The online classifieds industry is one of the fastest growing industries in South Africa, and consumer buying behaviour has changed significantly in the last two years.

Michael Walker, head of marketing at Gumtree, provides the following insights for small businesses that sell online.


 1. Optimise what you’re selling, and where you sell

South Africans still predominantly shop for fast-moving essentials in brick and mortar stores, but online shopping for slow-moving goods like electronics and fashion products have doubled year on year.

A Google Data/KANTAR Smart Shopper 2020 Study showed the following changes in online shopping behaviour across various categories.

  • Consumer electronics: 16% increase
  • Home & Garden: 15% increase
  • Fashion: 7% increase
  • Food & groceries: 5% decrease
  • Beauty: Stayed the same

“Is your small business taking an omnichannel approach to take advantage of the increase of online shopping in certain categories?” asks Walker.

“Due to convenience, South Africans have shown an increased appetite for buying electronics and home and garden items online. Maybe it’s time to revolutionise your hardware or electronics store and take it digital” he continues. 

2. Consumers know what they want


Consumers have an increased awareness of what they want before they buy. They no longer need to hop from website to website just to find out about different products available on offer – all their information can be found at one site: Google Shopping. “This has created the opportunity for classified sites selling goods and services locally (such as Gumtree) to compete with international competitors such as Amazon,” says Walker. “Which have led many businesses owners who were once solely reliant on word-of mouth advertising campaigns to benefit greatly from an online presence”. 

3. Consider shipping

Consumers are more likely to purchase from sellers who offer free shipping than those who charge for it, so make sure you offer a service that is both reliable, and makes economic sense to you. Paxi is a great idea to ship your goods, it offers pick up and drop off service, meaning there is no need to use costly and unreliable couriers, and with over 500 locations across South Africa, shipping your online orders becomes as easy as driving down the street.

4. Remember to thank your customer

“In a world where people are constantly looking for the best deals, it is important to thank your customer for buying from your small business,” says Walker. Knowing that someone appreciated what they bought makes them feel good and will make them more likely to buy again in the future. In addition, when thanking customers online or offline there’s an opportunity to use this as another marketing channel which could lead to higher conversion rates of up to 23%, according to some statistics. 

Don’t underestimate the power of saying ‘thank you’ – not only does it improve your customer relationships but also drives sales. Acknowledge their purchase on social media by liking/commenting with well wishes and tagging friends who might be interested too.

5. Make sure you acknowledge the reviews

Trust matters more than ever before, because online opinion is easy to find and peer to peer reviews count more. A recent Nielsen study showed that 84% of people trust recommendations from friends, family, colleagues over other forms of marketing.

“Diligently respond to all consumer reviews, complaints and comments,” says Walker. “Even if a customer reports a bad experience, acknowledge it and make every effort to help.” Expectations have changed dramatically over time; and people expect a quick response from businesses electronically (within five minutes) on Twitter and Facebook. Showing that you are active and on-call sets customers at ease in buying from your business.

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