10 trends and projections for online shopping in SA

The question in the South African ecommerce sector is no longer if growth will happen, but rather by how much the sector will grow. Examining almost every measurable factor, the explosion of the ecommerce landscape across the country is imminent.

Let's unpack the top market trends and projections for the online shopping sector in South Africa:

1. Customer centricity wins
The future belongs to retailers whose strategy is focused on customer centricity. Retailers who learn from other’s mistakes, transform operational weaknesses into strategic strengths through innovation and who regard people as more important than product.

The single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer experience and customer satisfaction. In a recent Vectra survey, no less than 75% of respondents regarded it as highly significant, with another 23% seeing it as somewhat important, giving it a 98% importance rating. This positions customer service as the sine qua non – that without which the rest is not possible – of online retail.

2. Reinvesting and enhancing

The lack of reinvestment by online retail in the digital underpinnings of their business is a hindrance to growth. Established online retailers have enhanced their digital presence, and refined their fulfilment models, while many traditional retailers are starting to see significant growth in their online offerings. 

3. Offline vs online user conversion

There are currently 32.55 million ecommerce users in SA with an additional 6.38 million users expected to be shopping online by 2024. Online spending sits at a predicted average of R1648 per user shopping online. 47% of offline shoppers should shift online within the next year.

4. Local online sales growth is unstoppable

Data reveals that the growth of SA ecommerce sales is between 20-35% annually.

5. Ecommerce, meet mcommerce

Mcommerce will drive the continual growth of online shopping in South Africa. The top market trend driving future growth is mobile shopping: consumers in South Africa prefer to use smartphones over computers when buying online. A mobile first approach with high website performance will achieve the desired growth. 

6. Secure checkouts and trusted payment options
Convenience and price remain the primary benefits of shopping online. The biggest barriers include a trusted payment method and a better shopping experience, from easier to use websites to more product information. Optimise your checkout page for the users to make a purchase as fast as it can be. Convenient and fast payment methods that don’t require a long verification journey increase conversion. 

7. Personalisation drives sales

Create advanced personalised customer experiences on and outside the website that satisfy the customers’ needs and wants throughout the customer journey. Global research and advisory firm, Gartner, predicts a 15% profit boost in 2020 for merchants who successfully use personalisation to create more tailored customer experiences online. 

8. Improved product search

Websites should have well-designed, advanced product search that instantly connects shoppers with the products they want to buy. Merchants should keep in mind that consumers want to search with their own words, not merely the keywords a merchant has specified. In the context of ecommerce personalisation, this presents a massive opportunity for brands to foster deeper connections with their shoppers by making it easier for them to find the products they’re looking for.

9. Untapped opportunities in Commerce

Retail’s transformation was well underway before the pandemic, but its impact has accelerated the pace to a trailblazing speed. The spike in South African ecommerce has highlighted untapped opportunities in omni-channel as well as hybrid ecommerce - providing a platform that supports both B2B & B2C selling. 

10. Local online shopper behaviour

  • 25% of South Africa’s online shoppers are over 60 years old
  • Over 55% of local online shoppers are male
  • The most popular online purchases are instant (instant gratification; items that don’t require delivery time and are available almost instantly, such as travel tickets)
  • Flexible delivery is a key incentive for local online shoppers
  • The most popular online product categories in SA:
    • Fashion/Clothing/Apparel
    • Electronics/Media
    • Entertainment/Education
    • Furniture/Appliances
    • Food/Personal Care

Useful resources:
Vectra Business Technologies is a software company focused on digital innovation in Retail. We specialise in point-of-sale and e-commerce solutions.
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