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How to adapt to the ecommerce explosion

Photo: Michael Zahariev
The explosion of ecommerce in South Africa has left many retail players feeling like they’re falling behind when it comes to adapting to the rapid growth.

In fact, according to a new report from Accenture, with ecommerce in the country expected to exceed R400bn in value by 2025, driven by more than a billion annual transactions, 95% of South African leaders (vs. 83% globally) think that the pace of change is happening faster than their businesses can adapt.

However, the same report has identified a set of ‘champion’ companies, making up 20% of the industry, that are not only outperforming, but winning when it comes to revenue growth, profitability, and most importantly, satisfied customers.

Recently named by the Financial Times in its annual ranking as the number one fastest-growing ecommerce company in South Africa for the second consecutive year (and 43rd out of businesses across Africa), Luxity has cemented itself as one of these champions.

When asked why the business has shown such incredible growth, Michael Zahariev, Luxity co-founder, says it is because of the company’s progressive approach to innovation, as well as its continuous investment in emerging technology.

“As our shoppers have changed, we have adjusted to meet that change. We know that, as a luxury brand, our customers expect deeper and more personal experiences which necessitates an openness to innovation. This, in conjunction with the integration of new technologies, has allowed us to tailor an industry first omnichannel strategy that meets the expectations of our clientele at every touchpoint,” he explains.

Reinventing the retail experience

One of the largest technology investments the company is making is into AI to expand on its omnichannel strategy. Zahariev elaborates that being able to centralise data has allowed Luxity to integrate new technologies at a faster rate, giving it an edge over competitors.

“It’s not just about gathering data; it's about structuring and actioning that data in real time. We now have the capability to automate thousands of offers on a monthly basis into one central source and have reduced current turnaround times by 82%.

When combined with customer data such as purchase history and preferences, users can enjoy an entirely unique, highly personalised experience that not only increases revenue but has a direct impact on loyalty and retention.”

An AI-driven approach appears to be one that ‘champion’ companies are all adopting, with top performers from the above-mentioned Accenture report estimated to be 51% more likely to invest in AI to optimise their business processes and differentiate customer experiences.

In addition, the company is harnessing the power of WhatsApp, which, according to Statista, is the most popular social media platform in South Africa with 94% of internet users currently interacting on the app.

Zahariev shares further insight: “WhatsApp is an incredibly powerful platform. It is quick and convenient to use and allows instant interaction. However, when integrated with AI, it becomes a game-changer. From our centralised data source, we leverage AI to create personalised offers which are then communicated to users on WhatsApp.

From there, our AI-powered WhatsApp assistant LEXA (Luxity’s EXperience Assistant) takes over and provides an experience akin to speaking to a sales associate, but with a far greater understanding of the shopper’s personal needs based on past conversations and the complete customer history.

LEXA takes into account not just what shoppers are buying, but additional personal preferences including where they prefer to purchase and how they like to pay.”

The number of ecommerce users is expected to swell to almost 40 million by 2027. Considering the country’s population is sitting at just over 60 million, the opportunities for companies to capitalise on this market are ripe.

“We have seen first-hand that businesses can thrive by leveraging ecommerce. We will continue to drive a technology-first approach to give our customers shopping experiences that will keep them coming back for more. We have a mindset of growth, so for us leveraging technology is a clear way to develop our market and stay ahead of other players,” concludes Zahariev.

Originally published on Bizcommunity
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