Launches Annual E-commerce Index ODOmeter

The no-frills guide to what South African shoppers are doing online

The South African e-Commerce industry has experienced a massive boom in 2020. Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Rand Merchant Bank estimates that the value of e-commerce transactions in South Africa will surge 150% to R225 billion by 2025.

To better understand South Africa’s online consumer behaviour behind this rapidly expanding sector, local e-tailer has launched an annual index, which was conducted among 5806 shoppers. Speaking yesterday at the inaugural survey launch, Laurian Venter, director at highlighted that 24/7 shopping capability has given rise to increased customer expectations and demands. “Our job is to stay on top of these expectations in order to continue giving consumers what they want, which is why we set out to conduct this research.”

Speaking at the event,’s Matthew Leighton explained that in a year where nothing has made sense, this informative and insightful research lets us know exactly where South Africans stand with online shopping. “The ODOmeter looks at everything from industry trends, to customer expectations, to online behavioural insights – and we hope to build on it every year,” said Leighton.

Speaking around some of the key findings, Leighton noted that the biggest drawcard to online shopping in South Africa appears to be convenience. “According to the survey, around 62% of online shoppers are in the 25 – 44 year age bracket, which tells us that millennials and Gen Z are driving online spending. The majority (61%) of respondents said they shop online due to the convenience, while 15% believe online shopping provides a greater selection of items to choose from, and another 15% reckon things are generally cheaper online.

“Interestingly, despite the undeniable correlation between our recent e-commerce boom and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, only 5% of respondents said they shop online because it’s safer than physical shopping,” he added.

In terms of what they’re shopping for, Leighton revealed that only 19% of shoppers actually know what they’re looking for when logging on. “Our research shows us that 35% of online shoppers just browse to see if anything strikes their interest, while another 35% hunt for deals and bargains. This goes to show just how important it is for e-tail sites and apps to be engaging, user-friendly, and speak directly to the consumer.

“We also found it interesting that around 45% of consumers were concerned about whether they were supporting local businesses while shopping online. It may be that South Africans have become increasingly aware of the impact that the pandemic has had on local businesses. It may be prudent for e-tailers to place more emphasis on the locally manufactured items in their catalogue.”

While 68% of respondents had shopped online before the onset of the pandemic, the general consensus was that lockdown led to a marked rise in online shopping. Leighton added that this increased volume of sales, naturally came with more online returns. “Unsurprisingly, clothing and apparel are the most returned items (47%), followed by tech (25%).”

However, one surprising finding was that almost half (45%) of online shoppers have never returned a product bought online.

“In terms of what’s next, stimulation and growth are more important than ever before for the South African economy. We believe that e-commerce, which has shown an immense rise and vast untapped potential, can make a real contribution in this regard. In addition, Black Friday – which is just around the corner – is the biggest opportunity for the e-commerce industry to contribute towards economic reinvigoration,” he concluded.

The ODOmeter will be conducted on a quarterly to assess the shifts and changes in this rapidly evolving sector.

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