Ecommerce in the retail sector of South Africa: a futures study

Hillock, Elizabeth (2016-12)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.


ENGLISH SUMMARY : The impact of digitisation on the retail economy has caused disruption in almost every developed country around the globe. While ecommerce is in its infancy in South Africa, most retailers acknowledge that there is a global shift in consumer behaviour toward digital shopping experiences. Should this revolution play out to its full potential, one must question whether South African retailers can adapt and thrive in this new world. Local retailers face unique complexities with regard to building a viable online retail capability. This includes structural complexities such as unemployment and infrastructure impediments, as well as entrenched shopping behaviours and cultural nuances. This futures study examines these influences - through qualitative research, environmental scanning and scenarios - and aims to conceptualise a longer-term outcome for ecommerce within the local retail sector. The study also aims to derive a set of plausible implications should retailers fail to adopt a longerterm outlook. The results of this study indicate that South Africans remain cautious in their approach to online shopping, particularly in relation to payment security and fraud. Additionally, while computer literacy is on the rise, a strong correlation between education and affluence, and consumers’ likelihood to shop online, has been observed. The study indicates that the mobile revolution will continue, and retailers that invest in technology readiness, regardless of cyclical downturns, will likely dominate in the future. However, the study also identifies gaps in knowledge within the sector that signals a lack of long-term thinking. This study attempts to highlight these gaps as well as provide strategic recommendations for retailers, with a particular focus on generating foresight, adaptability and robustness within an organisation.

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