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Makro joins the online shopping party, albeit somewhat...

Business Maverick

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Makro joins the online shopping party, albeit somewhat late

(Image: Rawpixel)

While the rest of South Africa turned largely to online shopping when Covid first hit our shores more than two years ago, retailer Makro is a little late to the party with the launch of its first fully fledged standalone shopping app this week.

Makro chief executive Llewellyn Walters says the retailer has undergone an accelerated e-commerce transformation programme in recent months, as part of Massmart’s overarching strategy to become a leading omnichannel (online and store) retailer in South Africa. 

The new “native” Makro app, launched this week, is the retailer’s first fully fledged and standalone shopping app, enabling customers to make purchases of general merchandise, liquor and pantry items. The move comes soon after rumours about Amazon possibly launching a South African division, likely to take on the likes of Takealot and Makro.

Massmart previously announced a multiyear e-commerce strategy which includes a mobile-first focus on enhancing customers’ digital experiences through its websites and apps. 

Jean Ochse, the executive responsible for the development of mobile apps at Massmart, says the search/discovery functionalities have been improved, making it easier to find products, and the customer registration process is now less cumbersome with a 70% process reduction, which was achieved by eliminating unnecessary data fields and interactions.

“Our aim was to provide customers with the most seamless shopping experience ever so that they feel as though they have their closest Makro in their pocket.”

The app provides access to more than 120,000 products, a 30% expansion of Makro’s online product range since January, and is available from the Google Play and Apple App stores.

NielsenIQ South Africa MD Ged Nooy says that from an online perspective, shoppers are aware of the breadth of assortment available digitally at their fingertips.

Wider variety of products

“The need for a wider variety of products increases… making this one of the main factors for choosing an online channel. The statistics show the rise of importance of this factor for online shoppers.”

A NielsenIQ Consumer Outlook study based on online research conducted in December 2021 saw 26% of respondents saying they shop online to limit their exposure to risks in-store, and 23% shopping online because they are home to receive deliveries. 

Online sales contribute a low single-digit figure to the overall turnover of the retailers that NielsenIQ South Africa tracks, and the biggest movers are long-life milk and instant coffee.

Simon Anderssen, the head of 22seven Insights, says their data show that 19% of South African shoppers used a grocery-shopping app at least once between October and December.

According to Statista, the five most popular shopping apps downloaded in the Google Play store in July were Shein, Wish, Alibaba, Takealot and Checkers Sixty60. Looking at the SA retailers, Takealot came in with almost 183,000 downloads, followed by Checkers Sixty60 with just over 111,000 downloads. 22Seven data shows that since launching in 2019, the Checkers Sixty60 app has exploded, accounting for 75% of spending for the delivery of food on demand in the final quarter of last year.

Arthur Butler, the sector head of retail at FNB franchising, says e-commerce has been gaining traction for more than a decade and the trend is unlikely to reverse. Millennials and Generation Z are more digitally entrenched and will continue to expect seamless online retail experiences. FNB research suggests that the South African e-commerce market will reach more than R400-billion by 2025 on the back of more than one billion transactions per annum. 

“In the long run, retailers are driven by competition and the need to innovate to differentiate and stay ahead of the pack. Apart from offering a broader range of products and services, the trend toward diversification is unlocking innovative approaches and partnerships. It’s an exciting time in South African retail, and we’re likely to see customers benefiting in the short to medium term,” Butler concludes. DM/BM

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