Picture: 123RF/David Sandonato
Picture: 123RF/David Sandonato

South Africans are expected to spend R45.3bn on online shopping this year, up 19% from 2017. Sixty percent of that will go towards overseas retailers, leaving a projected R18bn for local sites, according to the fourth annual PayPal and Ipsos cross-border e-commerce report.

Consumer shopping behaviour in over 31 markets was surveyed. The study reveals that more than 69% of adults who were active online in SA had shopped online in the past 12 months.

The report predicts that online shopping will increase even more over the next 24 months. It is forecast to reach R61.9bn in 2020.

Over 75% of adults surveyed had one reason in common for shopping online — convenience.

Efi Dahan, general manager for PayPal in Africa, Middle East and Eastern Europe, says advances such as mobile technology and access to data have made it easier for South Africans to shop online.

For SA consumers, the three most popular categories of online purchases are clothing, entertainment and education, and tickets for events.

Online shopping for groceries is still in its early stages in SA, with only two major supermarkets offering the service: Pick n Pay and Woolworths.

According to Pick n Pay’s integrated annual report for 2018, it has experienced a 70% increase in customers visiting its website from a mobile device since it launched a new site to facilitate a "quick and easy" shopping experience.

The company has dedicated online warehouses in the Western Cape and Gauteng to improve online shopping. It has delivery fleets with extended services for high-demand areas.

Other major retailers with online stores in SA include Dis-Chem, Clicks and Mr Price.

OneCart, a company that offers consumers who shop from multiple stores a single cart and delivery charge, launched in certain suburbs of Johannesburg earlier this year. It promises to shop and deliver within a two-hour window. It supports Woolworths, Pick n Pay, Dis-Chem, FitChef and its own Pets and Booze offerings.

OneCart’s fleet consists of shoppers and drivers. Some shoppers also play the role of a driver.

"At present we employ 16 full-time shoppers and about 12 full-time drivers," says OneCart CEO Lynton Peters. "We have also recently partnered with a third-party courier company, which has given us access to over 1,000 drivers countrywide.

"We promise delivery within two hours of your order, or at your preferred delivery time later in the day. On rare occasions there may be something that is beyond our control, such as unusually heavy traffic, a car breakdown, long queues in the stores and so forth.

"If for any reason the order may be late, our support staff contact customers immediately to inform them of the new delivery time. Customers are then kept in the loop every step of the way."

OneCart recently started operating in Cape Town as well, and co-founder Ariel Navarro says it was always on the cards for the business to be a national brand.

"Cape Town was the next logical step, given the consumer market and mindset, and the city’s international appeal."

At its launch, OneCart was run by a team of three, consisting of Peters and his partners, COO Navarro and chief technical officer Tay Zombulovich.

"Today we have a team of 38 people, who include technical, operational and customer support staff as well as trained shoppers and drivers. We have recently moved into new premises in Sandton," says Peters.

"We have about 1,200 active monthly users, and the number is growing each month. The e-mail database that has signed up with OneCart is much larger than this," he says.

The start-up secured seed funding from a private international investor earlier in the year, and has yet to report any profits.

"Our primary focus is first to build a business that meets a need in society while evolving the traditional method of shopping," says Peters.

"For us, profit is secondary in the short term."