6 African ecommerce trends to watch in 2024

by Natasha Parmanand: MD of FedEx Express Sub-Saharan Africa Operations.
Africa’s online retail sector is poised for rapid growth, and it is predicted there will be 438 million mobile broadband users in Africa by 2030, which means greater access to digital payments and ecommerce. McKinsey also predicts online spending in Africa may reach $75 billion by 2025.

This presents great opportunities for Africa’s online retailers. Here are some trends set to shape the African ecommerce market in 2024.

1. Price innovation

Price remains critical when it comes to retail choices. In a tough global economy, there are signs even brand loyalty is under pressure, as buyers look for competitive prices. In a PWC South Africa survey, 99% of respondents said they were adjusting purchasing behaviour to save money. Online retailers could consider offering bulk discounts, early-bird deals, or cross-selling. Other options to try are varying prices according to demand and offering discounts to encourage sampling.

2. Localised payment approaches

In Africa, retailers can consider using cashless networks like Mpesa, which have become popular with customers due to their ease and efficiency. Another trend in emerging markets is towards social commerce through platforms like Instagram, Facebook and TikTok, which offer users retail functionality, complete with easy payment options. 

3. ‘Promo FOMO’

Many cost-conscious customers are obsessed with finding promotions and trying to avoid missing out on special offers. Retailers can embrace this trend by creating exclusive, short-term deals that are only available for a limited period. Customers can also be encouraged to earn discounts through additional spending, e.g., “Spend R1 000 and enjoy free shipping!”

4. Mobile ecommerce growth

Africa has seen steady ecommerce growth, and is rapidly embracing mobile connectivity. The International Trade Association reports that Africa’s mobile internet usage is 13% above the global average, supporting a “mobile-first” approach in African markets. Retailers could look to create apps and mobile-friendly algorithms that ease the purchase/sell process on mobile.

5. Rapid, flexible shipping options

Customers want to know they can get their orders as quickly as possible. If they can’t, they’ll shop elsewhere. In European and US markets, customers expect overnight shipment for international orders. This is likely to become a trend in Africa too. For optimal responsiveness, partnering with effective logistics providers can ensure quick, safe and effective delivery at any time.

6. The omnichannel approach

While ecommerce continues growing, customers still feel the attraction of physical stores. Some ecommerce stores are now even expanding into the physical world, opening branches at malls and shopping centers. Another trend is showrooming, where customers experience products to purchase them online later. To take advantage of this retail trend, retailers could look to build relationships with other online stores, as well as real-world retailers.

Ecommerce is here to stay. But in a competitive marketplace, innovation and delivering for customers will be what sets small-business retailers apart.

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