The growth of tablet ownership in South Africa is one of the driving forces behind e-commerce growth in the country.

The 2013 mobile shopping survey by online retail reveals that tablet ownership has grown by 10% compared to last year’s figures. In 2012 the survey indicated that just over a third of South Africa’s connected shoppers were using tablet devices whilst this year’s figures show that number to be over 40% with close to 66% of those who do not own tablets indicating an intention to purchase one.

The annual survey shows that approximately 67% of tablet owners have already used their tablets to shop online. “Growth in tablet traffic to is growing at a slightly lower rate than that of mobile traffic, but we are seeing conversion rates that are four-and-a-half times higher,” says Caren Genthner-Kappesz, CEO of

“We recorded a meteoric 70% increase in tablet traffic on over the last year and we predict that this growth will go up with the vigorous uptake of tablets by consumers,” says Genthner-Kappesz.

According to Forrester the $231-billion in sales generated through e-commerce for US retailers in 2012, is expected to increase by 13% to $262-billion this year. This is expected to overtake sales growth of bricks-and-mortar stores over the next five years, reaching $370-billion by 2017. For Western Europe, Forrester expects e-commerce sales to grow at an even faster rate than the US in the next five years, from €112-billion in 2012 to €191-billion by 2017, a compound annual growth rate of 11% (versus 9% in the US).

“Forrester cites the ubiquity of tablets in these markets, which boost the amount of time consumers spend online, as one of the reasons for the stratospheric growth in those markets,” explains Genthner-Kappesz.

When asked which tablet device they owned, the majority of respondents (50%) said Apple’s iPad, while 33,4% said Samsung’s Galaxy tablet. “Samsung seems to be gaining a sizeable portion of the tablet market share. Last year’s mobile shopping survey revealed that Apple had a more than 40 percentage point lead on Samsung, but this year that gap has closed to a mere 25%,” says Genthner-Kappesz.

In 2012 saw a surge in the number of women who were purchasing tablet devices. In 2010, 36% of tablets sold on were sold to women, which increased quite dramatically in 2011 to 46%. It seems this year though; the trend has reversed with men accounting for about 60% of tablet sales again.

A massive 73% of tablet users and 81% of smartphone users revealed that they have used their tablets to purchase apps. “There is no denying the appeal of apps for South Africa’s connected consumers. Apps can be used to facilitate a really rich user experience which can be augmented through the use of a device’s inherent technologies such as cameras and GPS systems,” says Genthner-Kappesz.

The survey indicated that more people like to use their smartphones to browse and compare goods (81%), or read product reviews (77%), rather than actually order items (59%). “We think the way shoppers transact on smartphones will evolve over the next few years and that our local trend is likely to mirror the picture in the US where mobile commerce sales are predicted to go up to $39-billion by the end of 2013, a 56,5% from 2012, as a direct result of both smartphones and tablets becoming commonplace devices for shopping and buying online,” says Genthner-Kappesz. says smartphones continue to be important drivers of mobile commerce in the local market. Given the prevalence of smartphones in the local market, the devices are currently the bedrock of local M-Commerce growth. “The survey revealed that compared to last year, smartphone ownership has increased by 7%, meaning that 86% of shoppers own smartphones. Smartphones are still key players in fuelling eCommerce growth. A huge proportion of South Africa’s connected use the devices to access the internet and for online shopping,” says Genthner-Kappesz.

The survey indicates that the number of shoppers that have made purchases using their phones has gone up by 26%. “We actually view this as quite a conservative number, as we’ve seen a 145% year-on-year increase in revenue from our mobile sites,” says Genthner-Kappesz. “The proportion of traffic generated by smartphones on reveals just how key smartphones will continue to be in fuelling e-commerce growth: mobile traffic as a proportion of total traffic increased from Q4 2012 to Q1 2013 by 110%. It then increased again from Q1 2013 to Q2 2013 by another 129%, a picture that shows very aggressive growth,” says Genthner-Kappesz.