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Online shopping booms, but few dominating sites in SA

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While the COVID-19 crisis is driving more traffic to South African e-commerce merchants than ever before, there are still relatively few established shopping sites dominating the online space.

This is one of the key finding of the GetApp SA Customer Experience Survey, conducted in October. The research is based on an online survey of 1 000 respondents that live in SA, to help brands better understand the dramatic shift in consumers’ online shopping behaviour in the past six months.

With social distancing restrictions, a possible second wave of infections and adapting to new lifestyles, the crisis is driving more traffic to South African e-commerce merchants, according to the survey. However, it notes the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a serious toll on shoppers’ behaviour, not only from a decline in spending but also in how they shop.

The survey show there was an almost even split among popular e-commerce brands available in the market.

Depending on their shopping needs, 26% of respondents said they would shop directly from retailer/brand Web sites, 20% shop from independent online stores and 22% shop from established online marketplaces (eg, eBay and WISH). Another 17% of shoppers use social media tools such as Instagram and Facebook to buy, and 14% buy using Amazon.

“There is a significant opportunity for e-commerce vendors to grow their business in the current economic environment. However, with relatively few established brands dominating the space, it is vital they understand the trends driving consumer behaviour and adopt a strategy that reflects this,” says Sonia Navarrete, content analyst at GetApp.

Many people can’t shop as they did before and this has led to 42% of respondents saying they have spent less money on shopping as a result of COVID-19.

Almost six in 10 people (59%) report spending more online and less in-store, notes the survey.

This trend is likely to continue: in the next six months, 44% will continue spending more online and less in-store, while 27% expect their spending to remain the same for both in-store and online.

In terms of the number of hours spent each week shopping online after the introduction of the lockdown, 30% of respondents reported spending one to two hours, and 35% said they spend between three and five hours online. Another 26% spend six to 10 hours and 10% spend less than 10 hours each week.

In comparison to time spent online before the lockdown, 48% reported spending between one and two hours, 35% spent three to five hours and 12% spent between six and 10 hours, while 8% spent more than 10 hours shopping on the Internet each week.

In terms of ways used for discovering brands in SA, there are four approaches that are particularly influential in how respondents discover new online shopping sites.

Social media ranks by far the most impactful with 51%. Web site adverts are the second most impactful (49%). Search engines come third (42%), followed by word of mouth referrals (36%).

However, online shopping has its challenges: 61% of respondents say their biggest deterrents when shopping online were out of stock products. This was followed by 58% stating they had to pay high delivery fees and 57% stated they experienced delayed/slow delivery.

“Bad experiences while browsing, selecting items, or making payments can rapidly result in abandoned baskets − a longstanding issue for the industry,” adds Navarrete.

“According to Statista, the worldwide rate for online shopping cart abandonment sat at 69.57% in 2019. Finding effective ways to address it promises to have a significant impact on a merchant’s bottom line.”

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