E-commerce: South Africans’ new way of window-shopping

By Media Update

Charl van Rooyen, E-commerce director at MediaCom SA, says e-commerce is the enabler of the future’s shopping experience. As with any technology, there is a limited window of opportunity to adopt best practices, apply it, and own it. For South African retailers, that time is now.

Imagine you’re a time traveller. You decide to travel back in time to visit your parents. Unfortunately, your travel adventure doesn’t turn out as well as Marty McFly’s and, due to your actions, your parents never meet. Consequently, you’ve effectively wiped out your future existence.

Imagine a different scenario.

Instead of being motivated by emotional reasons, like looking up family, you use your time-travelling abilities to profit financially. Armed with knowledge about the present stock markets, you travel back a few years, and just like that, you become a billionaire.

20/20 Vision

The saying goes that hindsight is 20/20. It is very easy to know what the right decision is after something has happened. If this was possible, everyone’s perspective would be perfect.

Emerging markets can gain almost 20/20 hindsight from the failures and successes of developed markets. Unfortunately, very few companies cast their eyes beyond the borders. This missed opportunity could help avoid many misses and mishaps.

Look back to move forward

In 2016, 95% of United Kingdom residents used the internet and 83% of the population bought something online. In the EU, household goods were the most popular purchased item for people aged 25 – 55, and accounted for 49% of the sales. Other items that were popular included clothing and sporting goods (for the younger demographic) and travel and holiday accommodation (for the older demographic).

In the United Sates, e-commerce contributes almost 9% to overall retail sales and has an annual growth rate of 16,45%. In December 2016, retail sales amounted to $413,64-billion and e-commerce accounted for $34,74-billion.

Alibaba, a Chinese e-commerce company, turned the retail ecosystem on its head when they launched Single’s Day. Today, Single’s Day is the largest e-commerce shopping day in the world. According to an article by Forbes, the revenue for this event passed the $14-billion mark in 2016. To put this figure in context: This is more than double the combined sales of the United States’ most well-known e-commerce holidays, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

It is clear from these phenomenal international successes that there is potential to profit with e-commerce. Unfortunately, South African retailers seem to be hesitant to implement systems and technologies in their shops that transformed global retailers to profit-generating giants.

A right way and a wrong way

The ever-increasing digitalisation of our lives and internet penetration is steadily increasing because of decreased data costs. We can therefore be sure that South African e-commerce will follow international trends and grow by double digits.

The world’s leading retailers are embracing suppliers who are willing to ensure that their products are optimised for online sales, open to invest in better on-site search results and advertising, and implementing initiatives to drive traffic to online product displays. South African retailers have the opportunity to adopt the same strategy, as the positive results from international retailers have already shown that these models drive more sales.

The window of opportunity is closing

Some often forget the fact that 80% of the world’s m-commerce transactions (commercial transactions conducted electronically by mobile phone) are made in Africa. Why then can’t we take e-commerce systems and make it more efficient?

If South African retailers don’t adopt best-in-class e-commerce standards, international companies will, in the near future, overcome barriers to entry (such as shipping costs and timely delivery) and South African consumers will bypass local options and gravitate towards global brands.

Google already sees the exciting e-commerce potential in South Africa. This online pioneer recently launched their shopping products in South Africa. Google would only do this if they believe there is going to be enough interest. This product suite, called Google Shopping, gives retailers the ability to purchase e-commerce space in a similar way one would with AdWords. With this online window display, retailers can dominate a customer’s online view when using this search engine.

If Google search data indicates South African e-commerce is growing rapidly, retailers should definitely jump at the opportunity to supply shoppers with a more advanced shopping experience.

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Original article can be read here.