Kalahari.com’s new CTO Dirk Obelhoster says that, while it may still be early days for him at the group, one clear strategic line he and the retail group are following is to strongly focus on mobile.
Oberholster was appointed as Kalahari’s new CTO as of August 2014. He has held senior positions at various technology companies in South Africa, Dubai, and the United Kingdom, most recently as senior manager at Amazon Web Services (EC2).
Speaking to BusinessTech, the new CTO said that, for him, customer experience is his core directive in his new position.
“This might be a bit unusual coming from a CTO, but for me it’s people first, technology second.”
“I’m still in my honeymoon period and finding my feet here at Kalahari.com, so won’t divulge too much on the strategic thinking at this point. What I would say is that we will be relentless in getting the customer experience right,” Oberholster said.
Oberholster noted that big retailers like Kalahari face challenges of scale in the country, but he feels confident that the group’s platform can scale up effectively.
“In order to stay the leader in the industry, we have to ensure that we continue to innovate in building a superior end-to-end customer experience,” he said.
“The challenge here is time to market. We have to be fast, which means we have to continue hiring the best people, make good technology decisions, and keep improving our architecture and processes in order to stay relevant and competitive.”
Focus on Mobile
A big focus for Kalahri is mobile, Oberholster said.
In June 2014, the online retailer went through a rebrand with a mobile future in mind.
“The future of e-commerce in this country is in mobile. In many established markets, upwards of 40% of online purchases are made on mobile devices and we expect South Africa to follow this trend,” said Kalahari.com CEO Caren Genthner-Kappesz, at the time.
According to Google SA, in 2014, more mobile search terms were processed by Google than those from PC browsers.
By 2015, mobile is expected to account for two-thirds of all search queries in South Africa.
In terms of retail searches, the figures showed the same trend.
Oberholster said that Kalahari would continue to invest in its mobile offering, falling in line with the company’s overall strategy.
“Traffic on mobile is trending upwards and the challenge is to up the conversion rate on mobile. Our marketing automation needs to be relevant to ensure we keep and grow our loyal customer base,” he said.
Speaking at the uAfrica eCommerce Conference in Midrand, Industry Head for Google South Africa Bryan Nelson opined that many mobiles users in the country want to convert on mobile, but simply can’t.
Getting customers to convert on mobile (to complete a purchase), Nelson said, is a global, industry-wide struggle, mainly due to a lack of effective and secure payment options.