Online shopping behaviour: consumers prefer a mix of online and physical shopping

According to, the number of internet users in South Africa increased by 1.7 million (4.5%) from 2020 to 2021.

Online shopping behaviour changed completely at the beginning of lockdown with more people choosing to buy online and now, with lockdown measures relaxed, most of them prefer a mix of online and physical shopping.

South Africa has an estimated 38.19 million internet users, who spend more than 10 a day online and 90.2% of them have searched for a product or service to buy, according to the second ODOmeter Index published by local e-tailer OneDayOnly to better understand South Africa’s online consumer behaviour.

Last year’s index showed that 68% of respondents had shopped online before the onset of the pandemic. There was general consensus that lockdown led to a marked rise in online shopping behaviour.

Now that lockdown levels are less strict, 33% of respondents are still primarily shopping online, while the majority (61%) are splitting their shopping between online and in store. Only 6% have started shopping predominantly in store again.

Who are online shoppers?
The index identifies shortfalls and trends in the industry, what the customer wants from an e-tailer and which areas of the online consumer journey can be reviewed to improve the user experience. The respondents in the latest survey almost doubled, with 9,000 people taking part, including active online shoppers, infrequent online shoppers and non-shoppers.

The vast majority of online shoppers were between the ages of 25 and 54, but this time round shoppers between the ages of 25 and 34 were down by 4%, while shoppers between the ages of 35 and 54 increased by 2%.

“Although this may look like the younger age group is shopping less, it is possible that this could be linked to the effects of the long-term lockdown. It could also indicate the 35-54 year old bracket is becoming more comfortable with making more frequent purchases online,” says OneDayOnly director Laurian Venter.

What do online shoppers buy?
Technology is the most popular purchase at 41%, followed by fashion at 39% and appliances 32%.

“What surprised us was that alcohol only drew a 25% response, while we saw a significant spike in online sales both during and after the booze ban. This indicates a potential growth opportunity in online alcohol sales,” says OneDayOnly digital and performance marketing manager Jessica van der Westhuyzen.

More time to shop
With more than a third of the respondents saying they spend more than three hours a day on the internet, it is clear their online shopping behaviour has also changed. Venter says people who spend a significant amount of time online, especially if they work from home for the foreseeable future coupled with more hours spent at home, count in favour of e-commerce.

More time on the internet creates an environment where it is easier for customers to shop because it is more convenient. It also creates the opportunity for the e-tailing industry to sell more essential, day-to-day items consumers would otherwise buy in a physical store.

These “supermarket” trends were also identified globally, with volumes increasing during second lockdown compared to the first lockdown.

How often do online shoppers shop?
Online shopping behaviour also changed in terms of how often people shop online. The survey indicated that most customers were returning to shop between once a week and once a month, up 3% from last year, with nearly two-thirds of the group falling into these brackets.

Preferred devices
According to the survey, 60% of respondents preferred to shop using their mobile phones. However, the team was surprised that online shoppers prefer websites to apps. Desktop preference sits at 36%, with only 4% of people saying that shopping on a tablet is their preference.

Why some people do not shop online
Although more people than ever before now have access to the internet and they have more choice online, some people will still not shop online, with 50% of the respondents saying security trust is the main detractor.

“This shows the importance of continually educating new users about the level of compliance and governance our business undertakes with our secure payment options and why we have various payment platforms available, says Van Der Westhuyzen.




The digital age does not cease to surprise with all kinds of new and interesting things with which we need to keep up in order to have a sense of comfort about how informed and prepared we are for a new world

Digital transformation, digital strategy, digital innovation and other terms which start with the word ‘digital’ seem to be emerging as the latest popular vocabulary in several business discussions today.

Some people cannot help but feel left out and uncool for not being able to use the word ‘digital’ in their daily conversations, because at times it appears as though almost everyone in the workplace is talking about all things digital. If you think you have heard it all, perhaps it is not a bad idea to consider yet another emerging term which may soon become the coolest thing to say in a strategy meeting. Brace yourself for the era of the ‘digital CFO’ and if you are a finance professional, it is probably best to incorporate this new terminology into your business vocabulary. What it means to be a digital CFO signals an interesting evolution of not only the CFO role but also the finance function in the 4IR.

