Online shopping still tiny in SA

South Africans still prefer physical shops as opposed to buying goods online, according to a PwC survey released on Tuesday.

In 2014, the value of online retail sales in South Africa was R5.3 billion, retail and consumer leader John Wilkinson told journalists in Johannesburg.

“That is tiny. That is not even one percent of total retail sales in this country,” Wilkinson said.

However, the value of online retail sales was projected to rise to R9.5bn in 2018.

According to the survey, 14 percent of the South African respondents said they shopped online weekly, or more regularly.

A total of 53 percent said they intentionally browsed products at a shop, then purchased them online.

A total of 73 percent said they browsed products online, then bought them in-store.

The online survey involved more than 19,000 respondents, with around 1000 from South Africa.

Digital Natives

Digital natives, people between the ages of 18 and 24 who grew up with the internet, interact more with retailers via social media than anyone else, according to a PwC survey released on Tuesday.

Digital natives would be important in how shopping changed, both in-store and online, in future, associate director of customer impact and digital transformation Peter Hoijtink told reporters in Johannesburg.

An important aspect of this was their relationship with retailers and social media.

Social media was essential to digital natives and they rapidly adapted to new technologies, he said. The cellphone was an important tool in this interaction, meaning retailers needed to adapt to an ever-changing consumer base.

“The mobile phone is one, and over the coming years, it will become more important,” said Hoijtink.

“So many of the new technologies coming into digital, there is huge potential for change… If a retailer doesn’t use mobile for the potential it is, they are in trouble.

“Consumers go their own way. [It’s] very difficult to point them into a certain direction.”

According to the survey, 63 percent of digital natives followed some of their favourite brands or retailers on social media, versus 43 percent of everyone else.

A total of 47 percent discovered brands they did not know, or had developed a particular interest in a brand, through social media, compared to 31 percent of everyone else.

It was projected that in 2018 there would be 48.4 million smartphone users in South Africa, accompanied by 35.3m mobile internet subscriptions.

There would be an estimated 5.1m activated tablet devices in South Africa, while 2.1m households would have fixed internet subscriptions.

A total of 89 percent of South African survey respondents said they interacted with their favourite brands on social media as part of their shopping experience.

Facebook was the most used at 69 percent, followed by Google/Google+ (47 percent), YouTube (25 percent), Twitter (22 percent), and WhatsApp (16 percent). Pinterest and LinkedIn came next at 10 percent each.

Hoijtink said South Africa had traditionally copied western trends, but the influence of Asian countries could now be seen in the relationship between online shopping and social media.

Western countries used social media mainly for marketing online shopping. In China, social media was used regularly for shopping itself.

“I think we [South Africa] have a bit of both, somewhere in the middle, but I think we will see more purchasing via social media,” he said.

The online survey, called “Total Retail: Retailers and the Age of Disruption”, involved more than 19,000 respondents, with around 1000 from South Africa.

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Online shopping still tiny in SA