, make sure that the landing page is optimised as often as possible to increase your business’s revenue.

Starting Blocks

Hit January 2018 running, and make sure you understand your online client before receiving your first online lead. And if you make a few mistakes initially, don’t worry. 2017 was – and 2018 will be – known for being the year of big data, where business owners make operations and marketing decisions based on the behaviour of customers online. Always analyse the data available to your business when made available, and make changes accordingly. The best of luck for the year ahead!

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How South African Small Business Owners Can Overcome Economic Uncertainty

Here are three things you can do to overcome these economic challenges.

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South Africa’s entrepreneurs haven’t had it easy. The current political landscape coupled with global uncertainty has brought with it significant business instability.

This is evidenced in Xero’s 2017 State of SA Small Business Report which found that 68% of small businesses view economic instability as their number one challenge, while 38% are concerned about their cash flow.

Within the small business community, the report also highlights a growing frustration with the government’s lack of support to help keep them afloat. Despite being set up to do just that, 89% of small businesses don’t feel that The Department of Small Business provides the right support.

This lack of support extends across government: 48% of entrepreneurs would like to see more funding, 44% want less red tape, 43% call for more tax breaks, and 36% want better access to finance. While these requests are perfectly reasonable, they’ll only take effect if the government gives them the go-ahead.

Implementing more measures to support small businesses will take time. This means 2018 is going to be just as challenging as 2017 – if not more so.

Related: How Women Entrepreneurs Can Change the SA Business Landscape

Here are three things you can do to overcome these economic challenges.

1Be agile

Smaller businesses are typically more agile than their larger competitors. This is a huge advantage when navigating an unpredictable market. Macro-economic challenges are, for the most part, beyond your control. Rather than try and ‘fix’ the situation, move with the market and adapt to its changing nature.

The best way to maintain customer relevancy is to review your offer regularly and look for ways to improve it. You could consider lowering your prices – as long as it doesn’t upset the books. Or think about investing money back into the business to yield greater returns.

There’s no one-size-fits all approach, so just make sure you do what is right for your business. Part of this is ensuring you stay fresh in the eyes of your customers by continuing to respond to their evolving needs.

2Invest in new technologies

Investing in the most up-to-date technology will pay off in the long run. For South Africa’s small businesses, technology is only growing in importance: where 19% said it was essential last year, that number has increased to 49% in 2017.

Cloud accounting software, for example, can help you understand your company finances and track budgetary health in real-time. Knowing exactly where your funds are and how they’re being allocated, enables a much faster response time – this is critical during unstable economic times.

Technology can also help you build a more competitive business by reducing wasteful expenses, automating time-consuming data entry tasks and streamlining processes for greater efficiency.

The more knowledge you have, the easier it is to put measures in place that will enhance your company’s operations.

Related: 7 Signs You Have A Positioning Problem [And Why Familiarity Kills Businesses]

3Deliver superior customer service

Purse strings might get tightened during tough economic times, but there will always be demand for certain products. Ensure you give your customers a superior user experience when they engage with you, and they’ll return.

It’s not always possible to compete on price. Bigger, more established companies generally have the capital reserves to undercut their rivals. But, small businesses can always compete on value. If you can offer a superior customer service, then you’ll receive customer loyalty in return – this is priceless in a volatile economy.

The past year has been incredibly challenging – and it’s unlikely to get easier as we move into 2018. But, the most successful entrepreneurs don’t let the economy thwart their ambitions – they equip their business to weather any storm. The sooner you innovate and adapt your business, the better your chances of success.

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