Google predicts massive growth in African ecommerce by 2017


Google South Africa is seeing considerable growth in Africa’s ecommerce space and expects 2015 to be another growth year. Luke Mckend, country director for Google South Africa, spoke at the eCommerce Africa Confex in Cape Town this week, where he shared stats on how Africans are increasingly Googling with the intent to buy.

“We see a story of growth,” says Mckend. “Search is growing much faster than in mature internet economies.” Despite 2014 being a “tough year” for online businesses, Google has seen a 37% increase in query volume for South Africa, 49% in Nigeria and 33% in Kenya.

“What’s particularly interesting is commercial intent queries, searches for purchasing information”. These are Google searches with the aim to find a price for a certain good, a shop where a service or product could be purchased. Together with measuring what people are searching for, the more people are online the higher the propensity is for them to spend money.

With South Africa’s total query growth between 2013 and 2014 standing at 37%, the commercial intent query base has grown by 55%. That, Mckend says, indicates there’s a certain amount of maturity with buying online that was missing a few years ago. In Nigeria the searches for purchases grew 39%.

Two trends that Mckend finds particularly interesting in South Africa’s ecommerce space are the recent sock wars (as two strong competitors are selling socks online) and Netflorist’s attempt to sell fresh cupcakes. “Who imagines there’s enough volume in the local online environment that there can be such a niche service? All of this change and experimentation is important to see how big the market is.”

Read more: A handshake isn’t enough: what happens when investors back out

The enormous spike in queries seen globally is now something Google is seeing South Africans in particular participate in. According to Mckend, “This speaks to the trend that there’s very little difference between online and offline purchases. People just think: ‘I’m shopping’. Africa is doing what their international partners are doing.” That said, Mckend believes businesses still don’t focus enough on their online presence and that payments are still somewhat neglected.

Mckend and Google are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and predict a massive ecommerce market will indeed emerge by 2017.

“We will be seeing countries in Africa getting connected to the internet that we have not seen before in the next year or two. The next wave of innovation will come from tech we haven’t even seen yet.”



Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights. sign up

Welcome to Memeburn

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights.