Online retail is on the rise

South Africans, and especially men, are increasingly clicking and buying, but our online shopping industry still doesn’t come close to that of the UK and the US.

Locally, R8.9 billion is spent annually on online shopping, comprising 1.2% of the total retail spend of more than R900 billion, according to research on trends in online shopping that market research group Urban Studies undertook on behalf of the SA Council of Shopping Centres.

This is only a drop in the bucket of the online shopping done in the UK, the frontrunner in the field.

The Brits do 16.8% of their total retail spending online and the Yanks 13.9%. It is estimated that online sales in the US will reach a staggering $400 billion (R5.7 trillion) in the coming year.

Dirk Prinsloo, CEO of Urban Studies, says an interesting finding of the research is that online shoppers worldwide share similar demographics and socioeconomic profiles.

The profiles of South African online shoppers correspond especially to those of the UK.

Slightly more men than women buy products online, they are mostly between 25 and 49 years old, they earn more than R30 000 a month and they fall in the LSM income groups of 10 and 10+.

Prinsloo says convenience remains the main reason people shop online.

Other benefits are that they have a variety of local and international choices, prices can be compared easily and shopping can be done quickly.

It’s the ideal solution for people who would rather stay as far away as possible from shopping malls.

Some of the drawbacks of online shopping are that consumers can’t touch the product or try it on, and uncertainty about the quality of the product.

According to Prinsloo, few products are exclusively bought online.

Some of the popular products consumers buy online are DVDs, books, gifts, flowers, electronic products, toys and electrical appliances.

Products that are still mainly bought in physical stores include groceries, furniture, shoes, linen, beauty products, accessories and alcohol.

Prinsloo says an important trend to note is the increase since 2013 in the percentage of shoppers who buy both in stores and online.

“It is especially evident in clothing retail, where 57% buy online and in stores compared with 20% three years ago. The percentage of consumers who buy groceries in both stores and online has increased from 14% to 21%.”

The most popular online stores in the first three months of this year were,,, and

In the second quarter of the current year, Mr Price and Woolworths were the South African retailers with the biggest online support base.

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