Takealot dominates the South African online shopping market, but with Amazon’s expanding global network the US online retailer is proving an appealing alternative to the South African ecommerce giant.
When shopping online in South Africa, if Takealot is not the first platform you check for your product, odds are you will find yourself contemplating a Takealot product page somewhere in your search.
It’s no surprise — the online retailer has millions of products on its store, and thousands upon thousands of sellers.
Amazon is even bigger, with an estimated product range of around 350 million.
The question is: is Amazon cheap enough to make up for the additional expense and effort of importing a product from overseas?
To answer this question, we compared the pricing and experience of buying a set of Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 ear buds from Takealot and Amazon.
The first thing to consider when ordering from Amazon is shipping and taxes. With Amazon not being as locally prominent as Takealot, there can be a lot of uncertainty surrounding this.
Shipping with Amazon is calculated by weight or volume.
With televisions, for example, you are almost always better off buying locally due to size and weight.
Another potential roadblock is that some items do not ship to South Africa.
Amazon clearly indicates which items do ship to South Africa, as seen in the screenshot below, where the Bose headphones do not ship to South Africa and the Sennheisers do.
Another factor to consider when ordering from Amazon is the importing process including: cost, shipping time, taxes and duties, and the possible administrative load of dealing with customs.
In expanding its global network, Amazon has streamlined the shipping process and made it nearly as simple as buying a product from Takealot.
If a product ships to South Africa, Amazon provides the exact shipping and import cost on the product page, as seen below.
This price is not subject to further import taxes or VAT if Amazon explicitly states, as it does in the screenshot above, that the price covers shipping and import fees to South Africa.
Once you have selected your products and are ready to check out, they make the process convenient by calculating the total cost, as seen with the Sennheiser wireless earbuds below.
This amount constitutes the full payment, and you will not be charged extra taxes when your product arrives in South Africa.
Only when “Import Fees Deposit” at checkout shows R0.00, will your import fee be charged separately by the shipping company — usually FedEx or UPS — who will contact you once your product arrives at customs.
Your total import fees include 15% VAT and any other category-specific duties that may apply to the product your are buying.
All of this is included in Amazon’s import deposit.
Quick shipping times is one of Takealot’s strong suits. They give you a comprehensive breakdown of shipping times for each product, as shown in the screenshot above.
The fact that buying from Amazon means your product has to cross the Atlantic can be off-putting, but Amazon does give you the option of priority shipping, which reduces shipping time at an additional cost that is usually around R150 to R200.
The shipping times typically vary from 5 to 10 business days, and the arrival date given by Amazon is an estimated maximum, with products often arriving earlier than the given dates.
As with Takealot, Amazon shipping can be tracked on the website and regular updates are provided, as shown below.
Despite import and shipping fees, high-value tech products from Amazon often end up cheaper than from Takealot.
Below is the Takealot product page for the same Sennheiser headphones that cost R4,431 on Amazon.
This price disparity is true for multiple products on Takealot compared to Amazon and can be due to multiple factors, often related to foreign exchange rates.
The local distributor of a product may be locked into a disadvantageous forward cover contract, for example, or a seller may still have stock they brought in when the rand was weaker.
Price alone is not the only factor to consider when importing, though. Especially when buying tech, warranty and repairs can be essential to a purchase — and Amazon doesn’t handle these.
Items usually have comprehensive product pages on Amazon and it’s important to check if your item has an international warranty.
If there is no information about the warranty, you can ask the supplier or other users about this in the question tab on the product page.
Amazon does offer assistance with back and forth shipping in the case of non-international warranties, as one South African buyer below enquired about with customer support — which is available 24/7.
Ultimately it’s up to the buyer to decide whether they are willing to risk the extra effort of dealing with US manufacturers if something goes wrong with their item.
Takealot does have the clear upper hand where warranty and repairs are concerned, and shipping will usually be a faster with the South African retailer.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you are going to be importing regularly you need an import permit, as non-licensed individuals are allowed only two imports per year. Applying for a permit is quite simple and can be done through Sars eFiling.
The table below shows how the purchase of a product like Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 earphones compares between Takealot and Amazon.
Ultimately either option has its benefits and drawbacks.
On Amazon you sacrifice faster shipping and warranty certainty for potentially far lower prices, while on Takealot you pay more and gain fast shipping and assured warranty support.
|Amazon vs Takealot|
|Price, excl. taxes and shipping||R5,477||R3,257|
|Taxes||R945 (15% VAT)||R590|
(excl. bank charges of up to 2.75%)
|Shipping Times||1-7 business days||Express: Up to 25 business days
Priority: Up to 10 business days
|30 Day Free returns||Yes, excluding unboxed mobile phones||Yes|
|24/7 Live support||No||Yes|