World Wide Worx’s recent study, Online Retail in South Africa 2021, has revealed that South Africa’s online retail market hasn’t just steadily increased over the last two years, but that it has more than doubled. While the country’s e-commerce industry was expected to increase its share in the general retail sector, the significant upward trend was not initially projected.

But then not many of us projected a pandemic to hit. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, and the pull on consumers to try out shopping online, the online retail market rose 66% from R14.1 billion in 2018, to R30.2 billion in 2020. According to World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck, “It is also 50% higher than the total forecast for 2020 three years ago, when online retail in South Africa was expected to reach R20 billion by 2020.” 

As we hit the third wave, online retail now makes up 2.8% of all retail, compared to 1.4% in 2018. While the same trajectory of growth is not predicted for 2021, it is expected for online retail to continue its upward trend. Online sales are expected to hit R42 billion in 2021, taking its cut of the retail sector to 4%.


Which online retail categories saw the most growth?

The common categories of data, airtime, clothing and groceries saw a surge, but so too did online entertainment. Of all the respondents, 52% revealed that they had spent more money on virtual or streaming services during the pandemic than before, with 75% making use of online subscription services such as the streaming services of Netflix and Showmax.

Mastercard predicts the online shopping trend has become less of a trend, and now more a way of life for many consumers. Suzanne Morel, country manager at Mastercard reveals that 71% of the study’s respondents said they will continue to shop online, past the worst of the pandemic, with 68% of the respondents saying they used hard lockdown to learn the ins and outs of shopping online. Morel emphasizes that, “Now more than ever people need access to the digital economy”.

With the likes of DIY website builders offering a much simpler route to starting an online store and building an online presence, small businesses are easily able to fulfill the changing needs of consumers in 2021, and beyond.