SA online shopping takes a step backwards

While South Africans are more satisfied with online shopping, fewer are taking to the net to make purchases, according to a new survey from MasterCard.

The MasterCard Online Shopping survey has shown that, of the 500 South African Internet users surveyed, 91% are highly satisfied with their online shopping experiences – though the number of South Africans accessing the Internet to shop online is down 4% from the previous survey.

MasterCard division president in South Africa, Philip Panaino, attributed the drop in online shoppers to the overall economic slowdown.

“This is supported by The South African Reserve Bank noting in its fourth quarter review of 2012 that retail activity was disappointing as consumer spending was negatively affected by a pickup in inflation,” Panaino said.

Managing director of World Wide Worx, Arthur Goldstuck, added that the decline can also be explained by the rapid rise in the number of South Africans classified as active Internet users – which means there is a larger-than-ever base of users who have never shopped online before.

“This means that even as the amount spent online keeps rising steadily – at more than 30% a year according to our data – the proportion of users shopping online is declining, which ties in with the decline MasterCard has recorded of active online shoppers here.”

The key, Goldstuck said, lies not in the total number of Internet users, but in the behaviour of the experienced users.

“As the new user base gains experience and confidence in online activities, their propensity to shop should convert into a regular online shopping habit.”

MasterCard Online Shopping infographic
MasterCard Online Shopping infographic (Click to enlarge)

Online shopping habits

According to the survey, South African online shoppers are most keen to buy books, CDs and DVDs, as well as home appliances and electronics.

Personal and professional education sites, travel and coupon/deal sites were also popular amongst respondents.

76% of respondents said they return to online stores they’ve used before, with almost half indicating that their favourite online store is, with the next most popular sites being Groupon, Amazon, BidorBuy and Takealot.

When it comes to mobile shopping, only 12% of respondents made the leap to making mobile purchases, though the platform remained popular for app purchases (45%), music downloads (26%), banking (29%) and getting movie or theatre tickets (13%).

“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,” Goldstuck said.

The MasterCard survey was conducted in 11 countries across the Middle East and Africa between December 2012 and January 2013, which included 500 banked
South Africans who access the Internet at least once a week.

Of all the regions surveyed, South Africa takes the lead in terms of respondents who say they use the Internet for online shopping – 54%, twice the national average, according to MasterCard.

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SA online shopping takes a step backwards