Unpacking the Digitalisation of South African SMEs

In just a matter of months, the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world at the speed of light. Most businesses weren’t prepared and were forced to adapt to extraordinary challenges in order to continue with business operations –whilst battling to stay afloat.

In South Africa, many businesses have opted for mass work-from-home policies for their staff, as businesses navigate through new ways of working as a direct result of the pandemic.

Digital transformation has become the enabler, propelling businesses into the future. Technologies like collaboration and online meeting software have become a necessity through the transition to digitally enable remote working.

The acceleration saw a broader impact on commercial use of technology, transforming everything from the way businesses interact with prospects and customers, to the internal processes needed, not only to survive but thrive as business enterprises.


As we enter 2021, it is vital for organisations to shift from using digital for disaster recovery, to a more considered application of technology that will drive business benefits post-pandemic.

The digitalisation of South African SMEs

To assist businesses with ensuring their technology deployments deliver real commercial value, GetApp recently surveyed over 500 SME business leaders about their digitalisation and experiences in accelerating transformation initiatives.

The results suggested a need to focus on planning for the long-term, as well as working with technology partners that can support this forward-thinking approach.

61% of respondents cited social distancing as a driver for going online.

Despite the government’s decision to ban online shopping for all but essential purchases under Level 5 Lockdown, eCommerce has flourished with large numbers of consumers making online purchases for the first time. This indicates that these consumers were likely to increase their online spend in the future.

Almost half of South African businesses (46%) state that the majority of their business has been conducted virtually since the start of the pandemic:

  • 20% said all of their  business is now being conducted virtually
  • 46% said  most of their business is now being conducted virtually
  • 26% said most of their business still has to be done in-person
  • 6% said all of their business still has to be done in-person
  • 2% said their business was already fully virtual/ digital

South African businesses are seeing over 76% increase in digital traffic, whilst 18% have seen a decrease and 10% have had no change in the digital traffic. In addition to increased digital customer and prospect engagements, businesses confirm that 38% of new traffic has originated in regions or countries where they had not previously operated

Edited by Jenna Delport
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