The CFO role and finance function as a collective in any organisation is a key pillar for financial management and without this pillar, one could argue that the financial performance of an organisation would be inconsistently accounted for. A CFO is the strategic leader behind the financial management pillar and in the digital era, the CFO is increasingly required to acquire digital acumen. Digital acumen will assist a digital CFO in driving financial management with a relevant approach to change as enterprise value transitions from tangible to intangible data assets and financial information. To get a good grasp on what it means to be a digital CFO, it is probably best to have a high-level understanding of what digital acumen is and why it is important for a CFO to acquire digital acumen.

What is digital acumen?

Broadly put, digital acumen involves being up to date with the latest digital trends with a view of what the implications are for a business. Digital acumen also involves knowing how to use new technologies to innovate business processes for improved efficiency and organisational digital transformation.

Why is it important for a CFO to acquire digital acumen?

In a future-ready organisation, a CFO is at the centre of using insights from data analysis to drive financial performance and strategy. Extracting valuable insights from digital data requires a reasonable level of digital acumen that will enable the CFO to provide strategic direction which is more relevant in the digital era.

There is no rigid definition of what it means to be a digital CFO at this point in time because the CFO role is currently transitioning into a new normal of digital optimisation in various organisational functions. Digital transformation is challenging the status quo of operational efficiency and strategic management and these areas are accounted for in the financial management function of a business. In order to keep up with rapidly evolving business needs in the 4IR, a CFO is increasingly required to implement relevant innovation and continued risk mitigation to deliver better-informed decisions and dynamic financial performance. A digital CFO will most probably focus on specific frameworks which are currently driving financial digital transformation in organisations. These frameworks include:

Financial data security The digitisation of financial information requires measures that will safeguard the integrity and safety of data. The regulatory framework around data management and the growing risks associated with data breaches require not only the chief information officer but also the CFO of an organisation to implement and maintain a reliable approach to data security management.
Automation of processes through digital platforms More speed and accuracy are required to keep up with rapidly growing volumes and the fast-paced accumulation of digital information. Automated digital platforms are an applicable solution in this environment. Robotics process automation (RPA) is emerging as a great way to innovate around time-consuming and repetitive finance tasks. RPA can be used to record progressive steps that are followed to register financial information or prepare financial reports and statements. Receivables, cash management, payroll processing and invoice processing are some of the functional areas where RPA presents immediate benefits through automation of repetitive tasks.
Agility of processes and extended capacity through cloud infrastructure In a digital environment, it is important to have forward-looking processes and systems in place to address unpredictable growth in demand on business processes. Agile ways of work and cloud infrastructure make it possible for the digitalv CFO to plan functional tasks and cost-effectively invest in systems that will be accessible on a ‘pay as you use’ basis.

Proactive and predictive response through artificial intelligence (AI) AI is particularly useful in proactively identifying trends in information and using that to make predictions about the future. Financial performance forecasting and forward-looking measurement of performance targets can be done more accurately and efficiently with AI-enabled predictive models. This puts a CFO in a more empowered position regarding critical decision making about the financial future of a business. Machine learning as a function of AI also proposes the ability to mimic and replicate human tasks. Where possible machine learning may be a relevant application for financial report writing on behalf of a CFO.

Regulatory compliance and enterprise risk management through digitisation The regulatory landscape for statutory compliance, tax administration, fair competition, labour compensation and other legislative areas are becoming increasingly dynamic. The risk of high penalties and fines for non-compliance has become a high priority for CFOs, because this may adversely impact the going concern assumption in a business where the financial consequences are significant. Because of these challenges, a digital CFO would be an advocate for the digitisation of compliance processes for timely and accurate digital submissions to regulatory authorities.

As the digital CFO becomes more of a necessity with the evolution of the role in the digital era, it will be interesting to see how CFO job specifications will adapt to cater for this change. The finance function of the future may similarly become an area that is characterised by more digital processes and digital ways of work. In a future-ready environment, a CFO will be expected to work more closely with the chief information officer and the chief data officer. The CFO will need to have a deeper understanding of IT systems and data management and more synergies between the finance and data management functions will need to be explored.

In some corporate circles, the emerging changes in the CFO role and digitisation in the finance function may be spoken of as disruption which challenges the relevance of the traditional norm. On the contrary, this change is arguably a mere signal of ongoing evolution and improvement which is not a new phenomenon. The difference is that these changes as characterised by the 4IR are more rapid than ever before. If you haven’t heard of a digital CFO, consider this your first encounter with the term. If you are a CFO or finance professional, perhaps reflect on the organisational impact of the characteristics that currently define a digital CFO and digital finance function. Also, consider what this means for you in a future-ready environment.


