As South Africans have come to grips to life under lockdown, the use of ecommerce platforms for online shopping has become increasingly important.

Looking at these numbers is research firm GfK, with its latest Consumer Pulse report focusing on the online shopping habits of South Africans during lockdown level 3 in particular.

While we saw quite a bit of panic buying prior to and in the first couple of weeks of lockdown back in late-March and early-April, GfK notes that a high percentage of South Africans are preparing for the long haul when it comes to this global pandemic.

The long haul

To that end, 59 percent of the consumers surveyed expect to the pandemic to last for 12 months, and 34 percent predict it to last 18 months or longer.

Consequently, online shopping has seen a change, with 30 percent of consumers making a purchase in the week preceding the company’s survey (level 3 lockdown). This is up from 19 percent during lockdown level 5, according to GfK.

It also looks like home deliveries will be a go-to solution too, with 26 percent saying that they would be making use of it even after the pandemic.

One interesting statistic was the fact that only 16 percent of consumers said they would try to avoid shopping centres and malls.

We had suspected that the figure would be higher, but it may also be a case of physical shopping being unavoidable for some, especially given the premium you pay for deliveries, as well as the cost of data for browsing online.

Unsurprisingly, however, 48 percent said working from home would be a reality moving forward, with GfK’s research as far as what online shopping categories saw the biggest increases during this period.

Speaking of which, as you can see in the table below, IT, beauty and hygiene, small appliances and fashion will see a distinct rise in terms of online shopping use.

Category Pre-COVID COVID lockdown Post-COVID
Consumer Electronics 17 percent 21 percent 24 percent
Groceries 3 percent 4 percent 6 percent
IT 17 percent 31 percent 26 percent
Beauty & hygiene 5 percent 11 percent 13 percent
Small appliances 10 percent 20 percent 22 percent
Fashion 11 percent 21 percent 17 percent
Mobile phones 14. percent 17 percent 20 percent
DIY 8 percent 12 percent 15 percent

In GfK’s view then, it looks like consumers are readying for life where online shopping will play a key role in how products are purchased and reach the home.

New way of life

“The pandemic and the national lockdown have forced South Africans to change how they connect with the things they care about and how they experience life,” says Rachel Thompson, Insights director at GfK South Africa.

“Consumers are seemingly ready to stay in beyond the end of the pandemic to enjoy the investments they have made in DIY, home appliances, and consumer electronics for home entertainment,” she adds.

If ecommerce platforms are looking to make the most of the fact that consumers are turning to online shopping platforms, GfK advises that those experiences still retain a human element in some regard.

Here, 52 percent of consumers expect to be able to speak to a person on the phone for support, along with 44 percent wanting to speak to someone via a video chat tool, and 35 percent expect home installations as a service.

Added to this, security will be more crucial than ever, with 65 percent also seeking reassurances about the security of their personal information when using a mobile payment app.

“With 44 percent of consumers reporting that they will decrease spending after the pandemic, leading brands are thinking about how they can position themselves for growth in a difficult market,” notes Thompson.

“The key to succeeding with online shopping at a time that people are feeling vulnerable is to offer wraparound value and to build and reinforce trust through a more human brand experience. Established retail brands have an advantage since consumers find it easier to shop online with brands they already know and trust in uncertain times,” concludes the Insights director.

With online shopping having a larger lens on it as a result of COVID-19 and lockdown, the sites and ecommerce providers that thrive, will be those that make the most of the situation and offer value to the consumer.

To find out more about the GfK Consumer Pulse Report, head here.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]