ALTHOUGH the number of South Africans shopping online decreased slightly in 2012, the majority were still “highly satisfied” with the experience.
This is according to the latest MasterCard Online Shopping Survey released on Thursday.
South Africa’s internet economy has steadily grown over the years, in part because of the surge in online shopping. It was worth about R59bn in 2011, making up 2% of the economy. It is expected to grow its share to as much as 2.5% by 2016.
The survey, which is now in its third year, found that 91% of South Africans who shopped online were very happy with their overall experience, a 4% increase from the 87% who said the same in the 2012 survey.
The annual survey, which measures consumers’ propensity for online shopping, was conducted in 11 countries across the Middle East and Africa between December 2012 and January 2013. The South African report surveyed banked South Africans aged between 18 and 64, who access the internet at least once a week.
A further indication of South Africans’ positive sentiment was that 76% of respondents returned to an online shopping site that they had used before, and 74% said it was easy and convenient to make online purchases. These figures showed slight increases — 2% and 1% respectively — when compared to the previous survey’s results.
Despite this positive sentiment, the number of South Africans accessing the internet to shop online was 4% lower than in the previous survey. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they usually used the internet for shopping.
“While online shopping continues to be a regular internet activity for more than half of South Africans who are actively online, there is a slight shift downwards in their online purchasing behaviour, which could be attributed to the slowdown recorded in the economy during the survey period,” said MasterCard South Africa division president Philip Panaino.
“This is supported by the Reserve Bank noting in its fourth quarter review of 2012 that retail activity was disappointing as consumer spending was negatively affected by a pick-up in inflation.”
World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck said on Thursday there had been a rapid rise in the number of South Africans classified as active internet users — those who fairly recently acquired regular access to the internet — “which means we are seeing a larger than ever base of users who have never shopped online before”.
The survey further revealed that mobile banking applications (apps) are popular in South Africa, with 29.2% of those with internet access on their mobile phones already using them, and the majority (44%) being familiar with the technology.
“It is anticipated that the advent of transactional apps and the rapid rise of smartphone usage in South Africa will have a significant impact on online shopping in the coming years,” Mr Goldstuck said. “Mobile commerce is still in its infancy, but as it is made easier, and as users become more familiar with the concept, it will rise at the same rate as web-based online retail.”
The survey found that shoppers felt online shopping could be further improved if shipping charges were “minimal” or entirely free.
Nearly half of the respondents said their favourite online store was Kalahari.com, with the next most popular sites being Groupon, Amazon, Bid or Buy and Takealot. Of those who have shopped online in South Africa, only 29% of their purchases have been from foreign sites, down from 34% in the previous survey.