Why we don’t like shopping online in SA

Physical store is still the preferred destination for shoppers in South Africa, despite significant growth in online shopping.

This is according to the findings from PwC’s annual consumer survey: Total Retail: Retailers and the Age of Disruption.

Only 14% of approximately 1,000 local respondents say they shop online weekly or more frequently.

Reserving the strength of the traditional store, 53% of South African survey respondents say they have intentionally browsed products at a store but decided to purchase them online, while as many as 73% say they have browsed products online but decided to purchase them in-store.

64% of respondents noted the ability to see, touch and try on the merchandise before buying as the main reason for purchasing in-store after having browsed products online, while having the item immediately (62%), and avoiding delivery charges were given as other key reasons (60%).

“For the past several years, the story around retail stores was ‘showrooming,’ in which stores were places to display items for online purchase. However, this year’s survey results show that the online shop has also become a showroom where shoppers research and compare prices for later, in-store purchases,” said John Wilkinson, retail and consumer leader for PwC, South Africa.

“As online shopping continues to grow at the expense of store visits, we expect the premium in the future may be on creating unique, brand-defining store and online experiences that keep consumers coming back.”

More than half of South African shoppers (59%) have researched products on their mobile phones, while 63% have used them for price comparisons. Mobile payments are still in the infancy stage, with only 9% of South African survey respondents using them as their preferred method of payment.

Security remains an issue as 48% of South African consumers are wary of having their credit card information hacked using a mobile phone.

The environment for retailers has become increasingly complex. Achieving ‘total retail’ demands retailers thinking beyond channels.

“From in-store design studios, and personal shopping assistants to coffee and tea ateliers, retailers are offering a comprehensive experience, evolving into something sleeker, more customised, and increasingly attuned to shoppers’ expectations of what the in-store experience should be,” Wilkinson said.

Retailers, according to PwC, are faced with four waves of disruption:

  • The evolution of the store – Tailoring to the digital age, the role of the store will likely continue to evolve into something more connected, more customised, and increasingly attuned to shoppers’ expectations of what the in-store, online, and mobile ‘experience’ should be.
  • Mobile technology – Mobile is still a very small piece of the pie in terms of overall retail sales, but mobile phones are increasingly a critical factor in setting the stage for a purchase.
  • Social networks – Social media’s impact on retail may evolve along two tracks: one for the developing world in which social media increasingly becomes part of the daily fabric of shopping, and another for developed economies, in which social media continues to be more of a communications tool rather than a shopping tool.
  • Demographic shifts – Global aging patterns show retailers can count on a large segment of global consumers who have a long track record of spending and intend to spend into the foreseeable future.  At the same time, India and the nations of Africa continue to get younger, a polar opposite demographic disruption, but also one with positive ramifications for global retailers and consumer goods companies.

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Why we don’t like shopping online in SA