What South Africans buy online 

Airtime is the most commonly purchased product online in South Africa. Clothing and groceries were the second and third most popular products by some distance. 

This was revealed in research done by World Wide Worx, which analysed South Africa’s eCommerce industry in partnership with Peach Payments and Mastercard. 

Online retail in South Africa has boomed over the past ten years, growing around 30% annually. 

This surge has turned eCommerce into a very lucrative industry, with companies generating over R71 billion from online sales in 2023.

World Wide Worx expects the growth to continue for some time, predicting that online retail will account for over 10% of all retail sales by the end of 2025, up from 6.15% in 2023.

The research also revealed where South Africans spend their money online and outlined how this is expected to change. 

Airtime was the most popular product purchased online in 2023, with 57.9% of shoppers buying vouchers. 

Clothing was a distant second, with 30% of online shoppers in South Africa buying an item of clothing in 2023, followed by groceries at 22.3%. 

Where South Africans are spending their money online is shown in the graph below. 

Research done by Discovery Bank and Visa earlier this year outlined the different spending habits of rich South Africans versus those in lower-income segments. 

It showed South Africans spend nearly two-thirds of their disposable income on groceries, retail, travel, and fuel. 

However, spending habits vary depending on their wealth, with richer South Africans not having to replace spending on luxuries with purchasing necessities. 

The data revealed that spending in South Africa remains resilient and compares well to global peers in emerging and developed markets.

However, it also shows that there is immense financial pressure on South Africans, particularly poorer consumers, who have had to adapt to an environment with persistently high food inflation. 

This has resulted in a shift in spending behaviour, with poorer South Africans substituting spending on luxuries, such as travel, for necessities, such as food and household goods. 

On the other hand, wealthier South Africans are more immune to high inflation as they are able to absorb higher food costs without having to substitute or cut spending in other areas. 

Thus, they tend to spend more money on travelling internationally and within South Africa, as well as spending more in retail stores outside of groceries. 

Interestingly, spending on eating out at restaurants or takeaways makes up a similar proportion of spending across all income categories. 

This is shown in the graphic below.


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