Couriers delayed and orders surging: How lockdown has affected online shopping in SA

online shopping card

The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have posed a major challenge to businesses. But one sector has seen a major surge: online shopping.

With social distancing and working from home, more consumers have turned to e-commerce sites. Local sites and apps let you order everything from grocery deliveries to furniture orders.

In fact, the surge in online orders in April to May exceeds the growth seen during Black Friday sales.

“We’ve seen a 98% increase in total payment volumes processed from April to May alone,” Jonathan Smit, Managing Director and Founder of PayFast says.

“This is a month-on-month growth rate unlike we’ve ever seen in a 30 day period, including peak season shopping such as Black Friday.”

Meanwhile, e-commerce site OneDayOnly reports 40% growth in the last few months.

Online shopping with smartphones

PayFast has also seen a huge surge in orders from people using their mobile devices.

“Mobile usage for online shopping has grown by 159% year-on-year compared to desktop, which has only grown by 37% year-on-year,” Smit tells Memeburn.

“Over the lockdown period, we saw mobile payments increase by as much as 42% compared to the same period before lockdown started,” he adds.

Smit says part of this is due to people placing online orders in the evenings after work.

“It’s likely that people are shopping on their smartphones, while watching series in the evenings on a separate screen,” he says.

However, while e-commerce sites are benefitting from the increase in sales, this surge has also called issues with logistics.

Courier delays for online orders

The initial backlog of orders between lockdown level 5 and lockdown level 4 saw online retailers increasing their lead times.

For example, saw lead times increase to several weeks after lockdown level 5 ended.

Meanwhile, courier companies needed to introduce social distancing and additional precautions for workers.

Sanitising packages, checking worker temperatures, additional orders, and changes to shifts could all affect timelines.

Even at lockdown level 3, has removed the express delivery option due to logistical challenges.

“As we are all learning every day, these are uncertain times and we cannot guarantee that we will be able to deliver within the promised 1-3 working days that our EXPRESS delivery offers,” the retailer says on their website.

And the clothing retailer is not the only one experiencing delays.

Sites are facing challenges due to the influx of orders — but also the disruption of global supply chains. The trend has emerged globally, especially with delays in imports and supplies.

“The e-commerce boom has resulted in some challenges for merchants relating to delivery timelines, product availability, increasing online shopper traffic, and the ability to fulfill customer demand,” Smit tells Memeburn.

“To meet the increased number of people shopping online, companies have had to expand their customer service departments,” he says.

Smit recommends that more companies also incorporate automation and frequent communication into their business model.

“This will go a long way towards maintaining good relationships with all stakeholders in the supply chain,” he says.

Feature image: Rupixen on Unsplash


Megan Ellis


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