E-COMMERCE is going through an innovative phase of development as more individuals have access to the internet and more retailers take their businesses online.
Internet users in South Africa reached 13.2-million in 2012, up from 11.2-million in 2011, according to World Wide Worx.
“We are forecasting an increase of 2.7-million new internet users this year, 2-million of whom will be mobile users,” says MD Arthur Goldstuck.
This figure does not include new tablet users who have typically had previous internet access using another type of device and are therefore included in the previous figures.
The main online activity of mobile internet users is sending and receiving e-mails, followed by browsing and surfing for leisure, followed by online research, says Mr Goldstuck.
He says in 2012 South Africa’s online shoppers spent a total of R3.38bn on purchasing traditional retail products — not including air tickets, accommodation and travel — reflecting a growth of 30% over 2011. “We are expecting a further 25% growth in online retail this year,” he adds.
Mr Goldstuck says dominant new online shopping trends tend to emerge every two years.
He says four or so years ago saw the rise of websites allowing rand purchases of products aggregated from overseas sites, particularly electronics goods, and two years ago group buying websites started making a major impact on the market.
“More recently we are seeing a new category of high fashion websites such as Zando and City Mob emerge, which aggregate name brand clothing.”
These online retailers differentiate themselves with low-cost delivery and the ability to return goods, whereby the courier waits while the customer tries on the clothing.
Liz Hillock, head of marketing at Kalahari.com, says the highest conversion rate of internet users from browsing to buying is among tablet users.
“Last December we sold three-and-a-half times more tablets than laptops, and these users have a higher propensity to shop online.”
As a result, online retailers and other e-commerce oriented businesses are designing their websites to cater for tablets and other mobile devices, she says.
She says the recently released 2013 annual Kalahari.com Mobile and Tablet Survey shows that 92% of online shoppers own a smartphone compared to 78% last year, and 68% have purchased items online using their phone.
The survey also shows that 47% of respondents own a tablet compared to 34% last year.
Ms Hillock says more experienced online shoppers are buying an increasingly wider range of products. An online survey of 300 mothers last year showed that only 4% shopped for baby products such as toys, prams and clothes online.
“We then realised that not many products like this are available online, so we launched a baby category and it is doing really well.”
Simon Leps, CEO of Fontera Digital Works, says an example of the increasing innovative approach of online retailers is Kurt Geiger, which has 30 stores in South Africa and an e-commerce website offering stylish, affordable men’s clothing.
“Online shoppers can sign up as a VIP member, select items and have them packed in a virtual suitcase and sent to a selected store.”
Mr Leps thinks some businesses are paying too much to set up an e-commerce website, often opting to do it through a digital agency or consultant. “They would be better off talking to an experienced e-commerce development company,” he says.
BY JENNIGAY COETZER of www.BDlive.co.za