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The numbers behind what South African online shoppers want online are out and they are looking good

Published Nov 23, 2021


While e-commerce has long been a part of the modern digital revolution, pandemic-related global lockdowns significantly accelerated online shopping activities and saw global e-commerce growing by 32% in 2020. According to Shopify, the industry is expected to total as much as $4.89 trillion (R77.38 trillion) in 2021.

Global Web Index reveals that, in addition to new shoppers buying online, existing shoppers purchased more items online than they typically purchased in-store leading up to the pandemic. In fact, McKinsey & Company estimates that consumers were thrust into five years of digital adoption in a matter of only eight weeks.

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Oberlo states there were 4.66 billion active internet users at the start of 2021. It adds that 92.2% of internet users visit online stores, 81.8% conduct online product or service searches, and 78.6% follow through with their purchases.

What does this mean for marketers?

Insights from Deloitte suggest that the increase in online purchases presents new opportunities for marketers, with e-commerce taking centre stage as a necessity in a modern digital marketing strategy.

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From diversifying across channels, taking heed of the power of video, engaging with consumers to swaying consumers’ purchasing decisions through the use of influencers, there are several strategic opportunities that marketers can harness for e-commerce success.

While traditional brick-and-mortar businesses may be picking up, the retail space as it was once known has changed forever, and e-commerce is showing no signs of slowing down, compelling companies to adapt and embrace the digital possibilities.

What’s driving the global online shopper?

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According to Global Web Index’ Connecting the Dots 2021 report, consumers in seven participating countries listed the following factors as motivators that encourage their online purchasing habits:

– 60% free delivery and returns

– 43% quick and easy checkout processes

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– 29% a brand’s community support during the pandemic

– 29% an entertaining shopping experience

– 28% a brand’s support of social causes

– 25% the ability to virtually try on or test a product before purchase

– 24% a virtual live product demonstration

– 17% live Q&A sessions with product experts

– 16% influencer recommendations

– 14% limited stock availability

Where does South Africa stand?

Independent technology market research organisation, World Wide Worx, asserts that South Africa’s e-commerce figures increased by 66% in 2020, with the total online retail amounting to R30,2 billion. These figures are more than double the number reached in 2018 (R14,1 billion) and 50% higher than the forecast for 2020 three years prior.

What do South African online shoppers want?

According to Deloitte Digital’s Digital Commerce Acceleration report, South African consumers have begun to dedicate more time to e-commerce, with over 70% claiming to shop online at least once a month. They dictate their online shopping preferences based on a variety of factors, and regardless of their segment or category, these foundational factors should be considered in a digital commerce offering.

Ease of use

88% want efficient checkout transactions

Consumers demand an effortless online shopping experience that includes options to suit their preferences, such as delivery and payment alternatives. Brands considering e-commerce should invest in intuitive and easy-to-navigate checkouts to provide a fast and seamless shopper and user experience.

Delivery options

86% say high delivery fees influence their decisions

Online shopping is regarded as more expensive than traditional means owing to the often costly delivery fees. Not all consumers have the same financial freedoms as others, and brands should therefore offer different delivery options to suit their preferences, with more cost-effective means taking longer to reach their destinations as opposed to expensive priority ones.

Customer service

86% highlight customer service as a priority

Consumers want to partner with brands that offer fast response times and provide open lines of communication throughout the shopper journey, even in areas such as refunds and complaints. Brands must strive to communicate and offer consumers the support they want across all channels, including social media.

Data protection

86% are concerned about poor online payment security

81% are concerned with the lack of personal data protection

In today’s digital world, abiding by the regulations set in the recent implementation of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) is just the start of securing consumer trust, and all e-commerce brands should have the necessary security platforms in place to ensure the protection of consumers’ sensitive personal and financial data.

Easy return and refund policies

85% want easier return and refund policies

82% are apprehensive about shopping at retailers with challenging returns policies

Brands need to earn consumers' trust, and a clear and concise returns or refunds policy does just that. It also promotes a sense of choice, safety and security in an environment where products simply cannot be looked at or handled before being purchased.

Create brand trust

83% regard trust as a key attribute

Consumers want to shop with an online retailer with a trustworthy reputation, built through peer/online recommendations, prior effortless experiences, or superior consumer/brand experiences. Brands must convey authenticity and consider brand-focused advertising to bolster consumer trust and confidence.

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