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How this African luxury brand is taking advantage of the festive shopping frenzy

Swaady Group founder shares her 5 top strategies to best serve the digital customer during this time of year


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Swaady Group founder, Swaady Martin

All images courtesy Swaady Group/Gary Stephens

The festive cheer brings with it a chorus of ringing tills and bumper sales and for luxury brands a sizeable boost in customers willing to spend.

Authentic and intuitive is how Swaady Martin describes her approach to connecting with customers. This, she says becomes even more important during the festive season.

She is the founder and CEO of the Swaady Group, a woman-owned social enterprise that brought luxury brands Yswara and Akrafo.

"Our products are all about celebration, appreciation and gratitude. Whether it is a present for yourself or others, we ensure each purchase feels like a gift. As such, the demand for our products is the highest during the festive season," she says.

Yswara is a gourmet tea company and is said to be the first of its kind to introduce a 'curated experience of fine African teas'. The company offers a collection of rare tea blends, tea accessories and fine living goods, created exclusively by African artisans from African materials. Akrafo is a gourmet brand that offers a range of organic and natural products such as herbal teas, honey, jams, mineral water, oils, spices and condiments.

This end-of-year sales surge is often the case for many businesses.

"The Christmas run-in and Christmas proper account for more than half of annual sales," Aki Kalliatakis, managing partner of The Leadership LaunchPad, recently wrote in an SME South Africa article.

"In some categories the 'gift of Christmas' tops 60% of yearly profit," he stated.

In the festive season's highly commercialised environment, connecting with your customer becomes even more crucial. And this means a growing number of businesses are going online - where the customers are.

The future is digital

Digital shopping has been on the increase and according to Nielsen's 2016 holiday trend report, it will play a major role in retail sales this holiday season. According to the report, which is based on the US market, e-commerce retailers stand to benefit from shoppers' continued affinity for online shopping.

"Consumers across all generations are spending more online, however Millennials are leading the way with 25% planning to increase their online expenditures this holiday season. Overall, 19% of U.S. shoppers are planning to spend more online, up from 17% in 2015."

Although South Africa has been slower, the trend is pointing in that direction.

Online retail in South Africa has maintained a growth rate of above 20% since the turn of the century, and according to the Online Retail in South Africa 2016 report, released by World Wide Worx earlier in the year, the rate of growth was 26% in 2015, taking online retail to the R7,5-billion mark.

SME South Africa speaks with Martin about how she is connecting with the digital customer and she shares her 5 tips on what entrepreneurs should be doing to score big this festive season.

image courtesy swaady

SWAADY Group website.

Q: What are some of the trends that have had an influence on your marketing strategy for the festive season this year?
We have a very authentic and intuitive approach when it comes to marketing. Our brands are all about authentic encounters with our customers. So we do not use marketing templates nor trends, we genuinely share our passion and our brand ethos from the heart and not the brain. It is not an intellectual nor a business strategy exercise but a sharing of ourselves. 

Q: Customers are looking for a 'friction-less, fast and easy checkout experience', how important is this for YSWARA and how are you making it possible?
We have a very personalized approach with our clients. It is important for us to understand our clients needs and then invest in product developments, technology and processes to ensure we improve everyday on our service delivery.

Q: Aligning the online with the offline experience has been a focus for your brand, how big a factor are you expecting this to play?
It is going to be of increasing importance. Now that we have unveiled our full physical universe with the opening of our first store and teahouse in Maboneng, we need to transpose the experience to our online platforms. In 2017? We will be doing a full revamp of our websites and redevelop our online store.

How has the changing profile of the customer affected your marketing strategy?
We put a lot of love, hard work, dedication and commitment in everything we do. We do not have a very elaborated customer target strategy as we want to remain inclusive of all. We have a good sense of who our wholesale customers and ensure we have the right set of products for them but we have a looser approach for our retail clients. Our philosophy is that there are some people out there who will resonate with what we share, with our products, with our brand ethos and these people come from all walks of life. We are just very focused on trying to provide an exceptional experience to whoever meets our brand.

How are you using technology to reach and connect with your potential customers?
Yes. We are quite active on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. With each platform, we share a side of the personality of our brands.

What 5 tips would you give to other entrepreneurs on how they can serve the digital customer better this time of year?

  1. Give each social media its own voice & showcase a different aspect of your brand in each
  2. Remain coherent with a simple message for each platform & all platforms need to be coherent  with the brand image & message
  3. Benchmark constantly competition & best practices so you can improve the digital experience of your brand  
  4. Your posts are your brand values. Decide on what these values are and stick to it. Don't post if it is not in line with what your brand stand for
  5. Less is always better than more
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