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The state of office stationery e-commerce in South Africa

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Buying and selling online has been happening for longer than you think. eBay might have opened its virtual doors back in 1999, but it’s taken a good few decades for e-commerce to really take off and, as with most things, South Africa is a few steps behind the rest of the world. That said, forward thinking local businesses – even office stationery suppliers – are embracing e-commerce as a way to grow their business and bolster their brands. Here’s what’s happening in e-commerce in South Africa and how it affects the ordering of office stationery.

Growing numbers of smartphones and internet users are making e-commerce more accessible.

Internet use in South Africa is set to reach 27 million users by 2019, according to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index. That’s well over half the current population. The rise of smartphones and mobile devices – On Device Research puts mobile phone penetration in South Africa at 133% and smartphone penetration at 47% – has been a driving force in giving millions of people who live in areas of poor infrastructure access to the world wide web and, as a result, e-commerce.

E-commerce is growing faster than traditional retail.

E-commerce in South Africa might still only account for 1% of retail sales, but it’s growing quickly. In 2014 the ecommerce sector grew by 35% from the year before, according to research firm World Wide Worx’s founder, speaking to MWeb. That’s significant compared to a growth of 7.5% in the traditional retail sector, over the same time period. The increase in internet use and also consumer confidence in online payment portals – over a million PayPal accounts have been opened in this country according to market research firm Ipsos, cited on IT News Africa – has created the right environment for e-commerce to flourish in South Africa.

South African consumers would shop online more if prices were lower, delivery was quicker and paying online was more secure.

The Ipsos study above also found that lower prices, quicker delivery, flexible delivery options and safer ways to pay are all factors that would encourage the SA consumer to shop online more. Convenience factors such as not having to keep re-entering payment details or register on a website prior to purchasing would also entice consumers to e-commerce – factors online stationery suppliers are already leveraging in their bid to shake up the stationery suppliers industry.

Both B2C and B2B businesses are getting e-commerce in South Africa right.

While we still have a lot of catching up to do in the e-commerce sphere when we compare ourselves to our European counterparts, there are already some prominent local brands doing e-commerce right. YuppieChef is a popular website selling everything a foodie could ever want; Takealot has become the go-to online retailer for everything from gadgets to make-up, and the Superbalist’s attractive website makes buying men and women’s fashion a breeze. It’s not just consumer-facing businesses that are making e-commerce more intuitive and user-friendly, either. Office stationery suppliers have made it fast and easy for their customers to order cost-price office stationery with a click of a mouse and have it delivered the next day.

To experience first hand what a vibrant, client-centric stationery supplier can do to help your business run better, sign up for a free 30 day trial of stationery supplier OfficeBox’s online stationery ordering service.

Image Credit: design-milk.com

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David Adams
21 August 2017
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