South Africa has very few homegrown apps that have download figures running into the hundreds of thousands. This changed first with apps like Weather SA, Ster Kinekor and then the big banks more recently popped onto the scene. With millions of affluent clients each having a real need for these apps, there was a mini app awakening, which was coupled with the sudden growth in smartphones in South Africa.
One of the first large retailer (in this case grocer) apps in South Africa was EeziCoupons from Checkers (Shoprite Holdings). This app allows shoppers to, at any time and place, collect discounts which they can redeem at tillpoints. Edgars then followed suit, with an app that could search items and return real-time stock availability. Customers could know that a certain product wasn’t in store, but that it was at another store nearby.
Pick ‘n Pay’s Smart Shopper app has really taken South Africa by storm, mainly due to the fact that its current Smart Shopper loyalty programme itself has over 8 million members already. At last count the app had almost 150,000 downloads.
As of now (June 2014), Woolworths has yet to launch an app for their larger retail business, although Woolworths Financial Services does have an app out for those using this offering. It will be interesting to see how Woolworths comes onto the app scene in their specific market, which has probably the largest proportion of smartphone users in South Africa.
Retailers have some way to go in that their apps are all very well put together, but the in-store experience is somewhat unavailable at the moment. As of June 2014, smartphone penetration in South Africa is set at around 30% and growing sharply. It is up to retailers to turn this changing trend into higher footfall, bigger shopping basket and a larger share of wallet.