According to the Adobe 2014 Digital Index, US online sales came in at $2.65 billion, up 16 percent from 2013.

SA retailers are aware that local consumers are becoming more cyber-savvy and are upgrading their online shopping capabilities in response, but they still have some way to go.

Mike Cotterell, Pick n Pay’s general manager for online shopping, said online shopping was becoming a significant growth area in SA retail.

“While the base spend has historically been low, exponential growth rates and some material spend in the channel are seeing companies increasingly looking to exploit e-commerce.

“Increasingly, the convenience of being able to place an order anywhere, anytime and having the goods delivered is driving customers online.

“To meet our customers’ demands in this channel, we have recently invested substantially in upgrading our online shopping capability.”

He added that Pick n Pay’s new site was driven by customer feedback and analysis of other successful online grocery retailers and it offered a vastly improved and user-friendly interface for the store’s online shoppers and a more streamlined delivery service.

“We will continue to roll out new features and enhancements to the site – especially based on feedback that will add service value to our customers. To offer our online customers peace of mind that our site is fully secure, payment services (are) being provided by PayU which is the leading online payments service provider in South Africa.”

Woolworths said that because the internet, cellphones, iPads and social media were changing the way consumers shop and engage with retailers, the store was constantly looking for ways to make customers’ shopping experience as convenient as possible.

“Our integrated digital services are an integral part of meeting customers’ expectations. These are very important channels for us and we engage with over 160 000 customers on Facebook and over 31 000 on Twitter.”

Woolworths added that the store had been selling its products online for over a decade with growth in the shopping portal each year and offering more goods to an increasing number of customers.

“However, bandwidth limitations have slowed the growth of online retailing and it accounts for a small percentage of our retail sales.”

But Dirk Dijkstra, the head of communications at Ensight, an international multichannel marketing company, said that despite a recent report by PayU showing that 75 percent of local respondents actively participate in e-commerce, more needs to be done by retailers to effectively engage with consumers.

This was in order to make e-commerce a thriving sector and source of employment in SA, as well as a viable alternative to traditional shopping.

“Currently, the approach is not about actively engaging with clients on multiple platforms, such as web, mobile and social media. Getting the e-retail model right locally, from a communications perspective, is the key to the growth of the e-commerce sector,” said Dijkstra.

He added that SA consumers, of which more than 8.5 million use the internet and 4.5 million use Facebook, are becoming increasingly savvy. They, like their European counterparts, expected the e-retailers they engaged with to respond to their needs in a personalised manner across multiple channels.

Meanwhile, the 2012 mobile shopping survey released on Monday by online retailer shows that more than a third of connected shoppers own a tablet device.

The survey, which analyses behaviour of moro than 4 000 connected South Africans, shows that 73.4 percent of tablet owners are already using the device to shop online. This number is set to grow as nearly 60 percent of shoppers who don’t have tablets are considering buying one.

The survey found that the Apple iPad is the most popular tablet, followed by Samsung Galaxy, and 73.4 percent of tablet owners are already using the device to shop online for items such as eBooks, music and flight tickets or for banking.

It showed that 78.3 percent of connected South Africans own smartphones and 74.2 percent of shoppers access the web through them every day.

Liz Hillock, the head of marketing at, said the growth of mobile shopping in the past year had been fuelled by the vigorous uptake of tablet devices.

“Tablets are portable and, with their touch screens and intuitive interfaces, they have become a more tactile and convenient way to access the internet and shop online.”

Christo Botes, the executive director of Business Partners, a specialist risk finance company for SMEs, said some of the company’s existing clients were thriving in the e-retail space, but the key to growth was finding a niche.

Dijkstra said a thriving e-commerce sector would aid skills development in SA, as well as create more jobs to stimulate the economy.

He said more than 10 percent of all mobile internet users in SA shopped online using their cellphones last year, and globally it’s estimated that 50 percent of online purchases originate from a combination of online search and social media content.

“Online shopping has become universal and anything that you can buy at a store can now be bought via e-retailers, from computers and clothes to groceries and cars. The list is endless, as is the potential for growth of South Africa’s e-commerce sector.” - Cape Argus