The changing face of retail

The local online shopping pool has increased drastically in size since 2014, with savvy South African consumers taking advantage of this quick, easy way to scratch their retail itch. E-commerce in South Africa is to reach a milestone this year, by reaching 1% of overall retail, according to research by Arthur Goldstuck of World Wide Worx.

This amounts to consumers spending over R9-billion online. But by the same token, the average busy consumer doesn’t want to waste time on a site that doesn’t provide enough information or, worse, under-delivers.

The challenging economic climate in South Africa due to a weaker rand, increasing costs of energy and higher interest rates, has added pressure to consumers. Because of this 3,2=million South Africans are shopping online, and are driven by lower product costs, faster and flexible delivery and safer ways to pay.

“Millennials are the main online shopper, and most of them do research before making a purchase,” explains Michael Richards, MD of SiteMeUp Online Marketing.

“This means that well written content with thoughtful planning into user navigation is required to improve the user’s experience.”

A well-designed site also needs to carry across the companies brand message quickly in order to give the user peace of mind that they are on the correct site and they will find what they are looking for.

“Our research has shown that 50% of beauty shoppers don’t know which brand they want to purchase, so we have channels of communication set up to answer any queries, and help them make an informed choice,” says Dr Nikolic, executive director of, a new online store selling high-quality skincare products at competitive prices.

Goldstuck states that South African ecommerce is relatively conventional, and has not seen the level of innovation brought to bear on most product categories in major Western markets. This indicates that there is tremendous potential in this market for new business models and even underexposed product categories.

With this in mind South African ecommerce entrepreneurs’ can tap into the over 3 million online shoppers in South Africa with their innovative and stress-free Web sites.

One of the most important global trends in e-commerce is the focus on the customers’ journey and ensuring that their needs are met from start to finish.

“We want our customers to feel as if they have been given the same personalised service as if they’d been for a consult and received the advice from an expert in the skincare field,” says Dr Nikolic.

“The personal touch is very important to us and we feel that we meet that need for individual attention with the Face2Face skin assessment and the personal contact with me. I check each assessment and examine every photo sent to me before providing a tailor-made skin regime.”

Another concern of the online shopper is having peace of mind that their personal details will not be used fraudulently. A recognised and secure payment gateway is essential. Many Web sites are Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encrypted and use a strong protocol version and cipher suite.

Credit card payments are processed on a Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)-compliant gateway with 3D secure transactions, where users require a One Time Pin (OTP) to complete the transaction.

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