What exactly are South Africans buying online?

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Ahead of the busiest shopping time of the year, Visa released a survey that reveals what eCommerce categories receive the most spend and identified changing attitudes towards online shopping in the country. It also identified hurdles still hampering growth.

According to the global Visa eCommerce Tracker Survey, the top five most browsed categories in the past 12 months were physical books, CDs and DVDs (37%), holidays/travel (36%), bill payment (35%), PCs/laptops/tablets and household electronics (34%), and event/ concert tickets (32%).

The survey tracked 8 000 internet users between the ages of 18 and 55 from eight countries around the world including South Africa, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Russia and the Philippines.

Almost all (99%) respondents from South Africa stated that they had browsed online for products and services in the past 12 months.

Although the survey reports an increasing number of South Africans that shop and browse online, it also identified three main aspects that are holding shoppers back from purchasing more. The reasons cited for switching to offline payments after browsing online were concerns about additional shipping or handling fees (41%), that goods wouldn’t arrive on time or at all (40%), and the uncertainty that goods would arrive as per specifications (40%).

Notably, security has become less of a concern. Dougie Henderson, Head of Emerging Products in Africa for Visa said that the perception of online security has improved considerably in the country. 65% of those surveyed said that they felt more secure making payments or shopping online today compared to two years ago.

Henderson said that with the gradual expansion of online purchasing over the past 12 months, certain lifestyle categories showed more growth than others. These include fashion (78% growth), health & wellness (59%) and automotive and accessories (56%).

Not surprisingly for a continent with significant mobile penetration, mCommerce is also seeing an upwards trend. “Internet access via mobile phones is particularly popular. Mobile internet is accessed by 68% of internet users and is the preferred device for internet connectivity. The extensive use of mobile phones to access the internet provides Visa with an opportunity to grow eCommerce in South Africa, especially when shoppers are made aware of key benefits like secure online transaction services such as Verified by Visa,” said Henderson.

Henderson noted however, that there are still a number of products and services people purchase offline, despite browsing online. “This includes large ticket items such as PCs/laptops/tablets and household electronics, where 24% browse online before buying offline. When it comes to personal electronics, 23% browse online before buying offline and for financial services products 19% browse online before buying offline,” he said.

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