2024 trends shaping online shopping in SA

by Warrick Kernes: CEO at Insaka eCommerce Academy.
South Africa’s online shopping scene is going through some major changes, thanks to global shifts and tech upgrades. Here are three trends shaking things up which SA online sellers need to know about.

1. Cheap Chinese sellers vs. local is lekker

Chinese sellers are increasingly working to be able to supply directly to consumers in SA. We've already seen how Shein has rocked the fashion industry, and now sites like Temu are trying to do the same across all popular product categories. There's no lack of press about how their import methods may be questionable (and we hope that this is clamped down on if this is indeed true), but right now SA online sellers need to gear up to compete against this as it is a real threat. The threat is largest for sellers of unbranded products. If you are selling unbranded dog toys, for example, then you might be shocked to see what price your customers can buy these same products for on these Chinese sites.

Previously, the lack of trust in the SA Post Office protected online sellers from this threat, but nowadays they are finding ways to use cheaper couriers and deliver to your customers in under two weeks without customers having to pay big delivery fees.

So, how do you counter this threat? At Insaka we've been teaching our students for years the value of building your own brand which customers proactively choose to buy over alternatives. This can be done through building a reputable online store brand, but also by white labeling products from your Chinese suppliers. This is done by trademarking your brand and having this printed on your products made locally or even from your suppliers in the East. This will become even more important as Amazon launches into South Africa, as having your own white labeled product line removes you from the noise of everyone else trying to compete for the Amazon buy button.

2. How AI is supercharging ecommerce

Artificial Intelligence, or AI for short, is making life easier for online sellers. It's like the magic wand for making operations smoother and marketing smarter. In the behind-the-scenes action, AI is crunching numbers to keep inventory in check, predicting what's going to be a top seller, and making deliveries more efficient too. AI is also upgrading the marketing game. It's the secret sauce for understanding what shoppers want. From recommending the perfect upsell to personalising the shopping journey and helping to create your marketing collateral in a fraction of the time. It's like having a virtual assistant that knows your customers better than you do, and does the work in half the time.

3. Amazon making waves

The biggest news in the Insaka eCommerce Community is all about Amazon and their 2024 launch. We have already taught over 1,000 SA sellers how to get started and the importance of starting sooner rather than later because when it comes to selling on Amazon in a newly launched territory the algorithm works in a way whereby the early bird really does get the worm, and the first sellers will create a lasting advantage over competitors.

Despite popular sentiment, I don't believe Amazon SA will overrun local competitors from the day they launch, and that local companies that effectively address the needs and preferences of their customers can continue to thrive alongside or even compete successfully against Amazon.

Useful resources:
Insaka eCommerce Academy
Insaka is committed to helping entrepreneurs to start and grow their own online businesses.
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