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SA ecommerce site grows 40% in 4 months

While Stats SA announced this week that South Africa’s retail sales for April had its largest decline on record, with sales were down 50.4% over April 2019, a digital surge dramatically increased the uptake of online shopping.

Local e-tailer, reports that it is a 40% bigger company today than it was just a few months ago, just as the local daily deals e-commerce website celebrates its 10th birthday.

It’s been really interesting to take a retrospective look at the growth of not only, but the industry as a whole,” says Matthew Leighton, spokesperson. Ten years ago, South Africa (SA) was a very different place, as was the company.

“The whopping staff compliment of four worked from home, marketing was done in-house, orders were dispatched from a repurposed garage – it was the quintessential startup cliché. ‘Doing it for the gram’ was more a narcotics reference than social media, ordering a cab required a phone call well in advance to reserve a meter taxi, and local e-commerce amounted to R 2 billion for the year. Fast forward to 2020 where e-commerce has surpassed the R14 billion mark, according to World Wide Worx, and a global pandemic has dictated not only what we can buy online, but when we’re buying it and why.

“Our founders both had ‘regular desk jobs’ at the time. The company started out as a let’s-see-where-this-can-take-us garage based venture, with focus put squarely on doing things one day at a time – one deal at a time.”

Over the past 10 years, the company has achieved:

  • growing from hosting one deal per day to more than 200 each day;
  • growing from four to 250 staff members;
  • going from a supplier base of 20 regular suppliers to 450 repeat suppliers (with more than 1300 suppliers in total);
  • evolving from one courier company to six.

With growth, however, comes a different set of challenges, says Leighton 

“The biggest has been the recent lockdown ban on e-commerce initiated by the South African government, where online retailers were restricted to selling only essential items. E-commerce has a much wider reach than one often thinks, supporting three industries: small and medium (and sometimes large) businesses that do not sell directly to the end user or supply any one retailer; a subsection of the transport industry in the inherent business offered to courier companies; and the e-commerce industry itself.  So, we knew that we had to take a stand as a business and as an industry to ensure that e-commerce survived the lockdown.”

Lobbying efforts proved effective and full e-commerce activity was unbanned. 

“What was initially a very real threat quickly turned into an opportunity as we saw South Africans embrace the ability to once again shop online,” says Leighton. “We also saw a 40% increase in page views per user during lockdown, and a 15% increase in basket sizes. Based on this data, we can definitively say that South Africans have embraced online shopping in a more natural fashion and this trend is looking likely to continue.”

Despite financial hardships as a result of COVID-19, South Africans are spending more per basket size. 

“The average basket size has increased by 15% from March to the end of June,” says Leighton. But, he points out, this could also be due to people being extra dedicated to finding great deals.

It also appears that people are becoming quite savvy when it comes to finding what they want online, with the average time on the website reducing by half a minute from March.

Leighton also points to the flexibility of the work-from-home setup affecting peak online shopping times: “In March, peak times were consistent with previous years where South Africans typically shopped between 6am and 7am. Now we are seeing these times  shift later, to between 7am and 10am.”

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