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eCommerce on​ ​the​ ​Cloud

What​ ​you​ ​need​ ​to​ ​know​ ​about​ ​eCommerce in SA

Some​ ​Big​ ​eCommerce Numbers

We all know that the world is shifting online. According to We Are Social’s 2017 report, 28 million South-Africans are now active internet users. Apparently we (the 28 million active users) spend 8h online each day through our computers; 3h each day via our mobile devices. And 5% of the time we spend online is used to search for product information. This means that, as a nation, we devote at least 4.2 million hours each day to looking at product information. That’s a lot of time. It translates to a national eCommerce industry valued at around 31 billion Rands. We know that the amount of time (and the amount of money) South Africans spend online is only set to increase. Why? And how can we, as companies, meet people in this online world with humanity and efficiency? What questions must we ask to know what people want from the companies they encounter on the cloud?

Who​ ​People​ ​Want​ ​to​ ​Buy​ ​From

Let’s submit that one of the first questions we must ask ourselves in order to understand the 28 million that fuel the eCommerce machine is: What do people believe about the Internet?

Simon Sinek phrased it well. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” There is something in the depths of humans that drive us to buy not merely with the logic and the numbers, but with what “feels right.”

To illustrate our point, remember Marlboro – they possessed a small fraction of the Cigarette market, but, when they started selling people Cigarettes by telling people what they believed, they decimated their competition. To this day Marlboro controls the lion share of the cigarette market, because they showed, through the Marlboro-Man Ad Campaign (and the fact that they sponsored teams in forms of Motorsport ranging from the World Rally Championship to Formula One) what they believed about men. Marlboro showed that they believed men are supposed to be hard working, courageous, strong and capable. They then attached this image to the act of smoking. Now, we all know smoking is a health risk. But Marlboro reached success by selling to those who believed what they believe. Those who believed that life is a health risk; that we should not think about the danger because real men just face it head on, real men embrace the danger, they breathe it in – quite literally.

And it worked. It worked because people out there believe the same thing.

Now, setting aside the ethical dilemmas attached to our example for a moment, and also the fact that add campaigns can also influence what people believe, let’s take the fact that “people generally want to buy from those who believe what they believe” and explore what this means for eCommerce in South Africa. Let’s explore what it can teach us about doing eCommerce better.

A​ ​Little​ ​Bit​ ​of​ ​eCommerce Science

Over more than 4 years, a study was done, encompassing thousands of shoppers, in order to understand why people buy the way they buy. Devora Rogers, a member of the research team, shared the conclusions the data had caused her to draw, along with her prediction of the future of shopping. This is what she found.

  • Shopping​ ​Should​ ​Not​ ​Be​ ​Hard​ ​Work


Shoppers expect the companies they shop at to know what they want. They don’t want to tell you who they are and what they like. That’s hard work. They want you to anticipate their needs, to know them. Like a good butler or waiter. People rarely want to have interpersonal encounters with employees at big companies. Shoppers want companies to know them, and they do not really want salesmen to speak to them – at least not when it comes to large companies. Honestly, talking to someone who wants to sell you something is hard work. People just want companies to anticipate their needs without any fuss. A case in point would be Amazon. It has consistently been rated as the company with the “best customer service,” yet there are no personal service encounters. There are only systematic service encounters. And people love this. It works because it is based online (therefore data about shoppers can be gleaned easily,) unintrusive, and accurate. Amazon looks at what you look at, they listen to you, and then they suggest things to you that “others like you” have been viewing. Users want this. They do not want to get random suggestions for shampoo if they are bald. The do not want to be sold dog food if they don’t own a dog. They want to be known, and they want what is known about them to be used to make life easier for them. People shop online because it is much less trouble than driving to a store. And, counterintuitively, because online stores – if done right – have better customer service.

  • eCommerce – ​ ​Reviews​ ​Reviews​ ​and​ ​Reviews!

Shoppers care about product reviews. Today, more than ever before, shoppers have access to the opinions of others, and they actively seek out such opinions before they buy something. Devora’s data shows that shoppers consult, on average, 10 different sources of information or opinion about a given product before making a purchase. The internet makes product information readily available, and shoppers (remember the 4.2 million hours?) actually use it to inform their decisions, or to rationalise already made decisions. Scarily, Devora claims that Americans consult more sources of information and opinion before they buy a new Iphone than before they vote for a new President. People want to be informed before they buy – it gives them confidence, and makes them more likely to click “buy now.”

Entertain​ ​Us

A strong case can be made that people spend so much time researching products before they buy them, partly because product information is shared in very entertaining ways. Some YouTubers make a living by reviewing cellphones and other products in entertaining ways – and these reviewers have a strong influence on potential buyers. People turn to the internet to entertain them, not only to inform them. And the kind of product information that does both thrives online. Unbiased reviews are searched out, thus those who review to entertain are trusted – they make money if they can show that something is great, they also make money if viewers laugh about how terrible a product is. As long as people keep watching. This flow of entertaining product information means that the standards for product information is very high. Don’t assume that people will read boring long product descriptions because they “do research” before buying. They do research because they want to. And if they enjoy it they will want to. Keep it informative, and keep it enjoyable (or at the very least, easy) to consume. Otherwise it will probably get ignored.

A​ ​Golden​ ​Age

The internet is, on a historical scale, in it’s infancy. And so, what people believe about it is, in a way, similar to what was once believed about America or Newfoundland. That here, things will be different, that this is a new world, we can do things in a new and better way here. As with America and Newfoundland and all “new” lands, the land on the cloud is filling up. How you conduct business here will showcase what you believe. Only half of our population is online at the moment, only a small percentage of commerce happens online, but both these numbers are rapidly growing. There is still time to make your mark here. The rush is not done. If you embrace the internet’s values of easily accessible (and entertaining) information, the values of ease of use, and the values of community, you will be off to a good start. If you add to that an intimate knowledge of your customers, you are heading into the golden age of commerce.

The people who believe that shopping can be done better, they shop online. If you also believe it, act upon it.

The world is shifting online. And it isn’t about to stop doing that.

Find out more about SwiftCom eCommerce development: HERE