With Black Friday already a distant memory, the next big day on the retail calendar is nigh. And they keep coming. However, according to Wynand Geldenhuys, the founder and CEO of Vectra, a technology startup that creates innovative omnichannel solutions for retailers, simply having a website is not enough these days.

“Retail is a very competitive industry and each player has to fight for their share of the consumer wallet in a game where the rules keep changing,” he says. “Today, the battleground is customer experience and everyone is searching for an advantage within the technology space that can either win or defend their market share.” 

He’s not wrong. Retailers have had to accept that e-commerce has become a major sales channel as well as a marketing asset. Yet many of them have not made an easy transition to the digital realm—if at all. The main challenges include implementing new business processes and upskilling staff to be able to understand and effectively utilise the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), which includes 5G, machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI). And, amid the scramble of South African businesses trying to find their feet and move into e-commerce, the rest of the world has already moved on to the next evolution of retail: Omnichannel customer experiences.

It’s this domain where Vectra’s expertise in the physical and e-commerce retail landscape prevails. So much so that the company received the 2019 Innovator of the Year Award as well as won first place at the regional Seedstars World Summit. 

As one of a handful of global companies that specialise in retail platforms, Geldenhuys and his team have mastered the art of omnichannel consumer experiences through an agile approach and startup mindset. Their scalable and flexible platform extracts the technical complexities of e-commerce, allowing retailers to focus on driving sales and providing their consumers with feel-good experiences. In South Africa, where brick-and-mortar stores still reign supreme, Vectra’s Victory Commerce product integrates the physical and digital realms of retail to help companies discover and leverage emerging technologies that suit their business requirements, no matter how large or small. “We are platform-agnostic,” adds Geldenhuys, “which means we help our clients select a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) e-commerce provider, such as Shopify, Salesforce or Magento. Then our cloud-based omnichannel platform, Victory Commerce, plugs into the e-commerce backend to provide retailers with a modern point of sale (POS) and mobile sales assistant so the business can sell in a physical and digital environment without interrupting a consumer’s journey.” Essentially, this means that store associates are empowered with real-time product and inventory data while consumers are kept engaged. It also drives sales and customer behaviour. Additionally, says Geldenhuys, the next generation of technologies include electronic shelf labels that will introduce huge cost-savings in manpower, too.

Intelligent retail? Indeed.