The upcoming public holidays in South Africa will be the turning point for local online retail.
This is according to Mark Chirnside, CEO of online and mobile payment service provider PayU, who says: “Traditionally, South Africa has always been out of step with global patterns regarding public holidays.
“In the US and Europe, online sales spike during public holidays as people shop from home. However, locally, South Africans have done their online shopping on normal business weekdays, transacting during office hours by accessing the internet from their workplace.”

According to the DMMA and Effective Measures South African Online Report, this usage pattern has now reached a tipping point with 70,64% of South Africans accessing the internet from home. Work Internet access falls to second place at 61,4%.

“With the majority of active online South Africans now accessing the Internet at home and the rise in mobile shoppers and mobile retail, we foresee a definite spike for online shopping numbers starting with Heritage Day,” Chirnside says. “This trend should now establish itself across all public holidays going forward.”

The benchmark example of the holiday shopping phenomenon is America’s Black Friday which takes place on 23 November, the day following Thanksgiving Day and the start of a long weekend. Most major retailers open quite early, often at 4am or earlier, and offer promotional sales to kick off the holiday shopping season.

Black Friday has consistently been the busiest shopping day of the year in the US since 2005. This has been replicated in the e-commerce space where, due to the convenience of online shopping allowing consumers to avoid crowds and queues, US shoppers spent in excess of $1-billion online on Black Friday in 2012, a 26% increase on 2011.

“While online shopping continues to be a regular internet activity for more than half of all South Africans who are actively online, research shows that the most important considerations when consumers are transacting are secure payment facilities and convenient payment methods. Consumers are able to rest assured when shopping on our vendor sites,” says Chirnside.

PayU is incentivising South African online shoppers during this Heritage month of September.

Every time a user shops at one of the online stores displaying the “Support SA Online Stores” banner, they stand a chance of winning an 11-inch 128 GB Apple MacBook Air worth R12 799.