How to provide the best CX for online shoppers in South Africa

South African eCommerce brands are leveraging technology to drive sales and better engage with customers, and the numbers are a testament to this trend. Total growth in online retail amounted to 66% in 2020, at a value of R30.2 billion. Grocery purchases increased by 54%, and clothing by 56%.

With physical stores resuming business as usual, the growth of the eCommerce market has slowed down. That said, the economic value of the sector continues to increase. A study conducted by World Wide Worx with Mastercard found the total growth for online retail in South Africa in 2022 came to 35%, bringing the total of online retail in South Africa to R55 billion. This comes after 40% growth in 2021 to the value of R42.3 billion.

Omnichannel retailers are experiencing exceptionally high growth figures, although their online gains have been partly offset by declines in foot traffic in their brick-and-mortar stores.

The top online stores in South Africa

While their half-year revenue growth contracted from 63% in 2022 to 13% between their 2022 and 2023 financial years, remains the market’s biggest and most extensive eCommerce player. The pending arrival of Amazon in the South African market is anticipated to lead to a further contraction in Takealot’s revenue. Other significant market players include fashion store Superbalist, and omnichannel food and clothing retailer Woolworths, whose online sales jumped by 48% during the 2022 half-year. These three stores account for 15% of South Africa’s online revenue.

Grocery retailers’ efforts to harness app-based technology during the pandemic continue to pay off. Sixty60 by Checkers reported a 150% increase in sales in 2022, processing and delivering up to 10,000 orders per day. Direct competitor Pick n Pay and higher-  the Woolies Dash service by Woolworths report similar successes.

South African eCommerce platforms are changing

The 2022 South African Digital Consumer Experience Report shed interesting light on the changing habits of the country’s online shoppers.

While most still make their purchases on local websites and retailer apps, it’s interesting to note that social selling is becoming an integral part of the sales process. Sales through Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp account for 10% of all eCommerce sales.

Sales through Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp account for 10% of all eCommerce sales.

It’s all about visibility and affordability

The Digital Consumer Experience report notes that online product research, reviews, and discovery influence significant sales numbers for groceries, fashion, medicine, toiletries, furniture, and hardware.

Online research, reviews, and discovery influences up to 25% of retail trade for the most significant categories and are much more effective than conventional marketing tactics such as adverts, flyers, and in-store advice.

A spike in interest rates and fuel prices is also changing spending habits. The report found that consumers venture out to stores half as much as they used to – a trend that is likely to fuel their online research and discovery. Bargain hunting and promo purchases drive sales, and shoppers prefer to support online retailers that provide the best overall basket.

More interesting findings by the 2022 South African Digital Consumer report

  • Household furniture, appliances, and fashion are the retail spending categories with the highest rates of online product research and discovery
  • Consumers’ desire for reliability trumps all factors driving online success, with 72% of participants in the study citing it as the most critical factor in driving repeat purchase

Providing the best online shopping in South Africa

The continued success of online retail brands is entirely dependent on their ability to keep up with consumers changing buying habits. Online retailers that continue to limit their number of customer engagement channels risk losing out on valuable opportunities to tap into the growth in South African eCommerce.

It will soon no longer be enough to ensure a desirable in-store or online shopping experience. Empowered consumers will seek – and find – retailers that prioritize customer satisfaction. And as more consumers have modern communication channels like Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, they expect retailers to engage with them on their channels of choice.

By meeting your customers where they are and whenever they want to engage with your brand, you will not only grow your customer base. It will lead to customer satisfaction, resulting in long-term customer loyalty, and you will ultimately reduce customer acquisition costs.

Going omnichannel for retail

In addition to ensuring that your business is available wherever your customers prefer to engage with your brand, it also is critical to ensure that all your customer experience measures are aligned and integrated by following an omnichannel approach to your customer experience. Using a different service provider for each platform will likely result in a fragmented approach that will be counterproductive to your integrated CX strategy.

Online shoppers expect consistency in the buying experience as they switch between platforms. For example, a customer might fill their basket while switching between a website and an app, before proceeding with an enquiry via WhatsApp. They will expect whoever they engage with to have already had oversight of their customer journey to ensure a fast and satisfactory resolution.

This is why it’s essential to look for an omnichannel service provider that can ensure a seamless customer journey through all platforms in your CX strategy. Going omnichannel will enable you to:

  • Harness data to plot a personalized customer journey, resulting in minimized cart abandonment and repeat purchases
  • Embrace automation to deliver contextual interactions with customers on social media platforms or whatever their preferred channels might be
  • Manage customer service “in the cloud” so, all agents have real-time access to purchase behavior, order information, past purchases, home store preferences, and more. From an automated assistant service to speaking directly, customers want interconnected channels. And this is where the digital contact center takes center stage. stage.
  • Engage on multiple channels such as SMS, email, and automated chatbots to enhance customer service technology capabilities, freeing up call agents to only focus on the most pressing customer issues
  • Connect via Artificial Intelligence (AI) to augment further the potential of customer service and contact center management

On the social shopping front, businesses can maximise their social media strategies to increase customer engagement on messaging channels. For example, a Facebook or Instagram post or ad can connect to their WhatsApp channel so consumers can inquire about products within seconds, accelerating the customer journey and sales.

With the local introduction of international players like Amazon and a wider variety of customer engagement platforms, online retailers will come under increasing pressure to delight their customers with responsive, personalized, efficient service.

Keeping up with the competition will entail staying up to date with changing shopping habits and ensuring that all your customer touchpoints are integrated into a single, cloud based CX platform.

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Mar 8th, 2023
5 min read