The future of online shopping in South Africa

As a result of Covid-19, many people have lost their jobs, leaving us with an unemployment rate that is currently the highest in the world. Some of these people converted into entrepreneurs and sole proprietors to try to survive and provide for their families. During lockdown Level 5, alcohol manufacturers started selling directly to the consumer. Many other industries followed as the consumer found online shopping to be safer and more convenient. In some cases, even more affordable. Many shops were not allowed to open, and business owners started changing their websites into online stores. We see an increase of 51% in new online sellers.

As one of the major payment portals in South Africa, Payfast recently released its findings regarding the e-commerce industry from March 2020 to March 2021. 

Based on new registrations, the fastest growing industries were:

Food (+179%)

Baby (+122%)

Home (+92%)

Beauty (+75%)

Clothing (+72%)

Based on transaction volumes of businesses that started transacting in 2020, the largest growth industry was:

Beer, Wine & Liquor 


Watches, clocks & jewellery 

Pet supplies. 

Unique buyers also increased with the highest growth rate of 218% were seen between 18 - 24 year-olds.

Previously the online buyer could specifically be profiled along with age group, gender, income, etc. But since Covid-19 changed the world with the ever-changing rules, regulations, and health protocols, it is considered now to be an open space for online sellers as almost everyone is buying online. 

This makes it exciting news for the industry. Yet, it is always considered to know your business to make informed decisions and to plan your future within the main players to seal yourself for success. Considering the pros and cons of online shopping, it remains hard work to succeed and the execution of an online store is essential. But besides the general layout, easy functionality, and quality of product/service, what can be done to ensure that your online store will thrive? Well, consider the following in your planning and execution when designing your store:

An increase of 143% on mobile devices vs 54% on desktops has been noticed based on payments made.

Due to this huge increase in online activity, even the payment methods changed:

QR or Scan to pay (+412%), 

Card payment (+99%) and 

EFT (+91%)

The average basket size per transaction value in 2020 decreased to R817.42 per basket, but more transactions were made to various online stores.

Even the payment methods changed considerably in this time period. We see the following as the new payment trends in 2021:

Contactless Payments

Scan to pay

Flexible payment options

Made for mobile

Social Commerce

In general, the following factors still hinder the role of E-commerce and the online shopping experience as a whole:

Lack of internet access

Poor delivery mechanisms

Lack of consumer trust

Low purchasing power

Language barriers


In a highly competitive market, it is crucial to do all the right things to get the most possible exposure, which may ultimately lead to more sales, higher income and profit.

One of the companies that are currently one of the fastest growing online marketing platforms in SA, is OWEB. They came into the market as a disruptor of the high priced industry, offering an affordable monthly subscription fee instead of pay per click, pay per view or any commission per sale. It also offers online store owners for the first time to have their brands showcased on the same level as huge national brands. We have seen that more than 15 million South African consumers love to use the platform as it is convenient, user friendly and ensuring they find what they’re looking for. It also sorts prices from lowest to highest, and also checks for product availability.