International lessons for e-retail in SA - TechCentral

International lessons for e-retail in SA

neil-watson-180With so many shoppers and so much to offer, what are some of the emerging trends that e-commerce specialists noticed in international markets and how can they be adopted in the South African market? These are some of the international trends that, if correctly applied, can benefit both retailers and consumers.


Smartphones provide the ultimate gateway for Internet users across the world. They provide consumers with market transparency and the possibility of anywhere, anytime interaction. In China, it’s estimated that 88,9% of Internet users chose to connect through their mobile phones. A recent study, conducted by the German Scientific Institute of Market Research (GfK), found that 26% of German shoppers compare prices using their mobile devices when visiting a store.

When it comes to South Africa, mobile has also had a significant impact. Mobile penetration in South Africa is huge and smartphones are quickly gaining market share over feature phones. Mobile purchasing isn’t big just yet, but consumers are increasingly making use of it.

Digital currency

Digital currency, particularly bitcoin, is emerging at a rapid pace within the online retail space. However, due to some scandals and security risks, many businesses are still wary of digital currencies. Despite this, there are many different forms of online monetary transactions coming to the fore, such as desktop wallets, mobile wallets and Web wallets. South Africans have, in fact, become far more familiar with the concept of mobile wallets in recent years.

Interestingly, Africa and South Africa are more advanced in mobile payment systems than the US. This is thanks to payment methods such as QR codes or tap to pay, with 55% of South Africans saying they would be willing to use digital currency, according to a 2015 consumer study conducted by PwC.

Credit card penetration in South Africa is relatively low. Digital currency could bridge the gap between those who have a credit card and access to the Internet versus those who have Internet, but no credit card.

Same-day delivery

Not everyone has the time to sit around and wait for their parcel to be delivered. Standard delivery will suit most consumers, with some willing to wait for a longer period of time, in order to get free delivery. That being said, there are many consumers who wish to have their parcel delivered on the same day.


When it comes to delivery, a fixed date is the most popular choice, closely followed by next day delivery. PwC’s consumer study also found that 79% of South Africans are willing to pay for same-day delivery, which is why it’s important for retailers to have the logistical infrastructure in place to satisfy customers’ needs.

Click and collect

The concept of click and collect is very simple. The consumer buys something online and collects it in their own time, often just a few hours later, rather than waiting for it to be delivered three or four days later.

It’s ideal for consumers who are headed to a particular store but want to save time. One of the biggest attractions about click and collect is the certainty that your item will actually be there, waiting for you. This is proving popular in the UK and has the potential to become just as popular in South Africa.

The year ahead

Online shopping in South Africa as a standalone experience is still relatively small. When it comes to the world of online retail, South Africa is still in its infancy. But it is growing at a rapid pace, which makes the market so exciting.

Because South Africa is lagging more advanced markets in online retail, we have the advantage learning from there. It’s like the world is our testing ground. So the methods that have been successful across the globe are the ones that South Africa’s retailers should try first. It means a much higher chance of success.

  • Neil Watson is CEO at Digital Planet

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