To shop or not to shop on­line?

Weekend Witness - - Opinion -

TO­DAY sees the re­lease of new re­search that ap­pears to place a huge STOP sign in the road to on­line re­tail.

The an­nual MasterCard On­line Shop­ping Be­hav­iour Study re­veals that the pro­por­tion of highly ac­tive In­ter­net users in South Africa that are shop­ping on­line has fallen for a sec­ond year in a row.

At the end of 2013, only 51,6% of these users were shop­ping on­line, com­pared to 54% in 2012 and 57,9% in 2011. What’s hap­pen­ing here?

Af­ter all, World Wide Worx re­search shows that on­line shop­ping is grow­ing at more than 30% a year, and the fig­ure is con­firmed by most of the ma­jor on­line re­tail­ers.

The se­cret lies in the manic growth we are see­ing in the num­ber of highly ac­tive In­ter­net users. In 2012, ac­cord­ing to World Wide Worx data, that num­ber was at 3,9 mil­lion. In 2013, it leaped to 4,6 mil­lion. The 54% of 3,9 mil­lion users in 2012 amounted to 2,1 mil­lion shop­pers. At the end of 2013, 51,6% of 4,6 mil­lion users gives us 2,37 mil­lion people shop­ping on­line in South Africa.

This means that half the people who are ready to shop on­line are not do­ing so.

Their rea­sons are laid bare in the MasterCard re­search: of those not shop­ping on­line, 42% say they are not sure mak­ing trans­ac­tions on­line is se­cure or safe.

That’s up from 38% a year ago, but the pro­por­tion­ate in­crease also comes off the back of that big in­crease in the to­tal pie. It trans­lates into a rise from about 1,4 mil­lion to 1,9 mil­lion in the num­ber people who could have been shop­ping on­line but are scared off.

About a quar­ter of re­spon­dents say they are con­cerned about be­ing able to ex­change or re­turn goods, while a sim­i­lar pro­por­tion are wor­ried about time taken for de­liv­er­ies.

All of these re­sponses add up to lack of con­fi­dence in the on­line medium as a re­tail chan­nel.

Con­sid­er­ing that more than half of those who don’t shop on line say they pre­fer the phys­i­cal store ex­pe­ri­ence, it is clear that the ad­van­tages of on­line shop­ping have not made enough of an im­pact to over­come the neg­a­tives.

In the past, it was easy to blame lack of In­ter­net ac­cess and poor broad­band, but those have be­come only ex­cuses, as the South African In­ter­net user base passes the 14 mil­lion mark and heads, in the next few years, for the mag­i­cal fig­ure of one­third of the pop­u­la­tion us­ing the In­ter­net.

Given that close to one in 10 South Africans is now an ex­pe­ri­enced In­ter­net user, but only one in 20 is shop­ping on­line, the chal­lenge lies else­where.

Re­tail­ers, along with fi­nan­cial and In­ter­net ser­vice providers, need to make a con­certed ef­fort both to ed­u­cate the mar­ket, and to build its con­fi­dence in a medium that holds the prom­ise of mak­ing all our lives eas­ier.

— Fin24.

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