Ina Opperman
Business Journalist
3 minute read
23 Nov 2020
12:59 pm

Getting to know the online consumer – meet the ODOmeter

Ina Opperman

A surprising finding is that almost half (45%) of online shoppers have never returned a product bought online.

Picture: iStock

All of us had moved our lives online in one way or another and online shopping was probably one of the ways that would stay. South African consumers had made the move to buying everything online and companies selling their wares online had to take note of who online consumers were, and what they expected and wanted.

This will be made much easier with a new annual index, the ODOmeter, which will help business to better understand South Africa’s online consumer behaviour.

The South African e-commerce industry has experienced a massive boom in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Rand Merchant Bank estimated that the value of e-commerce transactions in South Africa would surge by 150% to R225 billion by 2025.

Local e-tailer conducted a survey among 5806 of its shoppers. When people can shop all day, every day, their expectations and demands increase. “Our job is to stay on top of these expectations to continue giving consumers what they want, which is why we set out to conduct this research,” says Laurian Venter, director at

The aim of the index was to determine exactly what South African attitudes were regarding online shopping.

“The ODOmeter looks at everything from industry trends, to customer expectations, to online behavioural insights. We hope to build on it every year,” says Matthew Leighton from

The biggest draw card for online shopping in South Africa was convenience. The survey showed that about 62% of online shoppers were between the ages of 25 and 44, which meant that millennials and Gen Z were the drivers of online spending.

The majority (61%) of respondents said they shopped online because it was convenient, while 15% said online shopping provided a greater selection of items to choose from. Another 15% believed that things were generally cheaper online.

While the pandemic had a great influence on the recent e-commerce boom, only 5% of the respondents said they shopped online because it is safer.

Asked what they were shopping for, only 19% actually knew what they were looking for when logging on. According to the survey, 35% of online shoppers just browsed to see if anything caught their interest, while another 35% hunted for deals and bargains. This demonstrated how important it was for e-tail sites and apps to be engaging, user-friendly and speak directly to the consumer, Leighton said.

Online shoppers were also asked if they chose to buy products made in South Africa and about 45% said they were concerned about supporting local businesses when shopping online. Leighton says this demonstrated that South Africans had become increasingly aware of the impact that the pandemic had on local businesses. E-tailers could therefore do well to indicate these items were locally manufactured.

Not all the online shoppers decided to buy online during the pandemic. A total of 68% indicated that they had shopped online before the lockdown. The general consensus was that lockdown led to a marked rise in online shopping and this increased volume of sales naturally came with more online returns. Items that were returned most were clothing and apparel (47%), followed by tech (25%).

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

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