E-Commerce (well, lack of) in South Africa

Here’s a market for someone to figure out how to capture. While I was in South Africa, I was talking with Microsoft S.A.’s Lillian Serobatse about buying clothes on the internet, trying them on at home and shipping the rejects back. This works well when you live in the boonies and retailers like Patagonia have their big annual sales online! Lillian was surprised. “You bought clothes on the internet?” I was surprised (at her question). “Don’t you?” I asked.

Lillian explained to me that e-commerce has not really taken off in South Africa. One of the reasons, she tells me, is that like many South Africans, she LOVES to shop. The shopping trip itself is a good part of the fun – as it is for many here in the U.S. I personally hate shopping. I only go when I have to find something very specific. I don’t like wandering around from store to store just looking at stuff and maybe buying something I didn’t really need.

I imagine that purchasing stuff from outside of S.A. is cost prohibitive – think of the shipping! So it would be South African retailers that would benefit from this more than anyone. Perhaps a retailer in Jo’burg that does not want to open a storefront in Capetown or Durban (or visa-versa).

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