South Africans took to online shopping in a big way over the festive season with MWeb's online stores recording an 837% increase in sales compared to two years ago. 


Figures from MWeb's 320 SafeShop-enabled websites show
that for the period 1 November to 31 December 2006, some R243-million was spent online compared with just R26-million in 2004.
The number of transactions during this period increased from 38 902 in 2004, to 241 438 in 2006, or 520%.
While airline clients 1Time and Mango are credited with a substantial portion of the increased spend, Anton Gaylard, GM for ISP at MWeb Business, points out that SA's leading online florist recorded a 113% growth in sales, while online grocery shopping increased by 20% for the period.
"We attribute the growth in online sales to several factors," says Gaylard. "Firstly, South Africans are becoming more and more comfortable with purchasing online and are happy with the safety and security of the process. This means they are also spending larger amounts per transaction, as we can see with the 51% increase in the average transaction amount from R668 to R1 010 over the two years.
"Secondly, businesses are realising the additional revenue that can be gained from online transactions, and are improving the quality of their e-commerce-enabled websites," he says. "In addition, more and more smaller businesses are seeing the benefits of online shopping, which means that there are now more companies offering their products for purchase online.
"Finally, because consumers are also able to do research prior to making a purchasing decision, online Christmas shopping is a much simpler and less time-consuming process than comparing stores physically.
"In the busiest time of the year, this is a valuable aspect which saves time and effort," Gaylard adds. "Most websites list product features and comparisons, and prospective buyers are able to evaluate various products by simply launching their Web browsers."
Gaylard says that Christmas sales are also making up a larger proportion of annual online sales than before.
In 2006, MWeb's sites recorded R865-million in annual sales, of which 28% were Christmas purchases. This is compared with annual sales of R157-million in 2004, of which 16% were recorded during the Christmas period.