Social selling now a vital part of shoppers’ buying expectations

By our News Team | 2022

More and more South Africans want to shop using social media networks, but many people still prefer to research online and shop offline.

The fourth edition of the 2022 South African Digital Customer Experience Report has released insights from its latest study. 

It shows that it’s become clear how far South African consumers have come with interacting and shopping online (and offline) with brands. Conversely, it is also evident that brands and businesses have made great customer experience (CX) leaps to keep up.

Customer Experience

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

“There’s little need to still attribute this to the Covid era; while it precipitated a move for many to digital, it has permanently influenced our new online shopping behaviour,” the report’s authors observe. “Social selling, the astounding impact of reviews, and how the major impact of online is impacting offline sales, are significant.”

The study is based on responses from 2 000 South Africans. While the three authors offer the primary insights into the data, the report is also peppered with considerations from 11 seasoned industry veterans, including senior marketers. 

The authors believe social selling is a significant area to note, accounting for 10% of all e-commerce sales. As part of the ‘new’ online journey, it is done through buying directly via Instagram, Facebook Shops and WhatsApp.

Online shopping is more complex than first thought

“What we need to acknowledge is that online is far more complex than we had realised — and that selling can come from almost anywhere online,” says Julia Ahlfeldt from Julia Ahlfeldt CX Consulting. “Brands need to grasp that new channels of trade are on the rise and that even if purchases don’t happen online, that’s where many customer journeys begin.”

“Brands may be missing valuable opportunities by limiting the channels that they trade through,” she adds. “It’s key to also note that it’s not just small businesses who are leaning into these ‘alternative’ e-commerce commercial avenues, but global juggernauts such as H&M too.”

In this fourth annual report, among the most significant insights is that online discovery and browsing morphs into a massive increase in offline sales.

While brands may have once dismissed a Google review potentially leading to an in-store purchase, it is imperative that they now take note that any activity taken online — browsing, researching, comparing and looking at reviews — is all done with a means to an end.

The consumer wants something, but is online to gather all their information, even though they will most likely make the sale in the physical store, the report emphasises. Retailer Woolworths, for instance, notes that over 60% of its online browsers claim to buy in-store, which has reinforced its focus to lead in omnichannel retail.

The full report is available here.