Across the globe online sales have surged, while locally online transactions on Black Friday alone grew by more than 60%. A recent study released by Mastercard found that 68% of South Africans are shopping more online since the beginning of last year. Consumers are embracing the e-commerce experience in growing numbers and corporate South Africa is taking serious notice.

‘The Covid-19 pandemic undoubtedly accelerated prevailing trends as well as consumer behaviour and preferences by as much as a decade. This extraordinary industry-wide transformation is a forecast of the future of South African retail,’ said Geoff Hardy, Head of Digital, Immersion Group.

He said a solid digital footprint and strategy have become non-negotiable, as was made clear by the recent acquisition of Yuppiechef by the Mr Price Group. ‘The deal demonstrates a definite push towards developing a solid online presence that meets the demands of discerning consumers who expect a seamless end-to-end digital experience.’

In the drive towards implementing sustainable digital strategies, retailers need to consider the quality of the entire shopper journey from beginning to end. ‘User Experience or UX is of course most commonly associated with a final digital product, but our position is it’s actually a journey that begins well before a product, app or website reaches the consumer, and indeed before a shopper even steps foot into a physical store,’ said Hardy.

He added that digital tech will increasingly become more integrated with traditional so-called offline experiences. ‘Former IBM CEO Thomas Watson Jr. famously declared that ‘good design is good business’. This proves to be true time and time again as research shows design-driven companies routinely outperform their competitors. Consumer facing organisations should weave good design principles into everything they do – from research and strategy to products and service. This involves thinking beyond transaction and focusing on creating beautiful experiences that build lasting and meaningful relationships with customers.’

Hardy said that developing a long-term digital footprint and strategy should be informed by design-led thinking as it acts as a framework for real innovation. ‘Evaluating every aspect of the customer journey, from top to bottom, puts the customer at the front and centre of the overall experience. Just as shoppers can simply switch websites, so too might they choose a competitor should the in-store experience prove frustrating and badly designed.’