I have had 2 articles on my mind that has lead to a few thoughts on the state of South African ecommerce. Paul Galatis wrote a very interesting analysis on why ecommerce in our country is lagging and then Andrew Lynch asked out loud what is wrong with ecommerce in South Africa? Paul and Andrew are both entrepreneurs in the ecommerce space in South Africa thus the articles hit home for me and it lead to this post.
Paul mentions that the reason why we are behind is not due to the normal factors mentioned in conversations over coffee etc. Instead, it is due to retailers not paying enough to ecommerce and thus not executing it to the masses.
We’ve all heard the arguments and many of us have used them repeatedly: South Africans are nervous to use their credit cards online; internet speeds are slow; the postal service is unreliable; we don’t trust that our orders will actually arrive; we still want to touch and feel products before we buy them; and that South Africans shop differently to people in the rest of the world. I used to tell that story but now I have a different idea.
I have been in the ecommerce space for close to 5 years and can unequivocally state that the industry has moved forward. There are many more ecommerce businesses in the country now that what was the norm back in the early 2000’s. The growth is seen in the fact that almost every retail category (home goods, electronics, pharmacy, clothing, wine etc) are now represented by an online business that competes with the physical retailer we all are accustomed to visit. Payment gateways have doubled in providing prospective entrepreneurs with options to process credit cards. So, what is the matter and why are we always asking about the state of the ecommerce industry?