Subscribe to industry newsletters

Search jobs

Unpacking online peak shopping trends

PayU merchants and Look & Listen have released some of their online buying trends. The annual mobile survey tracks spikes in seasonal shopping trends while observations by Look & Listen provide insight into the decision-making processes that drive online shopping.
Some of the trends indicate that the Blue Bulls could be more popular than the Stormers; more South Africans would rather read Victor Matfields' biography than Steve Jobs' and Valentine's Day does mark an increase in online sales, but not necessarily for Valentine's Day related products.

Connected shoppers - of which more than a third own a tablet device - could comfortably and safely take their shopping online during traditional shopping periods such as Father's Day, Mother's Day and the festive season, given the PayU security checks.

However, these 'peak shopping periods' do not necessarily reflect in online sales figures over the same period. "We see a definite increase in sales in the periods around noteworthy dates or events. However, retail specific events for Mother's or Father's Day do not have as extensive an effect on sales, but rather a slight increase in sales across all formats. What is also quite interesting is that Valentine's Day does mark an increase in sales, but not necessarily for Valentine-specific product," says Anne-Marie Green, online manager at Look & Listen.

Celebrity impacts

Do dramatic events, such as the death of Whitney Houston or Amy Winehouse have an impact on online sales? According to Green, nostalgia-driven sales, such as those surrounding a celebrity death, are usually attributed to mass media coverage and not necessarily due to the online retailer's promotions alone. "Sales do increase, but only if there is traction in other media. This is also dependent on the artist."

Band or artist commemorative promotions also lead to increased sales but are also dependant on the promotion and releases around them, as do touring bands, while Christmas naturally shows a marked increase in sales across the business.

According to, the death of the former Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, did trigger an increase in sales of the book. However, while it was the best seller globally during the festive season, in South Africa it was Victor Matfield's biography (in both physical and e-book format) that topped the charts on

DVD promotions, Oscars fuel interest

As far as awards season is concerned, perhaps unsurprisingly, Oscar winning DVDs typically perform better than Oscar nominated movies, while regular promotions are still an attraction to customers, according to Look & Listen. "We did well with our Horrorween campaign, which demonstrates that promoted product increases sales of that product," says Green. These promotions are across the entire online categories including CD, DVD, gaming, toys, digital and technology and MP3 downloads. "The trend we are also seeing is that the price of the products also plays a substantial role in sales. Irrespective of the content, people are flocking to the R39/R59/R79/R99 categories."

Online rugby supporters favour Blue Bulls also revealed some interesting online shopping trends during seasonal periods. During Father's Day, Blue Bulls hampers outsold Stormers hampers 3:1 according to the local etailer. Is this to say that there are more Blue Bulls fans in South Africa or are the Stormers fans simply less demonstrative in their support - perhaps Stormers fans just shop less online?

Results from the survey, which analyses the behaviour of over 4000 connected South Africans, further revealed interesting divisions of interest between the sexes. The results show that the Gobii e-reader was a bestseller on Mother's Day, with research also showing that more woman buy e-Readers, whereas men prefer to buy tablets. In this category, the Apple iPad remains the most popular, followed by the Samsung Galaxy. Among tablet owners, 73.4% already use their device to shop online for items such as eBooks, music, flight tickets or banking.

Online shopping set to grow

In addition, statistics point to South Africans' increased reliance on Smartphones, as nearly 80% of South Africans connected own Smartphones. Of these, 74.2% of shoppers access internet via Smartphones every day. Here, Apple's iPhone takes second place, as Blackberry is still the more popular choice.

Interestingly the survey further revealed 98% of these connectors feel accessing the mobile internet is as safe as accessing it through a fixed line. A quarter of these are already shopping online using their phones - an 11.3% increase from last year, with 63.2% planning to shop on their phones in the near future.

Says PayU CEO Mark Chirnside, "What is great about these statistics is the growth and increased trust with which online buyers tackle gift buying online. As South Africa's leading payment gateway, I would like to think that the company plays a large role in contributing to this trust and associated growth."

Let's do Biz