Kevin Ssemwogerere CA(SA) is Digital Innovation Intrapreneur Lead, a keynote speaker and digital transformation and strategy consultant




Looking at how this year has started off, with the second wave of COVID-19 combined with restrictions imposed by government, small businesses will continue to suffer. It will thus come as no surprise if this upward trend in new business registration continues to rise in 2021.

Parallel to this, here is another important statistic − businesses today face more competition than ever. It has been reported that in 2015 the typical business had just 2,6 competitors. Today, that number has almost quadrupled, to 9,7.

Looking at these statistics on new market entrants and competition in combination, the obvious question then becomes how do you differentiate yourself in order to attract your target market.

This brings us to our topic today, which looks at a very important aspect to consider when starting your business, namely branding.

Building a brand is the key to unlocking growth and retention in your customer base and following. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re building one. Your brand should:

Tell a story SAICA is a great example of this. From a young age, the idea of a CA(SA) is that of successful business professional, hence we all aspired and worked hard to earn this designation. Be sure to keep in mind that the main character in your branding story should be your customer, not your product.
Start with meaning Stand for something meaningful: ‘Do beautiful business’ (Xero), ‘Beautiful food. Stunning environments’ (Tasha’s), ‘Impossible is nothing’ (Adidas). This is aptly described by Simon Sinek: ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,’
Show how Finish this sentence: ‘The best online shopping platform in South Africa is [blank].’ Most of us aren’t thinking anything other than Takealot. Takealot is consistent, efficient and convenient. Your dominant selling idea needs to be important, believable, and memorable to your market.
Be intentionally controversial (in a good way) Most social media messaging that ends up viral is controversial. We see this almost every day on social media. A good example of this is Nando’s, who have built a bit of a reputation over the years by being witty and controversial through some of their media content.

We asked Andile Khumalo CA(SA), who is an expert in the brand space, to share some of his thoughts on brand.

‘I think we need to start with a common understanding of what a brand is. My favourite definition is that a brand is “the perception that lives in the minds of consumers”. This perception then influences the consumer’s decision to either buy or not buy a product or service.

‘So, branding is the science and art of creating a particular perception in people’s minds about your product or service. But the truth is that a brand is built or destroyed
by every interaction that consumers have with your company, your product and your people.

‘I would say that entrepreneurs need to pay more attention to the experience that customers have with their companies, their products and their people – starting with the entrepreneur themselves. If people’s interaction with you is positive, you are building a good brand. If the interaction is negative, you are building a bad brand.

‘It’s really that simple.’

If you found this content helpful, drop us a quick review at the end and look out for next month’s issue of ASA where we will be looking at the power of entrepreneurial skills development.


This month’s tool is a game-changer for all small business owners called ‘getlion’.
Mathew Marsden, co-founder of getlion, gives us a little more insight: ‘getlion is Africa’s leading, end-to-end mobile application for entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses and access learning content, tools and services. Apply for funding and increase your revenue through the country’s first all-in B2B marketplace. Best of all, getlion is the first application to reward entrepreneurs for running their businesses the right way.’

Some exciting news: SAICA Enterprise Development has recently formed a collaboration with the IAAE team to assist their SMMEs on a national scale with our financial excellence offering.

The beneficiaries are undergoing a gap analysis and full diagnostic assessment following which we are carving out a development plan for each SMME. Still early days in this fruitful collaboration!

If you would like to collaborate with SAICA Enterprise Development, be sure to have a look at

If you found this piece useful, be sure to let us know:

  • Tell us about your TOP TECH TOOL that can benefit small business.
  • Tell us about your small business that can help our readers as part of the SMALL BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT.
  • Any other feedback.

Jameel Khan, Head of Projects, SAICA Enterprise Development



ECONOMIC WEEK AHEAD: Trade balance and producer inflation in focus

The trade surplus is forecast to be R28.3bn in March, riding high on the continued buoyancy of commodity prices

SA’s trade balance data is likely to be the highlight this week, along with the release of producer price inflation, which picked up in March as a result of higher fuel prices.

Elevated commodity prices and the continuous recovery in the global demand for manufactured goods are expected to have lifted SA’s export performance, helping the country register yet another trade surplus, according to Investec economist Lara Hodes.

