It is not new news that access to the internet is growing at a
tremendous pace due to the advent of smartphones and
internet-enabled phones - now almost standard on all but the basic
handsets. Between 2009 and 2011, according to the AMPS
survey, the number of people having accessed the internet in the
past 7 days grew by 85%. When you look at the growth in
access via a cell phone it sits at a staggering 291% growth.
The growth in the number of people who say they use the internet
for shopping also grew by 85%.
Even more important than the growth itself, is where that growth
is happening fastest. Traditional wisdom is that the internet
has been the province of the well-to-do in South Africa.
While the largest number of internet users and online shoppers do
still sit in the upper LSM groups (Living Standards Measure), the
fastest growth is coming from the mass market (and by mass market,
think of consumers still living in our townships). Internet
access in the past 7 days grew by 279% in LSM 5, access via a cell
phone grew by 409% and shopping on the internet by a massive
665%. Granted, this is still off a small base, but in all
these cases, the lower down the living standards you go, the faster
Online retailers, in general, are still focused on websites that
operate well on a PC platform and are only starting to adapt their
offerings for mobile phones. However, the growth in the mass
market throws up even more challenges than simply having a great
mobi site. Consider payment options for example. Very
few people in the mass market own a credit card, so what can online
retailers offer in terms of payment options? Also of
importance will be developing appropriate product mixes to appeal
to the mass market. New routes to market will need to be
explored and networks expanded. There is a lot of work to do
and it will have to be done fast to stay ahead of the game.