South African shoppers prefer retail self-service

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 21 Feb 2023

A significant number of surveyed South African consumers say they prefer to use self-service checkouts and scan-and-go technologies when shopping in-store.

This is one of the key findings of PwC’s latest Global Consumer Insights Survey, which assesses key shopping trends in five regions across the world.

It surveyed 9 180 consumers between October and November 2022 via a 15-minute online quantitative survey.

According to the report, while many South African shoppers are holding back on non-essential spending, they still want more flexibility in how they shop. For in-store shoppers, long queues (50% of in-store shoppers) and stock shortages (28% of in-store shoppers) continue to be major pain points.

“A significant portion of South African consumers have a preference for self-service options in-store; 59% of respondents reported they find these capabilities appealing,” says Anton Hugo, PwC Africa retail industry leader.

“The majority of shoppers (60%) also express a positive sentiment towards attributes such as click-and-collect, the ability to try digital immersive experiences, or the use of apps in-store to browse for products. These digital capabilities are becoming increasingly appealing to local consumers.”

Click-and-collect is a hybrid e-commerce model in which people purchase or select items online and pick them up in-store or at a centralised collection point.

According to PwC, SA has over the last few months seen elevated inflation, rising interest rates, a constrained economy and rolling blackouts, which have all led to the purse strings of millions of South Africans becoming tight for quite some time.

According to research firm Research and Markets, the global self-checkout in-store systems market size is expected to reach $10.50 billion by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 13.3%.

This, as more retailers across the globe introduce scanners, payment terminals and touch-screens for customers to enter their information and complete their transactions.

Retail giants such as Walmart, Amazon and Woolworths Australia are among those that have introduced self-checkout systems to improve efficiency and reduce labour costs.

When assessing online shopping trends, the report notes 57% of surveyed shoppers say they plan to increase their use of online channels, despite 30% taking issue with product availability and 25% having experienced issues with longer-than-expected delivery times.

“In response to these issues, consumers tend to resort to shopping across multiple retailers (55%) and using comparison sites to check product availability (44%),” says Suleman Jhavary, PwC South Africa operations transformation leader.

“Around 57% say they anticipate an increase in the use of online channels, with 59% expecting retailers to offer efficient delivery or collection services. However, when it comes to shopping in physical stores, most expect their behaviour will remain unchanged over the next six months.

“This represents a significant change in outlook compared to previous surveys, where 47% of consumers expressed a desire to reduce their in-store shopping.”

In terms of shopping channel trends, local consumers are increasingly seeking a ‘phygital’ shopping experience − this entails a seamless blend of digital and physical shopping, says the report.

A study by World Wide Worx and Mastercard found SA's online retail passed the R50 billion milestone in 2022.