Online shopping trends in South Africa

Shopping online has become the preferred form of shopping for many world wide, although it still face many challenges in some countries.

With the busy lifestyle that everyone has to deal with nowadays, online shopping has increased in popularity. E-commerce stores are making it easy for consumers to buy products, and to experience a different side of customer service than they are used to (face-to-face customer service).

As mentioned, e-commerce stores face a number of challenges. Some of these challenges include:

  • Consumers are hesitant to give out their credit card and personal details.
  • In the case of clothing and footware, will it fit?
  • Will the parcel be delivered on time?
  • Will the parcel get lost?
  • Can you trust that you will receive a quality product for the money you paid?
  • You can’t enjoy your purchase straight away (in other words, no instant gratification).

But what makes owning an e-commerce store so attractive? It’s quite simple. Business costs are dramatically influenced in a positive way. There’s no rent and costly overheads to be paid, and you have the freedom to tailor-make your service delivery to your customers’ needs.

Online shopping is not a new concept. It has been around for a few years, but South Africa has only recently began to harness the benefits of online shopping. South African businesses has to not only get past the challenges mentioned above, but also challenges unique to South Africa. These include poor transport logistics and the lack of reliable internet connection.

South Africans tend to make use of the e-commerce stores to assist them in making a purchasing decision about a certain product, but they still have the need to see and touch the product before making the purchase. An example of this is PriceCheck. Consumers use the PriceCheck website to compare prices of various goods, and many then go to the physical store and purchase the product there.

While online shopping is still relatively “new” in South Africa, it is becoming increasingly popular, and retailers that are doing it right are consistently growing their customer base.

Effective Measure released a report about the topic of e-commerce in South Africa. Their February 2014 report states that the five top South African online retailers are:


This has a lot of significance in the sense that none of these retailers have a physical store where people can go and take a look at the product they are buying. They trust these e-commerce stores to deliver the product once they made the payment.

Other interesting statistics from this report are:

  • Mobile traffic to online stores increased to 47% from an average of 32%.
  • Approximately 45% of online shoppers are based in Gauteng while 22.6% are based in the Western Cape.
  • 73.76% of online shoppers use the internet to make payments, transfer money and pay bills. 49% of these shoppers are doing that at least once per week.

As you can see, South African e-commerce stores still have a long way to go, but we believe it is definitely moving in the right direction. As long as retailers are listening to their customers’ needs, there will always be an improvement.