TRENDING: Most SA shoppers want a better retail experience

by Louise Burgers. More than 85% of SA shoppers want retailers to give them better service, products and overall shopping experience, especially online.

by Louise Burgers. It comes as no surprise that more than 85% of South African shoppers want retailers to give them better service, products and overall shopping experience, especially online. In recent research by Wunderman Thompson Commerce for their Future Shopper Report 2022, 30,000 global online consumers were surveyed from 18 different countries, including South Africa.

The study by Wunderman Thompson South Africa as part of Wunderman Thompson Commerce’s Future Shopper Report 2022, also reinforced how online shopping sites, shopping apps, marketplaces and social media are driving ecommerce; and explored what motivated local online shoppers through the purchase journey, from buyer intent to final orders.

What was of key interest was what motivated South African shoppers to shop online, where they got their ideas from; how much research they did before shopping; and what all the factors were, combined, that led them to go online to make their purchases. The research showed that 78% of South African respondents indicated they will be increasing their use of digital shopping channels in the future; although 74% of this group also say they prefer to shop with a brand that has both a physical and an online store.

As Wunderman Thompson South Africa, reports: “For brands and retailers selling their products and services online or through apps, the results offer a departure point for winning over customers and driving online revenues. The insights will help businesses understand the demand, highlight how the pandemic has a fast-tracked appetite for online purchase and usage; and point to critical South African consumer expectations about service, pricing, payment methods, delivery, tracking and returns. Over and above examining common denominators across sectors, the study also unpacks detail about different products, from groceries, home furnishings, pharmaceuticals, toys/games and electronics; to clothing, accessories and financial products.”

Group strategy director at Wunderman Thompson South Africa, Parusha Partab, explains: “Where they buy from, what they’re buying online, and how much they are spending is one thing, but understanding how South African consumers react to a range of factors is going to be crucial for retailers going forward. It has implications for business models, marketing strategies, technology investments, the supply chain – a whole range of business dimensions that need to adapt to our new reality.”

Online shoppers were also asked about what they liked to see when navigating online sites and ecommerce platforms: 89% from South Africa indicate a preference for imagery and videos; while more than 90% claim product reviews and discounts are important.

Valuable insights 

Wunderman Thompson South Africa group consulting director, Kayembe Ilunga, adds: “There’s a wealth of valuable insight. Our study also delves into how frequently South Africans buy certain products from different platforms and brands, their propensity to abandon a purchase while it’s in progress, and their likelihood to return products purchased online. Combining these indicators with solid historical data gathered through digital platforms will shape business projections going forward and points to the growing need to accept how the worlds of marketing, technology, data and sales have converged. We believe brands need to revisit their operating models and structures. There’s no longer one department solely responsible for delivering online experiences.”

Wunderman Thompson South Africa notes that there are distinct differences between the results from South Africa and the rest of the world, which will help retailers and brands identify the local emerging trends; and to what extent brands should be ‘localising’ their response to the growing popularity of online shopping. Social commerce continues to grow as social networks have, globally, been the key platforms of choice, with Facebook and Instagram featuring as leading platforms for South African respondents.

South African shoppers also prefer to do their research into the products they are interested in, online, and then make the purchase in store. In fact, 80% claim they do this, and there are marked preferences for shopping directly from a brand versus what is called an aggregator platform, depending on the nature of the product. “This insight will help inform business decisions about online product offerings and portfolio expansion going forward,” says Partab.

These are the headlines from the report that brands and retailers need to take urgent note of, as this is how shopper behaviour is presenting online, and in the global marketplace:

1. Online shopping is growing, with over half of all retail spend now online, as consumers grow more comfortable with technology and services. Wunderman Thompson has this question for brands and retailers: “Is your business ready for a world where online is the main channel and your customers are digitally minded?”

2. Think omni-channel, because consumers are using more channels than ever before and want seamless integration between those channels. Question: “Do you have a balanced channel strategy which enables consumers to interact and shop with you through whichever channel they want, whenever they want, wherever they are?”

3. Marketplaces are winning, because they are providing the best online experience to consumers and are the most commonly used channels across the three key stages of the purchase process, says Wunderman Thompson, namely inspiration, search and purchase. Question: “Do you have a robust, scalable marketplace strategy, whilst also ensuring that your other channels are not cannibalised?”

4. Poor experiences are unacceptable online, because consumers have more choice than ever and so are increasingly intolerant of bad experiences and service. Delivery, easy returns and product availability are now a given. Question: “Are you service-led and reaching the high expectations that your consumers have when it comes to the online shopping experience?”

5. Social commerce on the rise and where you will find your consumers in the future as more are buying through social platforms and intend to do so in the future. Question: “Do you have a social commerce strategy, and is it still fit for purpose in light of ongoing industry developments?”

6. Sustainability is vital, but not at the expense of service. Consumers, whether online or in store, will prioritise brands and retailers with purpose and which still includes great service. Question: “What is your sustainability practice, and how can it dovetail with the investments you need to make in delivering a best-in-class service across delivery, returns and availability?”

7. Consumers crave retail innovations, and with the acceleration of digital applications and ecommerce during the pandemic, consumers now expect innovative retail experiences – from cashless payment, voice or new store formats. Question: “Do you have a clear view on the innovations your consumers crave and that your online and physical stores can embrace?”

8. Consumers are being redefined – who is your consumer really? Is it a live human being visiting your store, or is it their avatar, wanting to impress their friends in the Metaverse? Wunderman Thompson says marketers must realise that their future consumer may not be ‘living’. Question: “Are you prepared for the future, multi-dimensional consumer and for how this will change the way you sell and market your products and services?”


For more: #10things about your future shopper you need to know.


*To download the full report on consumer shopping behaviour and online commerce worldwide, visit Wunderman Thompson Commerce’s Future Shopper Report 2022. Wunderman Thompson South Africa plans to host a Future Shopper 2022 online event in due course to unpack the South African shopper results in more detail for the local market, so watch this space!



Main image credit: Supplied.



Louise Burgers is the Publisher and Editor of She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She has specialised in local and Africa consumer trends and is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger in the next decade.


– Receive the Retailing Africa newsletter every week • Subscribe here.