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Majority Buy Digitally in South Africa—but Not Frequently

Books, travel and entertainment tickets most common digital purchases

Internet users in South Africa have grown comfortable with digital buying—at least sometimes. According to a December 2013 study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau South Africa (IAB South Africa) conducted by Effective Measure, the majority of internet users in the country made a digital purchase at least once every six months.

However, digital buying wasn’t too frequent of an activity, with just 4.0% and 16.3% of internet users saying they did so once a week or month, respectively. Even in the timeframe of three months, only 17.5% said they made a digital purchase once during that period. Instead, making a purchase every six months was what pushed digital buying to a majority activity, with nearly one-quarter of respondents making digital purchases at that frequency.

Among digital buyers in South Africa specifically, data released in November 2013 by PricewaterhouseCoopers showed similar findings, with the highest percentages making purchases several times per year (45%) or monthly (32%) in 2013. Just 2% bought daily, and 12% purchased weekly. The same study also found that the number of first-time digital buyers jumped 25% year over year, so it’s possible that as these newbies grow comfortable with online purchases, they’ll press the “buy” button more often.

Due to the low frequency of purchases, average monthly spending among digital buyers wasn’t too high. IAB South Africa/Effective Measure found that the most common amount spent monthly on digital purchases among internet users in South Africa was between ZAR201 ($20.85) and ZAR500 ($51.87).

Books and items related to travel and entertainment were the top products and services purchased online by digital buyers in South Africa. Given that internet users who had never made an online purchase said they hadn’t done so because they preferred to touch and feel products before buying them, this suggests that even once internet users take to digital purchases, they still may be wary about what they actually buy, choosing items that focus more on experiences.

In all, GlobalWebIndex reported that the country had 8 million digital buyers in Q4 2013.

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