The trade surplus is forecast to come in at R28.3bn in March, according to a Bloomberg median forecast, easing just slightly from a surplus of R29bn in February. The SA Revenue Service (Sars) will release the trade balance data on Friday.

Perceptions of a rebound in the global economy from the Covid-induced setback have boosted demand for commodities such as platinum group metals, which are used to clean the emissions of internal combustion engines.

Commodity prices have significantly risen since the second half of 2020 in particular, though they have since stabilised at elevated levels.

“So far this year, mineral sales have become even more rampant, with a further increase of more than 25% over the 2020 figure. To put the value of mineral sales of R120bn during January and February into perspective, it is equal to the total output of the agricultural sector in 2020,” according to independent economist Roelof Botha.

“A direct consequence of the sterling performance of the mining sector is a handsome cumulative trade surplus for January and February, namely more than R41bn. An indirect consequence that has an important bearing on the future direction of monetary policy is the impact on the value of the rand exchange rate.”

The rand has been particularly strong against the dollar, breaking below R14.20/$ for the first time in 15 months in mid-April before pulling back to R14.25 by Friday. The stronger rand has the potential to keep a lid on inflation, which rose to an annual rate of 3.25% in March, from 2.9% in February, though it was below the 4.5% midpoint targeted by the Reserve Bank.

The benign inflation outlook could encourage the Bank to keep interest rates at the record low of 3.5%, to help the economy recover from the ravages of Covid-19.

Stats SA will release the producer price index (PPI) for March on Thursday. It is likely to have accelerated to an annual rate of 4.6% in March, from 4% in February, according to a Bloomberg median estimate.

Hodes said: “A key contributor to the March outcome is likely to be the petroleum category, which comprises 19.56% of the PPI basket. A higher rate of inflation in the petroleum category is expected on the March fuel price increases of 65c/l and 56c/l for petrol and diesel, respectively. Additionally, low statistical base effects will serve to buoy the year-on-year inflation rate.”

Private sector credit extension data for March will also be released on Friday by the Bank.

There is a possibility that private sector credit extension contracted 0.2% year on year in March, after rising by an annual rate of 2.6% in February, she said.

“The expected contraction is ascribed to strong statistical base effects in the corporate credit category, which constitutes over half of total credit extension and so the impact is meaningful.”




How can auditor independence be enhanced and the audit market be deconcentrated and transformed? Victor Sekese elaborate.

The recent reported global and local corporate governance failures have put a spotlight on auditors and their role in the financial reporting process.
Furthermore, the revelations at the Zondo Commission have accentuated public debate on the role of auditors. This discourse is complicated by a general misunderstanding of the role of auditors − the so-called expectation gap.

The public expects auditors to identify and report fraud and malfeasance taking place at auditees. Auditors, on the other hand, claim that the current framework within which they operate is not designed to identify all fraud and wrongdoing. They also argue that other role players in the corporate governance ecosystem also need to take accountability in the event of corporate failure.

The auditors’ arguments have not succeeded in changing the public narrative and sentiment towards the audit profession. There is therefore a need for intervention to address this situation and most importantly to prevent future corporate governance and audit failures.

The question is, what needs to be done. In 2017, The Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA), against fierce opposition from some stakeholders, introduced mandatory audit firm rotation (MAFR). With effect from 2023, all public interest entities (PIEs) must rotate their audit firms after every ten years, with a five-year cooling period before they can be considered for possible reappointment.

The MAFR policy was introduced because of a concern by IRBA that long-term audit tenure negatively impacts on auditor independence. Auditor independence and objectivity are pivotal in the auditing process and have a direct impact on audit quality. Auditors who are not independent may overlook irregularities and omissions in the financial reporting process, thereby compromising audit quality and devaluing financial statements. To enhance audit quality, auditor independence therefore needs to be maintained and improved.

The primary objective of MAFR is to improve audit quality through strengthening auditor independence by limiting auditor tenure to ten years.

According to IRBA, as of April 2020, 25% of the JSE-listed entities had rotated audit firms since the announcement of MAFR in 2017. Future studies will be required to test the efficacies of the MAFR policy.

The stated secondary objective of MAFR is to reduce audit market concentration and achieve racial transformation. IRBA, however, acknowledges that MAFR policy will not achieve the secondary objectives of reduction of audit market concentration and achievement of transformation on its own. Additional policy instruments are therefore necessary for the achievement of these objectives.

