Three online shopping trends to pay attention to

The safety of digital payments remains a concern among online shoppers across Africa. This is according to Mastercard’s 2014 Online Shopping Behaviour Study, which tracks consumer attitudes and activity online.

The survey was conducted in 11 countries across Africa and the Middle East between November 2013 and January 2014.

1. Security remains a concern

The survey found that South African shoppers feel secure payment methods are crucial when purchasing goods online. Some 42% of respondents cited concern around the safety of online transactions as the reason they had not shopped online in the last three months, up from 4% last year.

Security was also cited by 69% of Nigerian respondents as the reason they had not shopped online in the last three months, followed by 59% of those in Kenya, 47% in Egypt and 43% in Morocco.

When asked how online shopping could be improved, 53% of South African respondents suggested assurances that their transactions are secure, while 52% recommended protection against crooked websites. Another 48% suggested guarantees by financial transaction companies or banks that websites are safe.

Despite these concerns over security, 69% of South African respondents had made at least one purchase online in the last three months, with 87% being satisfied with their experience.

“Consumers want to shop online but they are still nervous about doing so,” says Philip Panaino, division president for Mastercard South Africa, adding that the survey confirms that mandating secure card payments is important to ensuring the sustainability of South Africa’s e-commerce industry.

Retaining a human element in the purchasing process reassures shoppers – 82% of respondents stated that customer service via online chat or telephone is important when shopping online.

Retailers should also educate shoppers, particularly inexperienced internet users and first-time customers, about the security measures in their online stores, says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx.

2. Online shopping is becoming more mainstream

The study found that South Africa’s e-commerce sector is growing. Only 24% of local online spend was on foreign sites, down from 27% last year and 33% in 2012.

Of all five markets surveyed, 53% of Moroccan respondents use the internet primarily for online shopping, slightly higher than 52% of South Africans surveyed, followed by 44% in Egypt and just 4% in Kenya.

“The products that consumers are buying suggest that online shopping is becoming increasingly mainstream, which also bodes well for local retailers,” says Goldstuck. “No longer is online shopping confined to books and DVDs, plane tickets and apps.”

Across all five markets surveyed, travel, clothing, accessories and electronics are the products most often bought online. South African shoppers buying groceries (38%), clothing (34%) and personal care (20%) brands online increased by 7%, 8% and 6% respectively.

“The increases are encouraging as shopping for goods in these categories is more complex. Selecting clothing, for example, requires trust in the retailers’ garment and sizing descriptions,” says Goldstuck.

3. Growth in mobile shopping

Mobile shopping is gaining traction in Africa and 56% of respondents in Kenya and Nigeria had shopped or intended to shop online via their mobile phones. This was followed by 55% of Egyptian consumers, 33% of South African shoppers and 25% of Moroccans.

“When contemplating the future of online shopping in South Africa, and given that 96% of consumers who own a mobile phone access the internet this way, it is unsurprising that mobile shopping is attracting tremendous interest,” Goldstuck says.

The most popular items purchased using a mobile phone included mobile phone apps, music downloads, movie tickets, computer software and coupon/deal site offers.

“Mobile phones are still used frequently to research products and compare prices before purchase in a physical store, but there is a marked increase in the use of mobile banking apps, digital wallets and in-app shopping which indicates increased comfort with the technology,” says Goldstuck.