The Real Estate of eCommerce in South Africa: What You Need to Know

So, you’ve got a product or service that you want to sell online, but you don’t know where to begin? Let’s face it; anybody involved in retail knows there are many challenges to staying successful and competitive. Besides finances and marketing, the biggest challenge is eCommerce.

Advancements in telecommunications have aided in the success of eCommerce and the increased levels of competition between merchants to sell the best quality goods at the lowest price. Although brick-and-mortar retail is steady, it’s hard to deny that South Africans love online purchases.

49% of South Africans visit an online retail store, 47% search online for a product or service to buy, and 29% make online purchases. (We Are Social).

eCommerce is a giant industry—and South Africans are spending more online than ever before. With disruptive technology taking a firm grip—from smartphones to the rise of the digitally influenced shopper and showrooming, consumers are now demanding a more convenient, seamless customer-centric shopping experience. Online shopping gives them just that—and more.

Online shopping is the future of retail.

The Internet is changing the way we live—and eCommerce is now a way of life. An industry poised for growth as digital natives make up an increasingly large portion of consumers—it’s predicted by Statista that there will be 1.92 billion global digital buyers in 2019 and that global retail eCommerce revenue will amount to $4.88 trillion by 2021. Online shopping is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world, including South Africa.

Recent research on South Africa shows people are browsing three hours or more a day on their mobile phones, and by 2021, the number of online shoppers expects to have reached 24.79 million. eCommerce is growing at a rapid pace—and everyone wants a piece of the eCommerce pie.

South Africa’s eCommerce market is worth over R20-billion, and research by PayPal and Ipsos forecasts that South Africans will spend R61 billion at online stores by 2020.

Why do consumers prefer to shop online?

While traditional stores still dominate the market, eCommerce is fast catching up. A customer can make a purchase anytime and anywhere. They can compare reviews and have the instant gratification of buying something just at a tap of a screen. Safe and easy payment options are available—and delivery is always on time—and sometimes even free.

Because of the zero overheads that physical stores demand—sellers can offer competitive prices, discounts, scorecards and loads of exciting incentive programs. As you can imagine, bargain hunters and deal seekers find online shopping a dream come true.

An eCommerce store can save you money.

eCommerce doesn’t just provide benefits to consumers—it is a holy grail for retailers. Running an eCommerce store can save you money. Brick-and-mortar thrive on location and branding—and this can be key to your new revenue.

Millions of people use search engines every day to find products they want to buy. With eCommerce, you overcome geographical limitations, and you gain new customers with Search Engine Visibility. With a physical store, it is tough reaching such a large market. However, an online store can easily accomplish this.

Your overheads are almost zero. An online store provides features that automate responsibilities and create targeted communication, allowing you the time to do other things and reduce the operating costs of your entire business. With such convenience to both the customer and the retailer, it’s no surprise eCommerce is on the rise.

How to cash in on the eCommerce revolution

2018 was a lucrative year for the South African eCommerce industry. Thanks to high mobile penetration, secure payment options, and changing spending habits, growth is strong. But as more outlets and competition increase, expectations become more refined. That is why retailers need to stay ahead of the trends.

Trends in the eCommerce industry emerge from various things.
How customers shop. What they buy and how they respond to marketing tactics used by businesses. If you want to get ahead of the game, here are three trends to jump on immediately.

1. Multi-Channel Selling

Online businesses cannot stay on one platform if they want to get ahead of the competition. That is where multi-channel marketing enters. Multi-channel marketing involves promoting and selling on every channel where customers spend their time—from social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to search engines, blogs, newsletters, SMS text messaging, and even good old-fashioned mail.

With 87% of eCommerce shoppers making a purchase decision based on social media marketing – it’s worth staying on trend with multi-channel selling.

2. Artificial Intelligence Chatbot

Customer patterns based on browsing history are a challenge for online stores, but we now hail intelligent algorithms as the key to dealing with such challenges. AI chatbots are computer programs that can understand a customer’s questions and provide human-like responses about products and services. Unlike humans, they deal with unlimited customer enquiries at once and operate at all hours of the day.

The other advantage of a chatbot is that it generates sales. It can do this by sending automated prompts to get users chatting about a product that interests them. It can also offer them discounts or even make personalised recommendations based on their session data.

3. Personalisation and Seamless Customer Engagement

The success of any business depends on customer satisfaction. The customer wants brands whose values they can identify with; websites that load quickly, are easy to navigate and work on any device; and purchasing processes that are simple, secure and fast.

That led to marketing automation, which focuses on customised landing pages, easy to access shopping carts, personalised emails, displaying new products and promotions as per the visitors’ shopping history, and re-targeting customers for necessary product sales.

Framing business landscapes, eCommerce brings with it many advantages, especially for start-ups and medium-sized enterprises. However, as consumers continue to drive the market with their seamless shopping demands, you need to realise that you’re not just competing against local competitors but also the most cutting edge, slickest and fastest websites and apps that exist globally.

That means you need to invest in your website experience.