Digital Content

South Africans are shopping up a storm online, and particularly over the Christmas season. Figures from MWEB's 320 SafeShop-enabled Web sites show that for the period 1 November to 31 December 2006, some R243m was spent online, compared with just R26m in 2004, an increase of 837%. Furthermore, the number of transactions during this period increased from 38,902 in 2004, to 241,438 in 2006 – a 520% increase.

Anton Gaylard, GM for ISP at MWEB Business, says that while airline ticket purchases represented the majority of online transactions, SA’s leading online florist showed a 113% increase in sales, and online grocery shopping showed a 20% increase over the same period two years ago.

“We attribute the growth in online sales to several factors,” says Gaylard. “First, South Africans are becoming more and more comfortable with purchasing online and are happy with the safety and security of the process. This means they are also spending larger amounts per transaction, as we can see with the 51% increase in the average transaction amount from R668 to R1 010 over the two years.

“Secondly, businesses are realising the additional revenue that can be gained from online transactions, and are improving the quality of their e-commerce enabled Web sites. In addition, more and more smaller businesses are seeing the benefits of online shopping, which means that there are now more companies offering their products for purchase online.

“Finally, because consumers are also able to do research prior to making a purchasing decision, online Christmas shopping is a much simpler and less time-consuming process than comparing stores physically. In the busiest time of the year, this is a valuable aspect, which saves time and effort. Most Web sites list product features and comparisons, and prospective buyers are able to evaluate various products by simply launching their Web browsers.”

Gaylard added that Christmas sales are also making up a larger proportion of annual online sales than before. In 2006, MWEB’s SafeShop-enabled sites recorded some R865m in annual sales, of which 28% were Christmas purchases. This is compared with annual sales of R157m in 2004, of which 16% were recorded during the Christmas period.

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