A survey by MasterCard Worldwide has found that 80% of South African Internet users are shopping online.
CDs, DVDs and VCDs emerged as the most sought after item category, with 58% of online shoppers saying that they frequently shopped for these items online.
Airline tickets and books & arts emerged as the next most-sought after items, with 45% of online shoppers saying that they had frequently shopped for these items in the three months prior to when the survey was conducted.
These are some of the primary findings of a survey commissioned by MasterCard Worldwide on online shopping behaviour, the results of which are highlighted in an Insights report entitled Economic Crisis and Preference for Online Shopping in Asia/Pacific, Middle-East, and Africa.
The South African sample comprised 500 people, all of whom were between the ages of 18 and 64, had a bank account, and accessed the Internet at least once a week.
"Although Internet penetration in South Africa remains relatively low, over three-quarters of those who do regularly access the Internet have recently made at least one online purchase," says Anthony West, GM of MasterCard Africa. "In fact, exactly 50% of those surveyed indicated that online shopping was one of the main reasons that they used the Internet."
According to a recent report by South African research company World Wide Worx – entitled Internet Access in SA – South Africa's Internet population grew to more than 4,6-million last year. This figure is set to expand as much in the next five years as it did in the past 15.
"With broadband adoption and available bandwidth rapidly increasingly in South Africa, online shopping is poised to become even more popular, especially as consumers experience its convenience and ease," adds West. "And, as businesses look to grow their online retail presence, they need to be aware of the preferences and concerns that drive these online shoppers."
The survey found that the majority of online purchases were premeditated, with 88% of South Africa's online shoppers admitting that they planned their shopping in advance and conducted research on their potential purchases. This was supported by the low occurrence of impulse purchases. When asked how often they "had experienced making a purchase impulsively", 65% of South Africa's online shoppers said "hardly ever" or "never".
The survey also illustrated that South Africans found security and reputation to be as important, if not more important, as value for money when deciding whether or not to make an online purchase. This was shown by the fact that 85% said it was "extremely important" that a website offered secure payment facilities, and 61% said a website's reputation was "extremely important". In addition, 62% of online shoppers indicated that value for money was an "extremely important" factor in deciding to make an online purchase.
Another interesting aspect that the survey highlighted was the level of spending online. When online shoppers were asked how much they had spent on purchases during the previous three months, 41% said between $100.00 and $499.00, 28% said less than $100.00, 17% said between $500.00 and $999.00, with the remaining 13% spending $1 000.00 or more.
Of the participants who had recently made an online purchase, 84% said that they were either "extremely satisfied" or "quite satisfied" with online shopping in general. And, when asked how likely it is that they will make an online purchase in the next six months, 76% of those surveyed said either "very likely" or "quite likely".
The research did, however, have one piece of information that will come as a relief to the traditional South African 'bricks and mortar' retailers. This was the fact that even online shoppers admitted that they still do 76% of their shopping the traditional way.