Game: The Challenges and Opportunities of Retail in South Africa – 50 Years On

Since Game’s inception in 1970, South Africa’s retail industry has continued to evolve – and retailers have had to do the same to remain relevant. “When Game entered the market, South Africa’s retail environment was already well-developed. Our founders had a mission to make shopping fun and exciting – essentially to make it a game. Our iconic pink branding was a head turner in that era, and has remained in place to this day,” explains Game Vice President, Andrew Stein.

“As the South African market saw the entry of many retailers, both foreign and local, competition grew, technology developed, and consumers have become the drivers of their own experiences. This has challenged us to constantly relook our strategies in order to remain successful in an ever-evolving, competitive sector,” explains Stein. He notes the challenges and opportunities that the brand has faced through the last five decades:

  • The omnichannel revolution

Perhaps the most obvious trend that has taken hold of the retail sector is the addition of online and e-commerce. “While this trend took off in the early 90s, South African consumers are still making the shift toward buying online – many spurred to do so by the current pandemic we are experiencing,” he explains.

This trend meant that retailers had to consider a completely new direction for their businesses. Stein notes that not only do websites need to be created for the buying and selling of goods, but the familiar customer experience needs to be carried through to online platforms, a new segment of the business needs to be created to manage the online offering, and the consumer experience needs to be tailored and personal, both in-store and online.

“Since Game was founded before the internet, the online revolution translated to a significant shift in strategy, but also provided an opportunity to remove or resolve customer pain points of the past, while making shopping easier and more convenient for our customers,” he says.

  • The African awakening

As other African markets have continued to grow, it became clear that retailers looking for success on the continent needed to move fast to enter these markets and provide value for consumers – taking into account differences in culture, language, religion and shopping behaviours when developing expansion strategies.

“Further, the nuances of each market in Africa resulted in retailers having to ensure their strategies are geared toward adding value in each market individually. This means careful consideration of product range and categories in each sector, which is brought about by focusing on the locals and responding to their needs,” explains Stein.

Game is currently present in 12 African countries, with innovative offerings for each. He notes that the Movies and Music categories are being phased out of Game’s strategy, while strong performers like clothing basics are being introduced – in order to remain in line with consumer retail trends.

  • The focus on convenience

As the retail sector has evolved, the last decade has seen consumer demand being shaped around convenience. Consumers are wanting to shop more frequently and closer to home, highlighting the importance of convenience – and creating an opportunity for retailers who are able to cater to this need.

“This goes beyond location, and extends into the store layout and design, such as including simpler store navigation, wider aisles, and clearly designated areas in store, for example. Every part of the consumer experience needs to be geared toward creating a personalised and convenient experience for the shopper,” notes Stein.

  • Reimagining Retail

Looking ahead, the future of retail is about creating a seamless customer experience across physical and digital touchpoints. Remaining relevant in retail beyond 2020 is no longer just about the product offering, but about creating an experience for consumers,” says Stein.

Success for retailers beyond 2020 will require the use of analytics and big data beyond traditional consumer or market research, to ensure the consumer experience is tailored and personalised. Stein notes that the technology that forms part of the retail journey is also set to expand. An example of this is the use of augmented and virtual reality tools in the retail journey – which is yet to take off in South Africa.

“Moreover, retailers will need to work to ensure they are an integral part of the communities in which they operate – as consumers look to businesses to practice kind and conscious capitalism. It will be integral to understand what local people need, what challenges they face, and how best retailers can contribute to the sustainability of the environment in which they operate,” notes Stein.

“Game has remained successful for 50 years by ensuring we remain true to our founding values, and as we look to the future and anticipate unprecedented change and challenges, we vow to remain true to the basics of our brand,” concludes Stein.

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