Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Online shopping behaviour: consumers prefer a mix of online and physical shopping

According to, the number of internet users in South Africa increased by 1.7 million (4.5%) from 2020 to 2021.


Online shopping behaviour changed completely at the beginning of lockdown with more people choosing to buy online and now, with lockdown measures relaxed, most of them prefer a mix of online and physical shopping.

South Africa has an estimated 38.19 million internet users, who spend more than 10 a day online and 90.2% of them have searched for a product or service to buy, according to the second ODOmeter Index published by local e-tailer OneDayOnly to better understand South Africa’s online consumer behaviour.

Last year’s index showed that 68% of respondents had shopped online before the onset of the pandemic. There was general consensus that lockdown led to a marked rise in online shopping behaviour.

ALSO READ: Getting to know the online consumer – meet the ODOmeter

Now that lockdown levels are less strict, 33% of respondents are still primarily shopping online, while the majority (61%) are splitting their shopping between online and in store. Only 6% have started shopping predominantly in store again.

Who are online shoppers?

The index identifies shortfalls and trends in the industry, what the customer wants from an e-tailer and which areas of the online consumer journey can be reviewed to improve the user experience. The respondents in the latest survey almost doubled, with 9,000 people taking part, including active online shoppers, infrequent online shoppers and non-shoppers.

The vast majority of online shoppers were between the ages of 25 and 54, but this time round shoppers between the ages of 25 and 34 were down by 4%, while shoppers between the ages of 35 and 54 increased by 2%.

“Although this may look like the younger age group is shopping less, it is possible that this could be linked to the effects of the long-term lockdown. It could also indicate the 35-54 year old bracket is becoming more comfortable with making more frequent purchases online,” says OneDayOnly director Laurian Venter.

ALSO READ: Brands shift marketing budgets, with more focus on e-commerce

What do online shoppers buy?

Technology is the most popular purchase at 41%, followed by fashion at 39% and appliances 32%.

“What surprised us was that alcohol only drew a 25% response, while we saw a significant spike in online sales both during and after the booze ban. This indicates a potential growth opportunity in online alcohol sales,” says OneDayOnly digital and performance marketing manager Jessica van der Westhuyzen.

More time to shop

With more than a third of the respondents saying they spend more than three hours a day on the internet, it is clear their online shopping behaviour has also changed. Venter says people who spend a significant amount of time online, especially if they work from home for the foreseeable future coupled with more hours spent at home, count in favour of e-commerce.

More time on the internet creates an environment where it is easier for customers to shop because it is more convenient. It also creates the opportunity for the e-tailing industry to sell more essential, day-to-day items consumers would otherwise buy in a physical store.

These “supermarket” trends were also identified globally, with volumes increasing during second lockdown compared to the first lockdown.

ALSO READ: How to do online grocery shopping during the coronavirus lockdown

How often do online shoppers shop?

Online shopping behaviour also changed in terms of how often people shop online. The survey indicated that most customers were returning to shop between once a week and once a month, up 3% from last year, with nearly two-thirds of the group falling into these brackets.

Preferred devices

According to the survey, 60% of respondents preferred to shop using their mobile phones. However, the team was surprised that online shoppers prefer websites to apps. Desktop preference sits at 36%, with only 4% of people saying that shopping on a tablet is their preference.

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Why some people do not shop online

Although more people than ever before now have access to the internet and they have more choice online, some people will still not shop online, with 50% of the respondents saying security trust is the main detractor.

“This shows the importance of continually educating new users about the level of compliance and governance our business undertakes with our secure payment options and why we have various payment platforms available, says Van Der Westhuyzen.

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