Online shopping and e-commerce in South Africa are on a steady rise, with 69% of active online adults shopping online in the past 12 months.

They spent an estimated R45,3-billion in 2018 – a 19% increase from 2017, according to PayPal and Ipsos, in their fourth annual cross-border e-commerce report that polled 34 052 consumers’ online and cross border shopping behaviours.

Online shopping is expected to increase even more over the next 24 months, with a forecasted total spend of R61,9-billion in 2020, a 36% increase from 2018. The reason given by 75% of respondents indicated the convenience of shopping online.

“Advances in technology, such as mobile technology and access to data, have made it easier for South Africans to shop online,” comments Efi Dahan, GM of PayPal Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa.

The three most popular online shopping categories for South African consumers were Clothing/Apparel (53%), Entertainment/Education (digital/downloadable) (51%) and Event tickets (51%).

A massive 62% of South African online shoppers purchased something from an overseas retailer in the last 12 months, compared to 43% in the previous year.

Clothing/apparel, footwear and accessories came in as the most common cross-border purchase (68%) with jewellery/watches (62%) second most popular and consumer electronics, computers/tablets/mobiles and peripherals being the third purchase of choice (54%).

“South African online shoppers have realised that buying from overseas is not the hassle it once was, and that they can purchase must have items, often at a better price,” says Dahan.

South African online shoppers purchasing from overseas chose the US as their online shopping destination of choice (34%) due to better prices, availability and variety of styles, followed by China (28%) and the UK (16%).

The research also indicated that Christmas, Black Friday and Seasonal Sales are the three top occasions for shopping cross-border more frequently than usual.

The convenience of shopping with a mobile phone is changing the way South Africans approach e-commerce. The research indicated that 62% of online shoppers have used their mobile device for their purchases, resulting in an estimated R14,9-billion spend in 2018. This is estimated to grow to a R30,4-billion by 2020, doubling in value from 2018.

“Mobile technology is transforming eCommerce in Africa, and consumers are more likely to have a mobile device than a bank account,” adds Dahan. “South Africans are becoming more comfortable with mobile shopping due to easy-to-use apps for ordering car rides or food becoming commonplace.”

More than 30% of online shoppers are concerned that they may not receive their purchased item when shopping cross-border, and 24% about a difficult returns process.

In addition, 24% of online shoppers have concerns about identity theft and fraud, as well as the security of their financial details when shopping domestically.

Because it helps to mitigate these issues, 69% of survey respondents indicated that PayPal is their trusted digital payment method of choice for shopping cross-border.