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The e-commerce revolution in South Africa

E-commerce blogThe shape-shifting Industrial Revolution had unprecedented global consequences, with modern economic activity directly linked to that time, in the late 1700s, when people moved from their farms into cities and heralded new ways of mass production. But you couldn’t imagine in our current day, fast-paced society that before this time, there were 6500 preceding years of backward technologies and mostly rural existence.


Luckily with modern day payments technology, we don’t have to wait epochs for new ways that fundamentally alter and improve the commerce landscape. We look at ways e-commerce has catapulted online shopping in South Africa and how retailers can take advantage of the phenomenon.


The rise in active Internet users means a potential clamber to shop online


MasterCard’s latest online shopping survey shows that there’s been a significant rise (24%) in the number of South African’s classified as active internet users, meaning a larger-than-ever base of potential online shoppers.


But, sites need to actively encourage e-commerce transactions


Payments Afrika cited research that asserted that those online shops which offered cheaper prices, faster delivery, flexible delivery options and, safer ways to pay, would have an increase in sales.


Even though parking costs, crowds and long queues may seem like deterrents, South Africans are particularly fond of their shopping malls.  Hence online shops must add value. Perhaps retailers could consider free delivery in the future.


Retailers should understand what the most popular shopping categories are and look to create e-commerce platforms for the sale of these products


The same research shows that the most popular online shopping categories for South Africans are:


  • Digital goods
  • Event tickets
  • Travel or transportation
  • Fashion
  • Consumer electronics
  • Physical entertainment



The good news is that in future, up to 70% of online shoppers in South Africa said they would spend the same amount or more on these categories.


Retailers should perfect their mobile shopping platform


With increased access to smartphones with rich functionality, a greater number of South Africans will use their phones to shop online. 50% of those who shop online do so with their phone and this is set to increase to 71% in future. To entice mobile users however, retailers must provide mobile-friendly online shopping platforms. A core principle should be understood: your website is your shop window.


Safety trumps all else on e-commerce platforms


It’s patently clear, shows the MasterCard research, that what makes or break an online shopper’s experience, is whether they trust the e-commerce portal or not. 90% of respondents in fact, noted that secure payment facilities were the most important considerations when making an online purchase.


Succeeding in the online sphere relies on being a custodian of online payment security


As a business, you should have stringent and secure online payment standards and practices. Only partner with a reputable e-commerce service provider, who can build a secure payment gateway suitable for your business. Make sure this provider is compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). This confirms that they have achieved the highest level in card data protection. For extra security measures, the payments solution provider should be able to have a system whereby sensitive data (your address and credit card details) is replaced with a unique ID.