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Tech trends and shopping changes coming to South Africa: Woolworths

Retailer Woolworths expects shopping in South Africa to become increasingly digital in the coming years as more people use less traditional platforms such as Tiktok and Instagram to do their shopping.

The group said it is positioning its social media platforms as an ‘extension of its marketplace’ through new tools such as ‘virtual try-ons’, allowing customers to try on their make-up products virtually on Instagram, with the option to purchase straight from the platform – a first in South Africa.

The retailer is also trialling a ‘phygital’ solution, integrating its social platforms with its physical outlets through an in-store InstaShop, letting shoppers browse their digital friends’ favourites on Instagram, while physically browsing inside of a Woolworths store.

Liz Hillock, head of online at Woolworths, said the move towards a more digital experience is a core part of the retailer’s focus going forward.

“Digital is an accelerator of growth that is shaping everything we do – from building deep connections to customers and communities, to driving sales across both digital and physical channels.

“Our brand extends far beyond our stores, web or app platforms, into what is essentially a customers’ chosen social marketplace. Showing up as relevant within each channel is critical, and we dedicate a lot of focus towards engaging with our customers and creating really compelling content for our customers to enjoy.”

Hillock said Woolworths is also considering the adoption of more nascent technologies such as Near Field Technology (NFT) or ‘immersive Metaverse shopping’ going forward.

“We predict a significant rise in live-stream shopping opportunities in South Africa, and as the technology becomes available to us, Woolworths intends to continue to lead in social commerce and be at the forefront of this phenomenon,” she said.

Lagging behind – but not for long

“Research shows us that about half of all adults in the USA made a purchase via social media in 2021,” said Sam Wilson-Späth, head of digital and social media at Woolworths.

“Social media advertising has long been a significant contributor to our bottom line contributing meaningfully to our web traffic each month and we are now focused on making those experiences as inspiring as possible.”

While South Africa lags behind the rest of the world in terms of social commerce adoption, Wilson-Späth noted that Woolworths plans to leverage its dominance in social media to take advantage of the inevitable growth of this sales channel.

She added that Woolworths has made significant investments into its online capabilities, including several alterations to its digital advertising and retail strategies, with a priority on expanding its sales channels to popular social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

“Social commerce is predicted to grow three times as fast as traditional e-commerce by 2025. Retailers need to focus on connecting social media recommendations into a seamless path to purchase.”


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