Surveys predict Black Friday likely to fuel e-commerce

A Covid-19-era Black Friday has the potential to boost online retail, which has already grown significantly as a result of the pandemic. This is according to a PwC report on the annual frenzied shopping event. 

Previously 67% of Black Friday shopping was in-store, with only 11% taking place online, the report notes. Fear of contracting the virus while fighting off other shoppers and standing in busy queues may change this. 

And more South Africans have been looking out for Black Friday sales in recent years and the pandemic will probably affect how and why people shop as the festive season nears. 

South Africans are “aggressively adopting habits to save money”, according to a McKinsey survey released on 5 November. A significant increase in online shopping in most categories, in particular household supplies, furnishing and appliances, health and beauty products and electronics, are expected by consumers. Consumers cited convenience and value as reasons for shifting to online. 

The McKinsey survey also found that trading-down behaviour has increased across all socioeconomic classes and product categories. 

In August, a survey by researchers at Growth from Knowledge found that 26% of shoppers said they would increase their use of home delivery even after the pandemic.

Several retailers have expanded their online offerings. Pick n Pay and Woolworths have rolled out click-and-collect services in response to the pandemic. Despite clothing sales experiencing a major blow —  these sales were down by 33.5% in the first three months of the lockdown compared with the previous year, according to Statistics South Africa — Foschini’s online turnover grew by 115.8%.

On Monday, Naspers, which owns leading online retailer Takealot, reported that its e-commerce revenues grew by 37% year on year.

This turn to digital means retailers can expect a significant increase in online shopping during Black Friday. 

But PwC says many of the new customers may not be familiar with shopping online. “They are being forced to go online in order not to miss out on the many bargains and online deals.”

A Geopoll survey found that in 2019, 37% of online shoppers encountered problems with Black Friday sales. 

PwC notes that customers will not tolerate websites that aren’t user-friendly. It said that in a market that makes up only about 2% of retail sales, this may mean more established e-commerce options could undercut newer online retailers. 

Growth from Knowledge’s Black Friday report notes that during the pandemic many consumers have remained loyal to online retailers they trust. To retain new online customers, retailers must ensure they are providing the best experience to retain them.

PwC also expects that as consumers continue to grapple with the economic harm caused by the pandemic, they are more likely to shop for staple items in the Black Friday sales. 

Growth from Knowledge predicts that hygiene, wellness goods, products that help people work from home (laptops and headsets) as well as eat at home (appliances) will probably be high on people’s shopping lists during Black Friday.

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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