South Africa’s eCommerce industry is booming retailers were forced to take their operations online due to lockdown and safety restrictions. Now, with lockdown restrictions easing, the temptation is to throttle back on online efforts and go back to the ways of old.
That would be a big mistake, believes Warrick Kernes, founder of the Insaka eCommerce Academy. “Businesses really need to embrace this and make it part of their strategy.”
At this time, more South Africans are delving into online buying for everything from groceries and toiletries to hardware and digital devices. But it’s when you drill down into the statistics that the true uptake becomes apparent.
Just recently payment gateway PayFast released information regarding transactions during the January to June 2020 period. The data shows a 139% surge in eCommerce activity among 18-24-year-olds, a 55% hike in the 25-34 year bracket and an impressive 62% increase among those aged 55-64, when compared with 2019 figures.
Quite simply, says PayFast MD Jonathan Smit, “COVID-19 has accelerated industry growth”.
Encouragingly, these consumer habits are likely to persist long after COVID-19 has subsided. This should be a wake-up call for businesses that still do not fully recognise the long-term strategic value of harnessing their eCommerce potential.
“A lot of people have had a wake-up call, but now that lockdown levels are going down they are very promptly returning to the comfort of the old normal. But we shouldn’t ignore the lessons of COVID-19. This is the way of the future, so embrace it fully and make this part of your business,” says Kernes.
Growing interest in online retail
While Kernes asserts that eCommerce remains the “easiest and least risky way to start your own business”, he stresses that the sudden rush of people signing up to buy online is putting heavy pressure on service providers. “A lot of support services, such as couriers and payment gateways and software suppliers, are battling to keep up with the demand,” he explains.
Kernes’ advice to service providers at this time is to focus heavily on the customer service experience: “With many service providers currently battling to keep up with demand, some customers are being left high and dry. I always believe that managing customer expectations is key.”
While he urges consumers to be sensitive to the pressures inherent in the current market amidst this rapid shift in buying habits, Kernes believes providers that are capable of delivering great service will be rewarded with repeat business.
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