South Africa’s connected consumers are ripe for the picking when it comes to engaging with retailers online. The Nielsen Future of Grocery report, which polled 30 000 online respondents in 60 countries, was designed to understand how digital technology would impact on retail in future.
“Despite varying levels of network infrastructure, access challenges and modern trade development for markets in Africa, overall Internet penetration is on the increase and the most successful modern and traditional trade retailers and manufacturers will be those at the intersection of the physical and virtual worlds, leveraging technology to satisfy shoppers how, when and where they want to shop,” says Nielsen Africa retailer services and e-commerce managing director, Harsh Sarda.
“A key aspect of meeting these needs is in-store digital enablement options that bring the ease, convenience and personalisation of online to brick-and-mortar stores. Instituting digital strategies into the in-store experience is therefore not just a nice-to-have for key consumer markets; these options can increase dwell time, engagement levels, basket-size and shopper satisfaction,” he adds.
The report showed consumers don’t shop entirely online or offline, but take a “blended approach’, using whatever channels suits their needs.
The use of online or mobile coupons proved popular in South Africa, with 13% of local respondents saying they already use them and 52% saying they would definitely be willing to use them in future.
The smartphone revolution to inform the shopping trip is also steadily gaining momentum and may well be a contributing factor to 60% of respondents saying they are already using or are definitely willing to use retailer apps or loyalty apps on their mobile phone to receive information or offers, while in store. This willingness to interact with digital tools is further evidenced by 60% of respondents already using or keen to use store Wi-Fi via their mobile phone to receive more information or offers while in-store.
“At present, shoppers do all of the work putting the pieces together to arrive at their final purchase decision. In a competitive retail environment, retailers and manufacturers can add value and differentiation by providing digital tools to help consumers take control of their shopping experience, while also increasing sales potential. Mobile in particular can tip the scales in favour of increased shopper control, empowering them to shape the shopping experience more than ever before,” says Sarda.
A cross-continental reality to consider is that with modern trade presence still limited in most African markets (except in South Africa), the omni-channel experience for shoppers in these particular markets, is more between the traditional and mobile online space (especially for the younger generation). “As such, in-store digital is less developed at informal, independent points of sale. South Africa is an exception to this and is therefore a key market where digital in-store marketing is a vital implementation opportunity for retailers,” he says.
South African consumers certainly want to use technology to make their shopping faster, easier and more efficient with 71% of local respondents saying they would like to be able to avoid altogether by having their bank payment automatically charged as they walk out the store. Fifty five per cent often visit the store for the additional services they provide (banking, pharmacy, telecoms etc).
Despite self-checkout being one of the more mature flexible retailing options included in the survey, 65% of local respondents said they are already using or willing to use hand held store scanners to purchase products as they shop to avoid checkout lines, with 68% of respondents using or willing to use, self-service checkouts to reduce checkout time.
Who is shopping online?
Overall the global growth of online grocery sales has been driven in part by the maturation of digital natives, the consumers who grew up with digital technology (the Millennials and now Generation Z). These consumers have an unprecedented enthusiasm for and comfort with technology, and online shopping is a deeply ingrained behaviour.
Current usage of six e-commerce options (home delivery, in-store pickup, drive-through pickup, curbside pickup, virtual supermarket and automatic subscription) is greatest among the youngest respondents, and they are also the most willing to use all of the e-commerce options in the future.
For example on a global level, 30% of Millennials (ages 21-34) and 28% of Generation Z (ages 15-20) respondents say they’re ordering groceries online for home delivery, compared with 22% of Generation X (ages 35-49), 17% of Baby Boomers (ages 50-64) and 9% of Silent Generation (ages 65+) respondents.
In a South African context, Sarda says overcoming delivery and payment challenges are critical for developing markets, “where most on-line stores are adopting cash-on-delivery models to enable digital convenience shopping in high density/urban clusters in Africa.”
A smaller number of consumers are using “click and collect” services in which consumers order groceries online for pickup at a store or other location. For example, in South African retailer Makro will soon launch a click and collect delivery option for its online sales, via conveniently located lockers at intermediary locations like garage forecourts, office parks and fast food outlets.
What are we buying online and offline?
An interesting insight from the research is that virtual baskets don’t necessarily mirror physical ones. In fact, the relationship between the two is often an inverse one. Consumers are embracing the idea of buying certain packaged goods online, but some categories are simply better suited for e-commerce than others.
Sarda points out that product assortment is a key driver for e-com purchases among shoppers in Africa with the availability of international brand selections; a key motivator for shoppers (as the same may not yet be available in the brick-mortar space)
So which categories have the most potential for digital success and which are best suited for in-store? Generally, stock-up categories like personal care and household products are prime selections for e-commerce inventory, while immediate-use items like fresh and frozen foods, condiments and beverages will be slower in adoption. However, general rules do not hold in every market.
In addition, there is tremendous opportunity among niche consumer segments—especially in the healthy eating space and other categories that may be more difficult to find on in-store shelves.
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