Business Maverick

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Amazon finally launches in South Africa, cranks up e-commerce competition

Amazon finally launches in South Africa, cranks up e-commerce competition
(Photo: Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The American multinational – one of the world’s most valuable and influential brands – will go head-to-head with local market leader Takealot, as well as newcomers Shein and Temu.

After years of speculation about a launch date and a high-profile controversial development in the old River Club property in Cape Town, Amazon has finally announced it’s open for business in South Africa. 

Until now, local customers have been able to order from Amazon.com, but delivery would take weeks, require customs clearance and attract taxes. Amazon.co.za’s arrival means customers in South Africa can now shop for local and international brands and either collect from more than 3,000 points in the country, or have items delivered – even on the same day. 

More than 60% of products Amazon sells globally are from independent sellers, mostly small and medium-sized businesses. In October 2023, the company called for independent sellers to sign up to its platform ahead of its official launch in the country. It offers two flexible selling plans: Individual (for those who plan to sell fewer than 40 items per month) and Professional. 

Famously customer-centric, Amazon will also offer returns within 30 days, 24/7 customer support and free delivery on first orders of products fulfilled by Amazon. They will also get free delivery for orders worth more than R500.

Customers will receive status updates too and order tracking: Amazon does this through WhatsApp, which solves one of the biggest irritations of e-commerce: the overly long delivery window.

Amazon also claims that customer support will be available by phone, email and live chat.

In a company statement, Robert Koen, managing director of Amazon sub-Saharan Africa, said they were excited to launch their local division.

Amazon customers can also choose a gift option for some products, through its partnership with goGOGOgo, a South African NGO focused on improving the income and health outcomes of third-generation caregivers (grandmothers) and the children they are raising. Through this partnership, gogos package products in handmade gift bags.

Takealot has been bracing for Amazon’s launch for months. Last month, the local e-commerce leader, which incorporates the Takealot.com, Mr D and Superbalist platforms, conceded that it was under immense pressure from Shein and Temu, and was concerned about Amazon’s imminent arrival.

This concern motivated Takealot’s Township Economy Initiative, a R150-million partnership between Takealot and the Gauteng government. At the launch, Takealot.com CEO Frederik Zietsman told News24 they had already seen a fallout from Temu’s arrival in January, which has doubled costs since the start of the year. 

“And that not only impacts Takealot, it impacts all the small businesses that try to transact online because the cost of acquisition is going up. So, there’s inflationary pressure from these new entrants.” 

However, in welcoming the competition, Zietsman said he was confident that Takealot could hold its own against the new competitors by focusing on giving its customers what they wanted and serving them better. 

International competition will up the stakes for e-commerce and be good for the consumer, who will have more choice in not only e-tailers but also in the products and how they are served. DM

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  • M E says:

    Had a quick squizz at the amazon website and pricing today. I was surprised with how expensive amazon listings are. Not at appealing at all. Figured if you’re a new company in a market you’d come in with some good deals,but everything, bar maybe two things i saw, was cheaper on Takealot

  • Geoff Coles says:

    There’s so little they have…. even the e-book is Kobo not the Kindle! ….

  • Belinda Cavero says:

    Support local business! I will support Takealot as far as possible.

  • Mohsin Wadee says:

    Had a look, Takealot won’t be losing any sleep.

  • Phil Baker says:

    How are they fulfilling delivery? In Existing markets they can rely on Post office infrastructure. Here they obviously can’t. How do they cope with Distant addresses as we used to do with PO Boxes. Delivery/security will be a big cost factor in SA. Author hasn’t explored WHY it has taken them SO long for them to accept SA as a growth opportunity and why they avoided entry for so many decades. Im not sure this is a reflection of how SA has improved as a market or just they they have run out of growth opportunities in other mature markets.

  • Gordon Cyril says:

    Amazon is a behomoth. Excluding SA they have 100 large cargo planes, nearly 100,000 trucks, vans etc…and over 300 giant warehouses, not to mention all the subcontracting they do with other firms and airlines. I expect that in time they will come to dominate the market as they have others.

  • Estelle T says:

    Had a look at Amazon as well, and frankly I won’t be dealing with them if Takealot has the same item. I am very surprised that the one thing I was looking forward to from them – either free or very cheap delivery for everyday deliveries – is not there. I don’t want to buy for R500 just to get free delivery, and I thought they they would use that as their ONE advantage over Takealot. We’ll see… maybe they will do that later.

  • Where can i downloud the aap

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