South African SMEs Looked Online & Abroad for Customers During COVID, New Research Shows


Research released Tuesday, conducted by World Wide Worx on behalf of PayPal and FNB, shows that South African SMEs went online in response to the pandemic, extended the number of payment methods they offer and started looking to international customers.

SA SMEs’ digital response to the pandemic, and the role of cross-border transactions features data and insights from some 400 local SMEs. The results show that online shopping is well-entrenched with local consumers, and that customers are comfortable with the payment options on offer.

Says Arthur Goldstuck, CEO of World Wide Worx, who led the research, “Nearly two thirds (64%) of businesses have introduced more online payment methods in response to the pandemic, enabling more customers to pay via the methods they want. Another 22% intend to introduce more methods.”

This, comments Mark Mwongela Ngungi, PayPal Sales Development Director, Africa, speaks to the maturing of the sector and businesses’ drive to provide their customers with the payment methods they prefer.

Four of five businesses (79%) surveyed say their customers are comfortable shopping online and making online payments. Accepting orders through online shopping carts has had an overall business impact on 71% of responding businesses, showing the power of automation that ecommerce platforms can provide.

Seventy-four percent of businesses have started automating their activities in response to the pandemic, the survey shows. This is known to increase customer service and decrease costs, which is why a further 17% are intending to make the shift, Goldstuck comments.

Almost a third of the businesses surveyed have started targeting international customers since the pandemic started. Four in five (79%) of South African businesses do not sell their products internationally.

Operating internationally can be challenging for small businesses, which lack education on market opportunities outside South Africa’s borders, aren’t familiar with fulfillment methods and need to become more comfortable with global payment methods, says Ngungi.

Factors causing hardship flagged by the respondents include lower customer demand (46%), supplier issues (38%) and delivery to customers (35%). Connectivity, Goldstuck says, which has traditionally been a problem, was only mentioned by 4% of businesses.

By Staff Writer.

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