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By 19 April 2012 | Categories: news

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Online shopping is on the rise in South Africa and continues to show potential for growth. This according to the latest MasterCard Worldwide Online Shopping Survey, which serves as a benchmark for measuring local consumers’ propensity to shop online.

MasterCard’s survey revealed that the number of South Africans shopping online has steadily increased over the past two years, with 58% of active internet users saying that they use the internet for shopping. This is up from 53% in 2010 and 44% during 2009.

This survey was conducted across 25 markets between 5 December 2011 and 6 January 2012. The South African report looked at banked consumers who access the internet at least once a week.

When choosing an online retailer from where to make their purchases, the majority of respondents cited lower prices (91%), payment convenience (90%) as well as secure payment facilities (90%) as the main motivation factors for doing so. They also said that websites should have a good reputation, be user-friendly, and that the online retail provider of choice should offer low or no extra charges for delivery.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” stated Anna Jones, general manager, South Africa, MasterCard Worldwide. “The latest MasterCard survey found that among those shopping online, a majority 89% of respondents are satisfied with their overall online shopping experience, with 73% likely to make a purchase in the next six months. While these responses have remained static since last year, they show that the level of satisfaction has remained consistent as the number of online shoppers has grown.”

Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx, explained that these findings fall inline with what his company’s research into the size of the online retail market have revealed. “We have shown that, once people are experienced internet users and go online regularly, their propensity to shop online increases dramatically. The key is to convert that propensity into shopping behaviour, and this survey pinpoints where and why that conversion is happening.”

Motivating factors for local online shoppers

According to the survey South Africans who shop online do so because they find it convenient and easy. They also like the wide range of goods available and utilise online portals for researching purchases they plan on making.

The majority (78%) of online shoppers stated that they look at online reviews before they purchase, whilst 73% investigate online reviews of the retailer before making a purchase. In a show of confidence for the online retail environment, 74% of respondents said that they would return to an online retailer from which they had already made a purchase.

Among the most popular purchases made online were products and services related to coupon/deal sites, online gaming, applications, music downloads and tickets to arts or music events. A whopping 95% of respondents mentioned that they had visited deal or coupon websites, with a quarter of visits to these sites ending in the purchase of a deal.

“This shows how the online world can work in tandem with the bricks-and-mortar environment, with online spend driving spend with conventional outlets,” said Goldstuck. “Many people now conduct product research online before making a purchase in-store. Retailers that avoid the virtual option for fear of cannibalisation of customers are in fact missing out on a powerful driver of traffic through their physical stores.”

Travellers also shopping more online; grocery shopping not popular

The research also revealed increases in the number of people who are shopping online (versus offline) for travel purposes, as 87% of respondents (up 10% from 2010) have made purchases from airlines and 71% (an increase of 9% from 2010) have made hotel bookings online in the last three months.

On the opposite side of the coin, local shoppers revealed that they prefer not to shop online for their groceries, with only 9% making this their first choice to avoid the chore of grocery shopping. This is a decrease to the previous survey’s result of 27%, showing a18% decline.

“We’ve also found that online grocery shopping has declined, mainly because people want to choose fresh products personally, delivery schedules are too inflexible and too many mistakes are made by in-store stock pickers,” concluded Goldstuck.

Preferred methods of payment?

MasterCard’s survey found that the majority of respondents (84%) pay for online purchases via payment cards, EFTs (electronic funds transfers) or a combination thereof.

Security has become less of an issue with local online shoppers over the past few years, with 38% of respondents saying that they are not convinced that the medium is safe. This is down from the 47% captured during the last survey, which itself was a drop from 59% recorded in 2009.

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