Young people 'embracing' online shopping

Cape Town - A global survey of consumers in 31 countries has found that the younger generation is particularly making use of online channels to conduct shopping, though they are most concerned about security.

The survey was conducted by Havas Worldwide and mapped the consumer behaviour toward online purchasing in 31 countries, including South Africa.

So-called millenials - people aged 18 - 34 - accounted for 39% of the survey respondents in developed countries and a whopping 57% in emerging countries. The company said the group is critical to the future of the online shopping environment.

"Millennials matter - a lot; the habits and attitudes they are developing will shape not only their own lives but our collective world for many decades to come."

The survey showed that the conventional wisdom that expensive items would not be purchased over the internet was flawed.


"Today, millions don't think twice about buying goods and services over the internet - even big-ticket items such as cars and cruise tickets, and personal goods such as special-occasion outfits," Havas said as a key finding of the survey.

The results indicate that smartphones have made up a significant trend in shopping and 38% of what the company calls prosumers - people who are early adopters of mobile technology - use their cellphones as a key tool in shopping, compared to 22% of so-called mainstream shoppers.

The company said that the online environment was increasingly turning traditional retail strategies on its head as consumers armed with more information, are more shrewd about buying decisions.

"The combination of mobile technologies and social media is driving profound changes in the way consumers buy goods and services. It is radically influencing the way people gather information about products - and about the companies that make and sell them," said Havas.

Some have argued that online shopping statistics are skewed because it takes into account the purchase of virtual items such as lottery tickets, cellphone airtime and data credits.

However, the results from the Havas survey showed that people were using the internet to shop for technology products like electronics.

Prosumers predictably led the drive to online shopping for personal electronics with a shopping rate of 66%, compared to a mainstream rate of 52%.

Popular categories

The most popular categories for online shopping also included books, travel tickets, content and, surprisingly, clothing.

"In fact, more of our respondents have bought clothing, shoes, and/or accessories online (49%) than have bought books (44%) or movies, music, and/or video games (33%). And around half of women (51%) buy beauty and cosmetics products online," Havas said.

Despite this though, security remains a concern particularly because consumers cannot in many cases control what retailers do with credit card information.

However, it appears that more people are beginning to feel comfortable with entering their details in online forms or using payment apps for online purchases.

"Remote buyers have to trust that what they are seeing on the printed page or digital display is actually what is being sold, with no unpleasant surprises such as inferior-grade materials or shoddy manufacturing," said Havas.

The company added that 21% of consumers worried about security every time they shopped, and in Africa, a quarter of shoppers did not make an online purchase in the year prior to the survey.

This number is well above the global average of 12%, but below 29% for the Middle East.

Convenience (36%) and price (35%) emerged as the most compelling reason for driving online purchasing, and almost 80% of respondents said that online shopping saves them money.

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