South African consumers look set to accelerate their
journey towards online shopping beyond the pandemic as they stay in to enjoy
the investments they have made in their homes during the lockdown. This is
according to new
Consumer Pulse research
from GfK South Africa into the behaviours and sentiment of online consumers
during the Level 3 lockdown.

survey reveals that consumers are preparing themselves for a prolonged period
of cocooning, with 59 percent of consumers expecting the pandemic to last more
than another 12 months, and 34 percent predicting that it will continue for
another 18 months or more. Only 2 percent reported that they have booked a
holiday for the summer and 71 percent agreed that they will travel closer to
home in the future.

reality is catalysing changes in consumer behaviour that are likely to outlast
the pandemic. Some 30 percent of consumers reported that they had made an
online purchase in the week preceding the survey, up from 19 percent in the
Level 5 lockdown. Meanwhile, 26 percent said they would definitely increase
their usage of home delivery even after the pandemic.

16 percent agreed that they would definitely try to avoid the malls and shops
and almost half (48%) said working from home would definitely continue to be a
reality for many companies after COVID-19. These figures reflect consumers’
growing fears about the virus as infection numbers soar – 70 percent said that
they are “extremely worried” about the coronavirus in lockdown level 3, up from
66 percent in lockdown level 4.

pandemic and the national lockdown have forced South Africans to change how
they connect with the things they care about and how they experience life,”
says Rachel Thompson, Insights Director at GfK South Africa. “Consumers
are seemingly ready to stay in beyond the end of the pandemic to enjoy the
investments they have made in DIY, home appliances, and consumer electronics
for home entertainment.”

categories of online shopping set to grow

research shows that consumer preference for online shopping has grown
dramatically in most product categories during the lockdown; across product
segments an even higher proportion of consumers said that online shopping would
be their post-COVID channel of choice. The survey results indicate that growth
in adoption of online shopping in groceries, consumer electronics, DIY, and mobile
phones will be robust post-pandemic. A significant portion of consumers who
claimed they used online as their preferred channel for fashion and IT shopping
during the pandemic said they would go back to traditional channels after
COVID-19, but not enough to bring this number down to pre-COVID levels.

channel choice now and in the future by product category*



COVID lockdown


Consumer Electronics












Beauty & hygiene




Small appliances








Mobile phones








current and future purchase channel choice

it comes to shipping and delivery options, consumers want them to be free,
fast, and flexible. Two thirds (66%) said they expect free delivery, 64 percent
demanded fast delivery, and 55 percent wanted click-and-collect options.
Hygiene was also on their minds, with 56 percent insisting delivery staff must
wear masks and 52 percent saying staff must not touch products with their bare

it human

as they move towards digital channels, South Africa’s online consumers are
still looking for human contact. More than half (52%) expect to be able to
speak to a person on the phone for support, 44 percent expect to speak to
someone via video chat and 35 percent expect home installation. Most (65%) are
also seeking reassurance about the security of their personal information when
using a mobile payment app.

44 percent of consumers reporting that they will decrease spending after the
pandemic, leading brands are thinking about how they can position themselves
for growth in a difficult market,” says Thompson. “The key to succeeding with
online shopping at a time that people are feeling vulnerable is to offer
wraparound value and to build and reinforce trust through a more human brand
experience. Established retail brands have an advantage since consumers find it
easier to shop online with brands they already know and trust in uncertain

to Thompson, some of the steps that brands can take to provide reassurance to
consumers as they transition from offline to online include:

  • Making the product tangible through virtual product tours, virtual
    shopping, unboxing videos and other techniques where human touch is
  • Using testimonials and peer reviews to build confidence in the
  • Offering transparency on product availability.
  • Letting consumers choose the payment app or brand they trust to
  • Ensuring there is no friction or extra cost involved in order
    collections and deliveries.
  • Communicating hygiene measures to consumers and enforcing them with
    logistics partners.

Click here to register for a webinar on this study taking place on August 6, 2020
at 11h00 (SAST).

the GfK Consumer Pulse study

GfK Consumer Pulse study is conducted weekly across 30 markets worldwide to
track consumer perceptions, mood and behaviours in various industries. This
will help brands and businesses to #MasterTheCrisis by understanding consumer
attitudes, behaviour, purchase intent, media consumption, and more – both now
and in the future. The study reveals changes in demand for goods and services,
so that companies can respond with confidence and come out of the crisis
stronger, better positioned, and closer to consumers than before.

The results come from the 4th wave in this
research study consisting of a sample of 497 respondents. In this research
study GfK interviewed a representative sample of 1800 online SA consumers
(LSM7-10) during the 7 weeks of 27 April – 14 June 2020.

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