Most S. African shoppers browse products online, but still prefer buying instore

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While online shopping offers a convenient alternative for consumers to purchase products, a lot of South Africans still prefer the age-old way of walking into a shop and buying directly from it, according to an annual consumer survey by PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PwC)

The auditing firm conducted online surveys with 19 000 respondents around the world, including 1 000 South Africans to explore global consumer trends.

While 53% of respondents said they browsed products in store and ended up buying online, 73% said they did the opposite and bought products they had seen online in retail shops. 64% of the latter group pointed out that the main motivator for buying in store was the ability to see, touch and try on things before buying them while 62% sighted having the item immediately as another key reason.

The survey also echoed data compiled by We Are Social about how, when using a mobile for online shopping, South Africans mostly browse online stores, rather than buying. “Mobile technology is a disruptor that continues to play a large role in the purchase journey, but currently in South Africa it is more of an instrument to get to the point of buying a product, rather than a tool for the actual purchase,” PwC said.

“More than half of South African shoppers (59%) have researched products on their mobile phones, while 63% have used them for price comparisons.”

“For the past several years, the story around retail stores was ‘showrooming,’ in which stores were places to display items for online purchase. However, this year’s survey results show that the online shop has also become a showroom where shoppers research and compare prices for later, in-store purchases,” says John Wilkinson, retail and consumer leader for PwC, South Africa. “As online shopping continues to grow at the expense of store visits, we expect the premium in the future may be on creating unique, brand-defining store and online experiences that keep consumers coming back.”

Mobile payment methods in South Africa still lag behind other markets in Africa and the rest of the world. Only 9% of respondents reported using mobile payments services, with 48% saying they are wary of having their credit card information hacked using a mobile phone.

The role of social media in local online shopping remains fairly small when it comes to purchasing, only 5% of respondents said they bought anything through social media accounts and links. But 50% said they use social to interact with their favourite brands and retailers and 59% said this interaction led them to buy more products.

Young people between 18 and 24 accounted for the most shoppers who tend to interact and therefore spend more on products via social media.

“With South Africa’s population being so young, the adoption of a more socially connected, digital retailing space where not only a product is sold but the customer receives a memorable experience, is imperative for any retailers looking to maintain or gain a competitive advantage over its competitors,” said Wilkinson.

[Image – Shutterstock]