Top e-commerce trends for 2023/2024 in South Africa

Top e-commerce trends for 2023/2024 in South Africa
As a digital marketer or e-commerce business owner, you don’t need a crystal ball to predict the future or forecast projections regarding the continual rise and upward trajectory of online shopping. The impact of evolving consumer behaviour, social changes and technological advancements have all influenced the current growth spurt in online shopping, and the resulting transformation is massive. 

With the South African e-commerce landscape ready to explode, retailers are continually needing to meet the ever-increasing demands of consumers by staying up-to-date on the latest industry trends. 

As a SA-based performance marketing agency, we keep our fingers on the pulse of market trends. According to our insider knowledge, here are the top 6 e-commerce trends that are shaping the local industry that will help you and your team optimise your strategy over the next 6-24 months.

#1 Influencer marketing with UGC

Strategically and timeously leveraging user-generated content (UGC) is one of the hottest emerging e-commerce trends in South Africa to drive brand engagement, enhance authenticity and boost sales. This involves partnering with influencers on social media who have large, dedicated followings and asking them to create content that specifically promotes a product or brand. 

By incorporating user-generated content into the mix, brands can tap into the power of their customers – who serve as brand advocates – by creating and sharing authentic content. 

Influencers have the unique social power to sway consumer purchasing decisions through their endorsements and relatable content which will include product reviews, sponsored posts, videos and demonstrations. One of the simplest starting points for local businesses is partnering influencer marketing with video ad campaigns – both on Google and social media – to boost product/brand discovery and create an authentic connection with your target market. 

The seamless combination of UGC and influencer marketing is a transformational strategy, creating a  powerful synergy that has the potential to not only foster brand loyalty but also amplify reach across the South African e-commerce landscape. 

#2 Omnichannel integration

The industry hype around omnichannel marketing tactics is not losing momentum. As local brands strive to deliver an ideal user experience that meets the evolving expectations of customers, it remains a top e-commerce trend.

21st-Century consumers no longer see a distinction between online and offline channels and they expect a unified and consistent experience across all touchpoints. 

By embracing omnichannel integration, e-commerce businesses in South Africa can position themselves at the forefront of the industry, setting a new standard for customer-centricity and paving the way for success in the digital age.

A holistic omnichannel integration creates a seamless and consistent brand presence across various channels – physical stores, e-commerce websites, mobile apps, and social media platforms – enabling customers to easily transition between channels. 

It will also encompass various consumer-friendly and personalised marketing techniques such as loyalty programs that are valid both in-store and online (enabling customers to earn and redeem rewards seamlessly), tailored messaging based on specific customer preferences and behaviour,  the flexibility and convenience of click-and-collect options, and easy return and exchange policies (online or at a nearby store). 

Customer satisfaction and user experience – ensuring customers feel valued and supported throughout their journey – will always be a key determining factor in building brand loyalty. Omnichannel marketing speaks directly to this. 

#3 Conversational AI

The future of online shopping involves the strategic intersection between technology and conversation to revolutionize the way we shop. 

The explosion of chat commerce and conversational AI as a top e-commerce trend has infiltrated every corner of the digital marketing industry; revolutionizing the way businesses engage with their customers and redefining the ‘how.’ 

By combining artificial intelligence and natural language processing, conversational AI becomes an innovative game-changing tool that assists in enhancing personalised customer engagement and boosting sales. 

Virtual assistants – such as Alexa and Google Assistant – are also gaining popularity in the e-commerce realm; enabling customers to search for products, place orders and track deliveries. 

Conversational A! in e-commerce marketing

But this is where WhatsApp Business is rising to the top as a platform where South African businesses can leverage the power of conversational AI to automate customer support, provide personalized recommendations, and facilitate seamless transactions. 

The platform’s robust business app and business API allow businesses to create a rich and interactive chat experience, inquire about products or services, and receive real-time updates conveniently. (In some countries customers can already make purchases and checkout on Whatsapp Business). 

This integration of chat commerce and conversational AI not only enhances customer satisfaction but also provides businesses with valuable insights to optimize their operations and drive growth. With the continuous advancements in this field, WhatsApp Business is shaping the future of e-commerce in South Africa and beyond.

For e-commerce businesses, conversational AI improves the overall customer experience. By using chatbots and virtual assistants to answer customer queries, give product recommendations and assist customers with their purchases – in real-time – cart abandonment rates are drastically reduced, your brand reputation is boosted and customer loyalty is nurtured. 

#4 Payments innovation

Payments innovation is a customer-centric approach that involves new payment methods to streamline and improve the customer’s checkout experience at the last hurdle. 

One of the most significant trends in e-commerce in 2023, and going into 2024, is the emergence and popularity of the ‘Buy now pay later’ (BNPL) model. This payment method allows consumers to make purchases online and defer payment for a later date or pay in instalments. 

Online shopping payments innovation

The disparate economic landscape in South Africa is unique, and affordability can be a challenge for a large sector of consumers. The accessibility of the BNPL model provides an opportunity for individuals to make purchases without the immediate financial burden, offering a flexible and convenient way to manage their finances, 

As an effective customer-centric approach, the BNPL trend is gaining momentum in South Africa – especially among younger customers – resulting in increased consumer spending and a much-needed boost to the local e-commerce industry.

The introduction of services like Apple Pay Later and Float -which provide seamless integration with popular payment platforms – has further enhanced the adoption of BNPL in South Africa, attracting a wider customer base and driving economic expansion and digital transformation.

#5 Multi-marketplace 

As retailers look to expand their reach and tap into new customer bases, the e-commerce trend of selling products on multi-marketplaces – Takealot, Makro, bidorbuy – is becoming more and more popular. An omnichannel approach also offers the opportunity to diversify revenue streams and reduce dependence on a single platform. 

Although selling on multiple marketplaces can be challenging – managing inventory, pricing and shipping across different platforms – the advantages are numerous and there are various tools and services available to help streamline the process. Specifically, the upcoming launch of Amazon in South Africa is going to accelerate this in the industry, while existing retail players are expanding their in-house offering by opening to 3rd party sellers. 

(For more tips and tricks read our latest article on navigating this new reality). 

#6  Offline conversion tracking – online to store

The e-commerce trend of improving online-to-offline connection and measurement – specifically offline conversion tracking and online-to-store strategies – has gained significant attention in recent years. Consumer behaviour has revealed that many customers discover products or brands online but prefer to complete their final purchases in physical stores. 

This shift in consumer behaviour highlights the importance of bridging the gap between online and offline shopping experiences. 

Offline conversion tracking - online to store

With the right setups in place, businesses can upload in-store customer data on PPC platforms such as Google and Meta, allowing them to match offline purchases with online campaigns. This integration enables businesses to measure the effectiveness of their online marketing efforts in driving offline conversions, providing valuable insights and enhancing overall marketing strategies.

The growth of online shopping is not slowing down and even though South Africa has its own unique consumer context and challenges, it is not far behind the curve. 

We don’t need a crystal ball to predict that the future belongs to retailers whose e-commerce strategies are customer-centric. And that is what these 2023/2024 trends focus on. Aligning your business strategy with these customer preferences will transform your business and the impact will translate to growth in brand awareness, customer loyalty and increased sales. 

If you are looking for a specialist performance agency to help drive the success of your e-commerce business, chat with us.

With over 25 years of digital marketing experience and a proven record in growing businesses – locally and internationally – we would love to partner with you. 

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