New Woolworths website offers full product range

WOOLWORTHS, whose number of online shoppers has doubled year on year, has revamped its website with a fresh look and a number of new features, the upmarket retailer said on Wednesday.

By global standards, the e-commerce platform in South Africa is relatively limited but with ever greater numbers of time-poor and tech-savvy shoppers, convenience is becoming a key factor. Local retailers are increasingly entering the e-commerce fray, highlighting the growing trend towards capturing online trade in a bid to take market share.

Nikki Cockcroft, head of online at Woolworths, said the group’s customers wanted a simpler, more seamless integration between online and in-store shopping, with the added convenience of being able to access all their favourite products no matter the time, place or device.

A World Wide Worx study last year found that e-commerce in the retail sector in South Africa had seen a 30% consecutive year-on-year growth since 2009.

The new-look Woolworths online site now offers the full range of the company’s products.

Roger Tejwani, retail analyst at Noah Capital Markets, said it was increasingly important for retailers to have a robust e-commerce strategy, especially in times when consumers are becoming much more discerning, and there was more competition and choice availability in the market.

“South Africans are very good at price comparability; they are also getting more comfortable shopping online and shopping through a number of devices. The trend has been growing rapidly, but off a fairly low base. People talk about broadband costs and access being an issue at the moment, but I think it will bypass the broadband curve and move much more onto smartphones and tablets as it did in India.”

Both Edcon and Mr Price have ramped up their online presence.

“Once the online shopping market opens up a bit more, it makes it easier for newer brands to come in.

“Historically, South Africa has been a fairly protected market. If you’re an offshore retailer looking to come into the country, it is very difficult to get the footprint organically without acquiring a local retailer. A lot of the retailers here have taken space throughout the cycle, even when they probably didn’t need it just to keep the international retailers out and protect their margins,” Mr Tejwani said.

“For example, in isolation Zara’s four stores in South Africa aren’t really going to achieve much, but if online develops, it could potentially put 10 flagship stores in South Africa for brand awareness and then drive volume online.”


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