Quick, free delivery and not having to travel to a store are the main benefits of online shopping according to South African shoppers.
A survey of 10 687 South Africans has thrown up illuminating information on how age and gender influence shopping habits, what retailers need to do to encourage more sales and how to convert those who are not convinced by the claimed advantages of online shopping.
The survey, conducted by TFG (The Foschini Group), was distributed to a sample of South African online shoppers as well as TFG account and Rewards customers and people who had shopped from TFG sites or signed up for the newsletters.
According to Robyn Cooke, head of TFG ecommerce, the respondents consisted of 68% who shop online and 32% who never shop online – including about 6.7% of the total respondents who had no interest in shopping online.

What does the survey say South Africans are buying online?
The most popular categories across gender and age are clothing and accessories at 63,9%, followed by travel products and services, shoes, airtime/data, homewares, and books, music and movies all above 30%.
Additional categories in order of decreasing popularity are jewellery, sports clothing, sports shoes, sports equipment and groceries.
“Age and gender play a significant part in spending patterns,” says Cooke. “Below the age of 50, both men and women prioritise online clothes shopping. But at 50 plus travel takes the number one spot for both men and women.
“While travel only ranks fourth (at 31%) for men aged 18-24, way below clothing (74%), shoes (56%) and airtime (42%), and is also fourth for women aged 18-24, below clothing (76%), shoes (51%) and airtime (41%).”
Book shopping online also shows an age bias, being the second most popular category for men and women 50-plus, but not featuring at all in the top five for men aged 18-49. Women aged 18-24 also don’t prioritise buying books online, with a gradual climb as they age – fifth place (34%) for women aged 25-34, third place (46%) when aged 35-49 and second place (48%) when 50 plus.

What do South Africans identify as the major benefits of online retail?
All age groups and both genders agreed that quick free delivery (73%) was the number one benefit, followed by not having to go to the actual store (66%).
Other benefits in descending importance include the opportunity to do online comparisons, stock availability, better variety, product reviews, shopping discreetly and privately, gifting for friends and family far away, product information, sizing and quick and easy returns.

What are the payment preferences?
Credit cards got the thumbs up from 53% of those surveyed, followed by 39% saying EFT was okay, then debit cards, on account, cash on delivery and PayPal.
Age plays a role, with men and women aged 25 and older preferring credit cards, while men aged 18-24 prefer buying on account and women aged 18-24 prefer EFT.

How can retailers encourage more spending online?
The most popular incentives identified relate to price: sales, online specials, specials on older stock, monthly specials, Black Friday specials, promotions which aren’t available in store and discounts for new customers. The second most important factor relates to the products: more and a wider variety, better brands and the latest products.

What do online retailers need to do to convert non-shoppers?
The 6,7% of respondents who said they have no interest in shopping online, gave the following reasons: They’d rather shop in an actual store (78,2%); What if I don’t like the product or it doesn’t fit me (51,1%); Worried their details will be stolen (34,4%); The idea is a bit scary (26,9%) and I might never receive the order (25,3%).
“So if online retailers want to encourage sales they need to place more emphasis on regular online specials while broadening the range and improving the quality of their products,” says Cooke. “To convert those who have never shopped online, retailers need to focus their energies on education around the deliveries and returns processes, as well as some clear guidelines on how to pay.”