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Two-thirds of active SA Internet users are shopping more online

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A Mastercard study on consumer spending has revealed that 68% of South African consumers who are active Internet users are shopping more online since the onset of the Covid 19 pandemic.

Essential items have seen highest surge online with the majority (81%) of South African consumers saying they purchased data, and over half saying they bought clothing (56%) and groceries (54%) online since the pandemic started.

The study was conducted online, which typically means that respondents are highly active Internet users. It covered nine markets, with 1,000 respondents each in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, UAE, KSA and Egypt, and 500 respondents each in Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire and Tanzania.

According to the research, consumers have become more generous, with nearly a quarter (23%) saying they have donated more to charity than pre-lockdown. Consumers are supporting local small businesses, with 63% of respondents saying that they are making a conscious effort to shop online at these stores.

With fewer opportunities to browse in the stores, social media has emerged as the main platform for finding the most attractive products and offers, with 64% and 41% of respondents saying they had discovered new sellers through Facebook and Instagram respectively.

Price is a key factor for South African shoppers, with 78% saying this is the most important consideration that guides their online purchasing decision. In fact, 75% of typical in-store bargain hunters spend hours searching different sites to find the best deals and nearly half (49%) of self-confessed window shoppers say they regularly create wish lists but don’t always buy.

The Rise of Virtual Experiences

While adapting to the ‘next normal’, people have been changing the way they consume entertainment and learn new skills.

In fact, 68% of South African consumers said they used the time during the pandemic as a positive learning experience. Two thirds (76%) of respondents learnt to bank online, while more than a half learnt to cook through online tutorials (55%), manage their health and get their medicines online (52%) or trained themselves in Do-It-Yourself (51%). Around 39% of respondents enrolled in an online university or educational course, 29% learnt to dance and 28% learnt to do make-up.

As people spend more time at home, the demand for online entertainment has also surged, with 52% of respondents saying they have spent more money on virtual experiences than they did before the pandemic. The majority of consumers (88%) have participated in video calls for work or leisure, three quarters (75%) have watched TV or films through an online subscription service, three in five (60%) have watched comedy online and nearly half (47%) have taken part in a virtual cooking class.

Consumers are also becoming increasingly aware of the associated risks of shopping online. 64% of respondents said that a secure checkout experience is integral to a good shopping experience, as are easy return policies (65%), and promotions and loyalty programmes (62%).

“We have all been adjusting to a new way of living and are understandably shopping more online, though it’s not just for essentials like data, clothing and groceries but for virtual experiences ranging from films to cooking classes,” says Suzanne Morel, country manager at Mastercard, South Africa. “What’s more, this trend appears to be here to stay as 71% of respondents say they will continue to shop online post-pandemico.”

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