South African online shopping skews male and young

The online retail industry in South Africa has grown at a rapid pace in recent years, with more and more consumers turning to e-commerce as a convenient and safe way to shop. However, interesting patterns are emerging, according to new research.

According to a new Mastercard-sponsored study by World Wide Worx, the proportion of South African adults who shop online has increased from 27% in 2020 to 38% in 2022, indicating a 40% increase in the number of people doing so.

The study, which analysed the annual Target Group Index (TGI) survey conducted by Ask Afrika, provides a detailed demographic breakdown of online shopping behaviour.

The results provide insights into the changing landscape of online retail in South Africa, highlighting key demographic shifts and consumer behaviours.

One of the most revealing aspects of the study is the persistent gender divide in online shopping – 41% of South African men now shop online compared to 36% of women.

While men tend to purchase electronic goods more frequently, the growth areas in online shopping have been in groceries and apparel categories, traditionally dominated by women shoppers. This suggests other factors, such as male control of household budgets and men being more likely to have a credit card, may be contributing to this gender divide.

Age is also strongly correlated to online shopping behaviour in South Africa. The study shows that online shopping peaks in the 25-34 age bracket and then steadily drops off with each successive age group.


The only age category that has lower penetration today than during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic is the 65+ age group, which has demonstrated a strong reluctance to embrace online shopping, preferring in-store shopping instead.

Education and income are the metrics that show the highest positive correlation with online shopping behaviour. The study reveals that online shopping increases from 20% for those with less than a matric qualification to 54% for those with tertiary education. Similarly, online shopping rises steadily from 22% for those earning less than R2 500/month to 62% for those earning more than R50 000.

Read: E-commerce is killing shopping malls – but, curiously, not in South Africa

These demographic shifts and consumer behaviours have important implications for online retailers in South Africa. Understanding their target consumers’ characteristics, preferences and economic circumstances is crucial for retailers to create a seamless consumer experience from online to in-store, World Wide Worx said.  – © 2023 NewsCentral Media

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