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Updated 24 Sep 2020

3 Lessons from Amazon to help you conquer the online shopping space

More than half of SA’s online shoppers are spending their money abroad. Where does that leave your store? In a position to learn from an industry giant. 

Diana Albertyn, 04 April 2017  Share  0 comments  Print

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South African online spending will increase to more than R53 billion next year. This might sound like something your local ecommerce business can celebrate but, 43% of adults in SA shopped through non-South African retailers last year, according to PayPal's third annual global report on cross-border trade, in partnership with Ipsos.

By 2018, it could mean that more than half of your shoppers will be spending their money on someone else’s products. You still need to make a profit going forward, so you need a plan. Why not gauge how you measure up to the ecommerce giants that are driving your customers away from your site to theirs?

Related: Online shopping made safer with Shepherd and Standard Bank


Global studies of online domestic and cross-border shopping habits of more than 28 000 consumers in 32 countries, including South Africa, reveals new opportunities for retailers to expand their sales, according to Bizcommunity. Stocking your inventory with what your global competitors are boasting may just be the key to cashing in on the increased ecommerce interest of the South African consumer.

There’s no distinct ‘magic formula’ – just some special attention paid to reputation, cost-effectiveness for the consumer and, most importantly, excellent customer service. Or “customer obsession” as online retail giant Amazon puts it. 

This is how they’re getting it right, and how you get your customers to return to your online store, again and again: 

1. Your reputation must precede you

“Amazon has permanently redefined what customer experience should be”, says Scott Davis, chief growth officer at US brand marketing company, Prophet. This has made other retailers; service providers and brand managers sit up and notice that the game has changed. 

“If there’s one reason we have done better than any of our peers in the Internet space over the last six years, it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience,” says Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos. 

With the options available to customers today, bad service is a deal-breaker. And if a customer has an unpleasant experience, others on social media are most likely to hear about it. What’s known about your business by even potential customers creates a certain perception – so make sure it’s a good one. 

2. Cost-effectiveness must be priority

Amazon -online -shoppers

According to the survey, 84% of online shoppers want more convenience and 38% to save more money. These two points alone should have you considering how you’re going to offer added convenience while saving your shoppers money. 

In 2015, research showed that 58% of shoppers leave the checkout process when they realise the total purchase price increased due to shipping costs. You could see a sales increase of 58% by removing the delivery charge and adding that cost at the end of the transaction.

If free shipping isn’t an option, setting a minimum purchase amount that gives you enough profit margin to cover the cost of shipping is a way to go, suggests digital marketing expert, Scott Mackin. This is what Amazon does. 

Related: How online retailers can reduce shopping cart abandonment

3. Customer servicemust drive you

“Our focus is on customer obsession rather than competitor obsession,” adds Bezos. 

He explains that business must have “an eagerness to invent and pioneer, willingness to fail, the patience to think long-term, and the taking of professional pride in operational excellence.”

Davis agrees, adding that customer obsession is one of the hallmarks of brands that stand apart from the rest. The reason why Amazon is the one brand that other online retailers are obsessing over right now is because their reputation speaks for itself. They care about the consumer’s pocket, and they’re obsessed with giving their customers the best service possible. Shouldn’t you start doing the same?


Here are the top three reasons South Africans choose to shop overseas and how you can use the data to your advantage:

  • USA – Consumers are accessing items not available locally (71%). You can expand your offering to include overseas product offerings.
  • China – Shoppers are turning to Chinese online retailers for better prices (88%). You could offer free shipping or cash-saving incentives to encourage buying more per purchase.
  • UK – More variety/availability of products/styles (50%). Increase your product selection to include a larger variation of products in different styles and colours, and keep inventory up to day to avoid shortages. 
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Diana Albertyn

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