This formed the subject of my recently completed research paper in part fulfilment of the requirements of a public policy master’s programme. I share in this article some of the key findings of my research.

The objective of the research was to identify additional policy interventions necessary to address market concentration and transformation of the audit profession in South Africa.

It is common knowledge that the audit profession is dominated globally and locally by the Big 4 accounting firms. In many global jurisdictions, the audit market has arguably assumed an oligopolistic form. Regulators are therefore concerned about the negative effects of this market structure as espoused by economic theory. Also, they are particularly concerned about the systemic risks that the structure presents. They have thus been, for a long time, contemplating various policy instruments to change the market structure to be more inclusive and broader.

My study participants acknowledged that many factors are contributing to the concentrated audit market structure, which is not limited to the audit profession but extends to other industries as well. They nevertheless unanimously agreed that policy interventions are necessary to deconcentrate the audit market.

The European Commission (EC), in response to the concerns above, in 2010 released comprehensive proposals for reforming the European audit market in a green paper titled Audit policy: lessons from the crisis’. The objective of the green paper objective was to enhance the audit regulatory framework to improve audit quality.

Following the public consultation process on the green paper, final regulations were promulgated in 2014 through a European Parliament audit directive.

The EC 2010 green paper proposals were varied and included mandatory audit firm rotation, mandatory joint audits and the appointment of auditors by an independent body. The latter two were not carried through to the final regulations promulgated in 2014.


Appointment of auditors by an independent body

Several scholars argue that the current system of appointment of auditors is flawed. Auditors are expected to always act in the interest of the public. Audit firms are, however, private enterprises with a profit motive. Their commercial interests, scholars argue, are in conflict with public interest objectives.
Furthermore, they argue that the current process of appointment of auditors compromises auditor independence. Auditors are appointed by shareholders on the recommendation of the board, particularly the audit committee. However, in practice, executives and the board are very influential in auditor appointment and shareholders rarely vote against their recommendations. In essence, auditors are appointed and remunerated by executives and the board and yet they are accountable to a much wider group of stakeholders including shareholders, lenders, employees and government agencies. The current process thus contains an embedded conflict of interest for auditors.

Scholars therefore recommend a framework similar to one once considered by the EU 2010 green paper, namely appointment of auditors by an independent body. This, they argue, will address conflict of interest challenges and enhance auditor independence.

There is however limited global precedence of the application of the framework. Germany has partially applied the framework for cooperatives and savings banks.

This model is currently being considered in the UK and India. The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) study recommended that the model be revisited in future should other interventions not achieve the objectives of changing the audit market structure.

The consultation paper issued by the government of India in 2020 is considering possible enhancements of audit independence and accountability and recommended the appointment of auditors by external authorities like the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India, a body equivalent to the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA).


Infrastructure and capability of the AGSA

The infrastructure and capability of the AGSA can be used to achieve the objectives of further enhancement of auditor independence, diversifying the audit market by expanding participation of non-Big 4 firms and transformation of the audit profession through supporting black-owned firms.

The AGSA is mandated through the Public Audit Act to audit the state, state organs and state-owned companies. The act also empowers the AGSA to use privately owned audit firms in the execution of its mandate. The AGSA has thus implemented a well-functioning system, the Contracts Work Committee, through which it allocates its work to private audit firms.

South African regulators can consider extending the mandate of the AGSA to cover non-state public interest entities, or they can assign the responsibility to appoint auditors of specified PIEs to the AGSA. The AGSA as a credible Chapter 9 institution will ensure that the objectives of public interest are maintained at all times. This will reduce the risks of future audit failures. Furthermore, the audit firm allocation framework will ensure an equitable share of audits that will encourage wider firms’ participation and transformation through the participation of black firms.

This proposition was not supported by my study participants, however. Various arguments were advanced against the proposition including that the framework is not aligned with free-market principles, challenges relating to accountability, possible bureaucratic inefficiencies, and risk of capture by audit firms.

I believe there is merit in further exploring this and other possible models that will be effective in changing the audit market structure and achieve BBBEE objectives of enabling the emergence of viable, sustainable black-owned audit firms. Experience has proved that the market cannot self -correct − regulatory intervention is necessary to rectify market structure deficiencies.

AUTHOR | Victor Sekese, Chief Executive of SNG Grant Thornton and board member of Grant Thornton International