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SA entrepreneurs must leverage business growth through the application of locally produced, world-class tech solutions

18th January 2024

     

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By Jacques Jordaan, Co-Founder & CEO at Specno

As a country, South Africa is rapidly evolving to become the destination of choice for large-scale tech conferences. The Africa Tech Festival and AfricArena Grand Summit offer immediate examples of leading, world-class, tech-based events, both of which took place in Cape Town recently towards the end of last year.

These star-studded tech conferences have purposefully positioned themselves to cater to all entrepreneurs in our country, and can also offer non-tech businesses with the insight, expertise and information they need to leverage tech-based solutions for improved business outcomes in South Africa. Their events are being curated for the benefit of all business owners in our country, and are no longer reserved for tech enthusiasts alone.

In fact, they have played a key role as technical accelerators for the development and growth of our economy. They have achieved this, over a relatively short period of time, by providing entrepreneurs in South Africa with the tools they need to spearhead innovation and scale, in a manner that has begun to revolutionize the way local businesses view the integration of technological solutions to their business models.

Namely, they have highlighted the role that tech can play to secure cost savings, improve operational efficiencies, increase opportunities for growth and leverage a strong competitive advantage. 

Addressing the AI overwhelm: no need to panic

The advent of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) also bears significant consequence here. A number of South African companies have already begun to explore the many benefits presented by the AI revolution - although its sudden rise has been rather overwhelming for the businesses that have only just begun their digital transformation journey. While the capabilities of ChatGPT are certainly astounding, businesses should feel free to incorporate simpler, more accessible technologies that align with their current operations instead, before tapping into AI.

This strategic approach also allows for a smoother transition into the tech-driven landscape without unnecessary complexities.

While AI is undoubtedly a powerful tool for improving business efficiency, the use and development of technological solutions to improve business outcomes does not have to be revolutionary. It just needs to be innovative. Instead, local businesses should be encouraged to view technology as a legitimate and practical tool that can enhance various aspects of their operations - sans AI. Whether streamlining internal processes, improving customer engagement, overcoming market reach limitations, or optimizing supply chain management, with the right technical partner, entrepreneurs can build the tech solutions that count, without a degree in machine learning technologies. 

Businesses should aim to start small, experimenting with tech solutions that address their immediate pain points or opportunities. As they begin to see positive (or sometimes negative) outcomes, they can gradually adjust their approach and scale their tech integration accordingly.

Streamline operational efficiencies to secure cost savings

By integrating tech-based solutions into their business model, local businesses can streamline their operational efficiency in a manner that results in significant cost savings.

One of South Africa’s leading online shopping destinations recently underwent their own digital transformation journey to do the same. After facing serious problems with their stock management, due to mislabeled items and stock theft, this online retailer was beginning to experience a growing profit loss. In response, they opted to slowly implement and integrate smart digital systems into their warehouses.

An effective digital tracking and monitoring tool was built to improve their stock management processes, in a manner that significantly decreased their losses while simultaneously streamlining their daily operations.

All businesses operating in South Africa will know the risks that are associated with crime and theft in our country - thankfully, we can use technology to mitigate against this risk, while securing significant cost savings for our businesses as well. 

Use tech to increase your reach & competitive advantage

Tech-based solutions can be leveraged to unlock a significant number of opportunities to help scale business operations as well. With an increase in reach, as facilitated by technology, businesses can expand their market presence without the need for extensive physical infrastructure investments.

E-commerce integration offers a simple example, enabling companies to tap into online sales channels and reach customers well beyond their immediate geographic boundaries. Forbes Advisor predicts that by 2026 almost 25% of all retail purchases are expected to take place online. That’s a quarter of your retail market share.

Leveraging the integration of technology to up-scale your business service offering can also offer a particularly strong competitive advantage. An incredible example is offered by the well-known, and dearly loved, Checkers Sixty60 grocery delivery service. Its sales have grown by 81% year on year in the 52 weeks ended 2 July 2023, after expanding its services from 300 stores in 2022 to 466 stores in 2023.

This user-friendly, seamless application and system has given Checkers a significant advantage over their competitors. CEO Pieter Engelbrecht recently confirmed that their high sales figures had validated their strategy in terms of investment in digital and data-led decision making - once again confirming that non-tech-based businesses can leverage technological solutions to improve their profit margins, efficiency and growth in South Africa.

Data-driven decision-making a cornerstone of business strategy

Data-driven decision-making through the integration of analytical tools has quickly become a cornerstone of business strategy today, offering valuable insights into customer behavior, market trends, and operational performance. Predictive analytics allows businesses to forecast trends, minimize risks, and improve strategies. Real-time reporting ensures that decision-makers have access to the most up-to-date information, enabling them to make informed choices promptly. With this data, customer personalization and service upgrades become achievable.

This allows businesses to tailor high-quality products and services to the individual preferences of their target market and customer base.

Data-driven improvements can be leveraged to improve many aspects of a business. ServCraft, an online job management group, recently made use of a data-driven approach to identify their own pain points, through online customer interviews, competitor analysis, and a comprehensive UX/UI audit.

The data and feedback indicated a gap in feature discoverability, several onboarding problems, and an improvable customer experience. ServCraft were able to address these concerns by developing a technical solution that would improve their customer experience and navigation. A number of other features were later introduced at a measured pace to enhance user satisfaction as well.

SA businesses must embrace transformative power of tech

South African businesses must not be left behind in the race to digitally transform their businesses. They will have to be creative and innovate regularly if they want to leverage tech-based solutions in a manner that positions them as globally competitive players in today’s fast-paced technological landscape.

One thing is certain - their success lies in embracing the transformative power of technology, while cultivating a mindset that values creativity and innovation as essential components of sustainable business growth in the digital age.

With the help of leading, global tech accelerators and the vast range of digital talent in South Africa, businesses in our countries remain well-positioned to seize the growth and opportunities that have been made possible by tech in our country today.

 

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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