Technology and Your Business

Personal computers have been with us for almost 30 years. We use them to communicate with distant friends and relatives, we use them for entertainment, we use them in almost every area of business and leisure that we can think of. So why are we still nervous of them? Technology is a useful tool that can make running your business both easier and cheaper. In this issue of Build Your Business, we look at some of the technologies that can help your business grow, in every area from marketing to administration.

Ask an Expert: Mobile Vouchering

Nick Terry is the MD of TMARC (The Mobile Airtime & Rewards Company), a business which offers mobile vouchering and couponing solutions to both retailing and manufacturing businesses. Here he talks to us about this exciting new technology – and what it could one day mean for your business.

What is mobile vouchering?

It is important to make the distinction between mobile vouchering and mobile couponing and the various methods of implementing these solutions.

Mobile couponing is the mobile version of a paper coupon, except it uses a ‘Pull’ mechanism whilst paper is a ‘Push’. This means that the shopper sees the product and instructions on how to get their mobile coupon , they then ‘Pull’ either via SMS, MMS or some other mobile channel the voucher which they can then redeem at the till.

Mobile Vouchering is a different from mobile coupons as it is used mainly by the manufacturer rather than the Retailer to reward brand loyalty and extract valuable shopper behaviour information.

An example of Mobile Vouchering is a manufacturer applying a voucher to an on-pack promotions, where they print a mobile voucher on the inside of the product. Once purchased, the consumer redeems that voucher via their mobile phone and receives either a prize or some other form of incentive, like airtime. This means that manufacturers can now start to communicate and reward shoppers using their mobile phone.

How big is it going to get in South Africa?

Mobile couponing is big overseas, especially in the US. But in an emerging economy such as South Africa , I think that the mobile couponing jury is still out. However, mobile vouchering has already been demonstrated to be HUGE success , For the Past 3 years top local and global manufactures have been using Mobile vouchers to drive purchase with incredible results. More recently a major retailer has come on board and started to offer an integrated Mobile Vouchering solution – the results so far are outstanding and I see a bright future for Mobile Vouchering in South Africa.

In the past paper coupons were the order of the day but they were easy to cheat or abuse, and only delivered redemption rates around 3-5%. With the explosion of mobile phones, now estimated at 48 million in South Africa, and more technical savvy consumers I expect that number to increase substantially. But the success of any couponing or vouchering programme will always depend on the attractiveness of the offer and the ability of the consumer to receive the reward, discount or product.

What is the appeal for South African consumers?

Consumers are very techno-savvy in our economy and the key driver for them is INSTANT (not just now, not now now but NOW!) – instant-coffee , instant internet , instant gratification. Consumers are very price conscious and always asks What’s in it for me? In recessionary times research has shown that there is a big increase in the uptake of couponing. If the offer is simple, advertised well in store, easy to enter, delivers real value and the reward is instantaneous then the success rate will be high. Consumers love to participate in “buy one get one free”, get a free sample, win a prize or receive a future discount but the offer has to have real value and be relevant to the consumer. If the coupon offers them the ability to save their hard earned cash and lower the cost of their shopping mission then the battle is half won.

What are the growth opportunities for my business?

Some manufactures have increased their market share by double digit figures, so they are looking at ways of extending the reach of their vouchering programmes, and a certain major retailer is also showing promising results. At some point, major manufacturers are likely to start extending their vouchering programmes to smaller store formats – make sure you are ready when the time comes!

What are the first steps I should take?

Right now, it’s a case of “hurry up and wait”. But look for mobile vouchering programmes at your local wholesalers as a way of saving on or being rewarded for your purchases. Use similar programmes if you ever go shopping at larger supermarkets, to get an idea of how they work. Speak to your manufacturers reps about any plans they might have in the pipeline. Educate yourself about Electronic Point of Sales (EPOS) systems for your store which will help you to be first in your neighbourhood when electronic vouchering does come to local supermarkets. And speak to experts like TMARC, who understand both the challenges and opportunities of this exciting new business tool.