Since the launch of the PriceCheck platform in 2006, local e-commerce has grown from a place to peddle consumer electronics to vast online storefronts where consumers can buy anything from washing powder to apple cider vinegar. Fueled by a combination of technology development, digitally savvy consumers and competition among both new and established retailers, South African e-commerce is gaining momentum as product ranges widen.

Kevin Tucker, founder and CEO of PriceCheck, Africa’s largest product and financial services platform, says that over the past ten years, the most surprising element of local e-commerce has been the ‘glacial speed’ at which traditional retailers have moved online -and the blunders they have made when eventually arriving.

“For example, starting to sell online, and then removing the online store entirely [Exclusive Books]; and going partially online, but not selling everything [Makro],” he explains. “Over ten years, we’ve seen a great deal of innovation from the smaller players, but very little from traditional, established retailers. It looks like 2017 will be the year that this all changes and most big retailers will have a presence online.”

Price wars

Tucker notes that one of the major drivers of e-commerce and consumer adoption has been the growth in the range of products sold online.

“However, this expansion would only have been possible with the large investments made into marketing by the likes of major players, and”

In his view, the price (and advertising) war between Kalahari and Takealot in 2014/2015 arguably ‘did more for e-commerce adoption than anything else over the last 10 years’.

Testament to local e-commerce adoption, the PriceCheck service has reflected the increasing diversity of products being sold online. To date, the platform has had well over 47,000,000 products listed and has attracted close to 300,000,000 pageviews.

In 2015, on the back of the famed Black Friday retail frenzy, PriceCheck had a record 100 000 visitors in one day. Among the usual crowd favourites of consumer electronics, one of the most widely sold products on retail’s biggest day was Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar…perhaps due to the tummy aches associated with online binge shopping.

Black Friday is equated with promotional sales at major US retailers following Thanksgiving celebrations, and has caught on among South African consumers hungry for bargains. PriceCheck has catered for this annual retail mania by giving online shoppers access to some of the lowest prices available – further stoking the fire of Black Friday.

Most popular products purchased online 2006 – 2015

Over the past 10 years, PriceCheck has tracked the most popular categories on its platform, starting with digital cameras in 2006 and 2007. By 2008, smartphones had overtaken the photography addiction, with the Apple iPhone 8GB garnering 1500 views on the site since launch.

In 2010, the year of the Soccer World Cup, flights to Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth dominated, along with flat screen TVs.

Coinciding with the London Olympics, 2012 also saw consumers comparing prices for LCD and LED TVs. Although smartphones were still the most popular product in 2014, HTC phones enjoyed a 500% increase in queries.

In 2014 it was evident that consumers were preparing for blackouts, and generator sales dominated that year.

“One can certainly gain insight into consumers’ primary addictions and prevailing concerns by observing product searches online, and savvy e-commerce merchants are driving online search by offering an increasingly diverse range of products at relatively low prices,” concludes Tucker.

The PriceCheck Tech and E-Commerce Awards takes place on 22 September, 2016 at The Westin Hotel in Cape Town. Book your tickets or a table for your company to celebrate SA’s e-commerce stars.


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