Connectivity increasing, but needs improvement

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Cape Town - Although SA lags behind the rest of the world in terms of e-commerce systems, the rise here of mobile phone commerce – or m-commerce – is set to offer unique opportunities.

Simon Leps, chief executive of digital solutions provider Fontera Digital Works, points out that while internet access is improving in SA, “users are still being overcharged (see Vodacom’s rate of R1 per Mb on prepaid)”.

And until prices came down, and speeds went up, SA would remain way behind the curve, said Leps.

“Logistics in SA have traditionally also been a problem, with unreliability from the Post Office and high costs from couriers not helping the situation,” he added.

With more stores turning to e-commerce, the need for better systems should be identified and addressed in order to draw more major businesses into the sector.

“Zando, Mr Price, Woolworths and smaller online stores like Banks Kitchen Boutique, Yuppie Chef and Zoom Footwear have made the bigger brands take notice and finally realise that they are losing sales to retailers who have an online presence.

“South African users have been buying from Amazon and other overseas online retailers for years because the options here have been limited to a very few stores, like and Takealot. com. The entry of the smaller brands should make existing SA brands realise that they are getting left behind in the online world.”

The opportunity created by m-commerce was also extremely exciting for SA, as the potential customer base here could offer lucrative opportunities.

“Most users in SA don’t even have access to a PC outside of office hours, unless they go to an internet café, which is not the best place to shop online in a relaxed atmosphere.

“So if you want to target users in SA, you have to have a mobile touchpoint or you’re missing out on about two-thirds of the market,” Leps said.

The growth of m-commerce in Africa is proved by the latest results issued by independent mobile ad network InMobi.

The study found that cellphones and mobile marketing had seen significant growth in Africa, and across the Asia- Pacific region.

It said use in the Asia-Pacific region grew by 10 percent over the past three months to reach 18 billion monthly impressions.

Africa, on the other hand, grew by 21 percent to reach 4.2bn monthly impressions.

Growth was largely driven by the trend towards smartphone adoption in these markets, the study, A Global Consumer Perspective on Mobile Shopping, suggested.

James Lamberti, vice-president of global research and marketing at InMobi, said: “Mobile shopping is becoming increasingly commonplace in Africa. It is an exciting time for the consumer, retailer and manufacturer as mobile shopping solutions will become more accessible.” - Weekend Argus

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