The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many business sectors in ways that no-one could have predicted. As with any period of economic upheaval, there have been winners and losers, and as we adjust to the ‘new normal’, it’s becoming clearer as to which sectors have weathered the storm, and which have struggled.
Measures introduced to mitigate the impact of the virus, and particularly lockdowns and the closure of ‘non-essential’ stores, have had a major impact on consumer behaviour and attitudes. It’s now becoming clear that these changes are likely to be part of a long-term trend.
With shoppers either prevented from, or wary of, going to malls and ‘bricks and mortar’ stores, a unique opportunity has arisen for ecommerce retailers. Indeed, for a time during 2020, e-tailers were the only businesses permitted to sell non-essential items.
STILL SOME WAY TO GO
However, it should be noted that the
growth in ecommerce in South Africa
comes from a relatively low base – prior to
the pandemic, SA was regarded as a
‘underdeveloped’ ecommerce market due
to patchy internet connectivity, expensive
data, legacy doubts about using credit
cards online and logistical challenges with
That looks set to change due to the
pandemic – it now seems that
ecommerce will shift from being an
innovation to an established part of
shopping behaviour for South African
consumers. Data from online retailers,
courier companies, and credit providers
all supports this theory.
Customer research from FNB has revealed that average ecommerce spend in the first half of 2020 increased by 30% year-on-year, and the bank expects the sector to grow by 150% over the next five years. That would mean annual revenues of some R225 billion for ecommerce sites by 2026.
This growth will be fuelled not only by the lasting effects of the pandemic, but also by the rollout of 5G and falling data prices. The online retail sector is dominated by three key players – takealot.com, superbalist.com, and woolworths.co.za account for around 15% of all ecommerce revenue. Despite this, there
is considerable room for growth in this area.
Given that the South African ecommerce space was previously relatively immature, there remains space for new entrants, whether conventional retailers moving online or ecommerce start-ups. The move online by consumers therefore represents an excellent opportunity for all South African brands.